Friday, September 26, 2014

Hammer Dracula: Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave
Director:  Freddie Francis
Starring:  Christopher Lee, Rupert Davis, Veronica Carlson, Barbara Ewing, Barry Andrews
Rated: G

You have failed me.  You must be punished.
               ~Christopher Lee

With the raving success of Prince Of Darkness, Dracula's return was all but certain.  Two years later he came back in his most successful Hammer appearance of all time.  It wouldn't be at the hands of Terence Fisher though.  He fell ill and cinematographer Freddie Francis took the reigns of the third Dracula sequel.  While this is a similar approach as Prince Of Darkness, because it has a change of hands it manages to mask its similarities by feeling fresh in its style and directorial approach avoiding the possibility of being a "business as usual" sequel.  
Risen From The Grave isn't as patient or "pretty" as its predecessor.  It sort of gets to the point faster and contains moments of impact scattered throughout.  While the cinematography isn't as luscious, it wants to take more chances and be a bit more experimental with the look of the film.  One touch I enjoy is that every time Dracula is in the scene, the corners of the frame are filtered with a sort of amber and yellow.  It sort of adds a little more to Dracula's supernatural edge and menace when he takes the stage.
"Speaking" of Dracula, the guy has his first lines since Act 1 three movies ago.  Lee is once again monstrous and imposing.  But this time, he gets to have a sinister edge with his communication.  You can see his conniving and vicious ways.  His resurrection is enjoyably cheesy and limited by its effects of the time, but that's sort of the charm to it.  Like the slasher series of later, they could just do something fresh but they hold true to continuity and remember what happened last time.  Dracula's demise however is seriously bad ass and the best one yet.  Landing on a large crucifix and then dissolving to dust was quite the big cheer kind of moment.
One thing I liked about this one that I think brought in its interesting flavor and has above the other films so far was the human characters we have to follow along with because we can't sit and have tea with Dracula the whole movie.  There's an interesting little troubled love story going on and also a conflict of science vs faith at hand between two of the main characters.  There's solid enough, and for the first time really, relatable drama to help invest you in something other than blood sucking and stakings.  Not that the previous films were cold or anything, its just these take place so long ago in the past (even when these were new) that it can be difficult to fully get on board.
Dracula Has Risen From The Grave was both critically acclaimed and a big success at the box office.  It rode the coattails of the previous film and seemed to discover a formula set with it.  If you're randomly grabbing at one for a comfortable view, this might very well be the right one to pick.  Its well paced and doesn't take a long time to get to Dracula's resurrection.  As I said, there's always a formula somewhere in a series and this is the movie that seemed to find it and put it all into this script and executing the movie.  Usually a franchise has some steam when this happens for a few entries before it runs out of gas.  We'll soon see how long this magic started in Prince Of Darkness will last for Hammer.

Next Time:  Dracula is giving out free samples

By the way, this film also sports one of my favorite posters of all time below (obviously).

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