Thursday, October 9, 2014

Who Sucks Least - Ranking The Hammer Dracula Films

We come to the end.  For the most part, due to being a period setting, these films really do hold up quite well.  Its probably hard for some to see how daring these films actually were for their time, but they were quite the break through for horror the late 50s and through the 1960s.  Horror comes in popular waves and the Hammer Films, along with the Corman Poe and AMIC films were just that for a good decades worth.  Period films, with lavish sets and costumes.  

The Dracula films are definitely a fun franchise to go through.  I was amazed to see how much structurally and venturously these films were similar to the Friday The 13th franchise that would come many years later.  And I think its rather unintentional, but just shows how similar decisions are made when you start getting up there in numbers with horror sequels.  Without further adieu, I give you my personal ranking, based on my enjoyment, of the films in the Hammer Dracula franchise.  Hopefully we can return back to Hammer in the near future and check out some more if my readers are interested.

I'd also like to once again thank Troy Brownfield, who took time out of his busy busy schedule to slide me a passionate guest essay.  Please do check out his work, ESPECIALLY if you've enjoyed this retrospective.

9. Dracula AD 1972 (1972)

It should come as no surprise that this is my least favorite.  Sandwiched in between an awesome opening and a terrific finale is this completely boring, dragging 60s film that just doesn't do a whole lot for me.  I dug Caroline Munro and the resurrection a bit, but there's not much here to make me want to revisit anytime soon.  Plus, Christopher Lee seems the most uninterested in this film than any other in the series.

8. The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1973)

Like the previous one, not a very good one.  But, by nature of being different than anything else in the series up to this point, I found myself enjoying it more.  There's enough weird, style and different plot than other entries to have me invested.  Plus this one's score doesn't sound like some awful blaxploitation knock off that is so out of place.  Its one last go round between Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, I just wish it could have been a better film.

7. Taste The Blood Of Dracula (1970)

This one actually starts off pretty good and I really think it has one of the strongest opening acts of the series.  But after the ritual ends, and mostly after William Hargood is murdered, the film starts slowly diminishing in quality until it finishes with a wimper.  I like the use of the "Dracula's brides" concept in this one, although its not enough.  And Dracula's demise is just such a huge disappointment.

6.  The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires (1974)

As I always state, one of the factors in my rankings are the entertainment factor.  There are some entries that might be better movies overall, but I could have more fun watching something that may be considered lesser quality.  And this movie is just enough of the right kind of crazy to have me enjoying a lot.  Like the previous film, this has one of the weakest endgames for Dracula, but unlike that one, from start to finish I was never bored in the slightest.  I don't know who's idea it was to put this crazy concoction together, but I thank them for it.  Its great too, that it was left at just this one film as to be this weird anomaly in the Hammer catalog.

5.  The Brides Of Dracula (1960)

I've come to find that this is one of those "unappreciated" or "unfairly maligned" films in the series that has since resurfaced as being one of the best.  Some even proclaiming the best Hammer vampire film.  And I do think its a good film.  Its just a rather solid film that doesn't disappoint, but it doesn't have me going crazy either.  There are some all timer moments in this film, but overall I can't see me having this one as "go to" or spur of the moment film for a Hammer Dracula movie.  And no, its not just because Dracula isn't in it.

4.  Scars Of Dracula (1970)

Yeah yeah, I get it.  Its not "true" to a lot of the Hammer Dracula tropes or the Stoker novel.  And its also a bit of a retread through familiar territory.  But, damn if this movie isn't incredibly entertaining and a fun ride.  There's plenty of crazy stuff, a silly giant bat, shock value and gore that never has this movie letting you down.  The film also seems to move at a really good pace.  I don't really understand what's to hate here, and I guess I'm in the minority, but I really liked this one quite a bit.

3.  Horror Of Dracula (1958)

With so many movies called plainly Dracula, I tend to like to refer to this one by its American title so as to give it its own character.  Maybe I'm taking it for granted putting it at number 3 here.  This is a really exhilarating version of the Stoker novel.  I just love how the film plays with expectation of what to expect and turns it on its head.  Characters and plot points are jumbled or taken in a new direction that feels every bit out of respect and to give something new and fresh.  Lee and Cushing set a whole new standard for the story here and you can see they deserve every bit of praise that has taken them to legendary status from this one film.

2.  Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)

Risen From The Grave counts as probably the most popcorn-entertainment Dracula film of the bunch.  He once again speaks and goes through his usual business.  Its the first film not to be directed by Terence Fisher, and its got its own little sense of style kept all to its own here.  The one thing I think this carries over all the other films too is it has the best group of human characters we are following throughout the movie.  Oh and...yeah...this has my favorite kill of Dracula in the entire series, which is super awesome.

1.  Dracula: Prince Of Darkness (1966)

In a way, this could be considered somewhat of the first in the Dracula series.  Or the first to what the Hammer Dracula is.  This is the film that launched the countless sequels.  The franchise had laid dormant after Brides for 6 years.  I'm a fan of a well crafted film, and also I like slow burn horror.  This one takes a while to get to Dracula, but the buildup is quite great.  As I said, this almost feels like it could be the first film of a series.  Once we get going on Dracula too, this film takes another turn and becomes a different animal.  The gore in this one is done really artfully, its both gross and beautiful at the same time.  Not to go without notice, but Barbara Shelley is quite terrific in this one and matches wits with Lee perfectly.  So while you don't have Van Helsing here, she plays with Lee quite well.  This is just start to finish a "perfect" film for this franchise.  If you want less art and more frills, then definitely Risen From The Grave the version to see and I totally get that.  But, this one easily makes for my favorite Hammer Dracula film.

Well, that's the end.  Where to next...hmmm...

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