I have watched a lot of Hammer horror films over the years and in particular I have watched a lot of their Dracula films. Hammer made nine Dracula films in total and Christopher Lee only starred in seven of them.
The five that Lee starred in weren’t too bad. Some of them were better than others but overall the Dracula films weren’t as good as Hammer’s Frankenstein films. Today’s Sunday Matinee is Lee’s last Dracula film, 1973’s The Satanic Rites of Dracula.
All the Hammer Dracula movies were gothic period pictures until the 1970s when they foolishly decided to update the series with Dracula A.D. 1972. Peter Cushing returned as Van Helsing for the first time since the second film The Brides of Dracula which didn’t have Dracula in it at all. Dracula A.D. 1972 starts off with Dracula and Van Helsing fighting to the death on carriage which crashes and kills them both. A servant of Dracula buries some of his ashes near Van Helsing’s grave. 100 years later Van Helsing’s descendant and his granddaughter (Stephanie Beacham) are living in London. Van Helsing’s daughter hangs out with a group hippies, one who is Dracula’s servant’s descendant and they have a Satanic ritual that resurrects the Count into the 1970’s. Dracula makes some vampires. The police get involved and we find out that vampires can’t take a shower. Clean flowing water kills them. Yup. Vampires have to take baths. Eventually Van Helsing stakes Dracula in a final battle…again.
That leads us to The Satanic Rites of Dracula which takes place two years after Dracula A.D. 1972. MI5 has been spying on a Satanic cult that has several powerful members of Parliament. Their agent has been captured and tortured but he escapes and informs his superiors just before he dies. MI5 finds out that their boss is involved with the cult and decide to investigate off the books using Scotland Yard. Inspector Murray (Michael Coles) returns (he was the cop Dracula A.D. 1972) and suggests bringing in Van Helsing and his daughter (now played by Joanna Lumley). Van Helsing goes to talk to one of the members of the cult that he knows to be a prominent and Noble Prize wining scientist (Freddie Jones). The scientist has created a new super version of the bubonic plague. Van Helsing figures out that Dracula is back and running an evil corporation and the cult and intends to destroy the world.
The final fight is pretty weak and while Cushing would return one more time as Van Helsing, Lee was done with Dracula with this film. It’s not as terrible as the previous film, at times it’s pretty entertaining and Warner Archive has just released the movie on blu-ray.