Saturday, October 23, 2010

31 Days of Halloween - Day 23 - Movie 2

Hammer's Dracula series ends with a whimper instead of a bang with The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973).  Set two years after Dracula A.D. 1972, Michael Coles returns as police inspector Murray, Christopher Lee is back as Dracula, Peter Cushing returns as Professor Lorrimer Van Helsing, and Joanna Lumley takes over the role of Van Helsing's granddaughter Jessica, who has given up her party girl lifestyle to become just as much of an expert on the occult as her grandfather, though what we see is her serving tea or screaming for most of her scenes.

This rather dull film has Dracula, posing as a reclusive businessman, promising power to a group of five already powerful men, while he has one of them create a super form of the bubonic plague which will kill everyone on earth. Van Helsing suspects that Dracula may simply be tired of his immortal, phoenix-like nature and using this plot as the ultimate revenge on all of humanity and as a means to finally bring his own existence to an end. By this point in the series, we could hardly blame him. The movie is more of an espionage thriller than a horror movie, with a secret occult society full of hit men in sheep skin vests, snipers, biological warfare, political intrigue, and government agents. It's a movie that is at once baffling and painful in that even the densest audience member will be several steps ahead of the characters on screen in figuring things out.

The movie has a good cast, but Cushing, while giving a professional performance, seems like his heart is no longer in this. Dracula as something of a Bond villain seems like a misstep for the character. The vampire bits are pretty unimaginative, and this movie contains a few scenes we've already seen before including a black mass very similar to one we saw in Dracula A.D. 1972. Dracula is given his weakest death scene yet, and seems to always throw his intelligence aside to fall into these death traps, particularly here, where he ends up entangled in branches from a hawthorne, here explained as being lethal to him since this was the same kind of tree that Christ's crown of thorns was woven from. Fittingly, Dracula is put to death wreathed in his own crown of thorns. What is he, if not a Christ stand-in, dying for everyone's sins and rising back up from the grave to do it again and again.

On this weak note, Dracula week comes to an end, and for that I'm grateful. There were a number of movies to enjoy here, but as I noted in an earlier post, they should not be watched in a cluster like this.


No comments: