The fourth entry in Hammer’s infamous Dracula series, 1968’s Dracula Has Risen From the Grave proved to be an important film for the beloved British film studio. Not only was it the company’s first film since teaming up with Seven Arts and entertainment giants Warner Bros, it also turned out to be Hammer’s most successful film yet. Due to some clever marketing and the popularity of both Hammer and Christopher Lee, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave may have received a mixed reaction from the critics but as far as fans were concerned, the count was back, again, and back with a vengeance.
Like the other sequels in the series so far (aside from 1960’s Brides of Dracula, where Christopher Lees’ titular villain doesn’t make an appearance) , Count Dracula is presumed dead and gone but a clever prologue proves everyone wrong with the discovery of a corpse in a bell tower dripping with blood. This mysterious death in a quiet, small Eastern European village seems to point to one thing; Dracula has returned from the dead and will wreak havoc yet again on the people of this small village.
Looking back, this was quite a good way of bringing back Dracula as it sets up an air of mystery and suspense for the viewer and fear and tension for the people of the village before the action cuts to a year later and the first proper scene as Rupert Davies’ Monsignor Ernest Mueller visits the village to find that the villagers are scared to go to Church Mass as the shadow of Dracula’s castle touches it and they fear being touched and influenced by evil.
This is quite an interesting moment as it touches on the belief of good, evil, God and the Devil (or Count Dracula, in this case) and looks at how to possibly destroy evil. One of the films main characters, Paul (Barry Andrews) admits his atheism, clearly not the cleverest thing to admit to a monsignor. Particularly when you’re dating his niece to. But it’s Paul’s rejection of God and belief in the bible that means that he can’t destroy Dracula when he has a chance, unable to say a prayer that would surely end Dracula’s reign of terror.
So, does this mean that a stake through the heart and/or a few words to the heavens would be enough to destroy pure evil? Although Paul’s atheism isn’t expanded on in the film, it’s certainly an interesting little subtext. Particularly when you think about films that were released around the time and after Dracula Has Risen From the Grave. Especially a few years down the line when a now legendary film about demonic possession was released and terrified audiences the world over.
For a studio more known for slightly camp, hammy old-style horror at this point, taking things in a darker, deeper direction was never going to be part of Hammer’s plan here, however, so sticking to what they know best, which had paid off for them so far to be fair, was the order of the day as far as Dracula Has Risen From the Grave is concerned and they certainly did that with the female lead, one of Hammer’s most glamorous leading ladies, Veronica Carlson takes on the role of Maria, the Monsignor’s niece and girlfriend of the aforementioned Paul. As Dracula attempts to put Maria under his evil spell, Paul has to come to he rescue on a few occasions.
Carlson made for an enchanting female lead here; a plucky, brave young woman who clearly loves Paul and proves it. As Paul does with Maria. It was no surprise that she went on to star in a few other Hammer favourites, including the classic sequel, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed in 1969. But as you’d expect from Hammer, it’s nearly always a classy affair with its 1900’s setting and the cast do a solid job with Christopher Lee in another spellbinding performance as Dracula along with Barbara Ewing as tart-with-a heart barmaid, Zena and Marion Mathie as Maria’s mother, Anna Muller helping the other aforementioned names make another strong and more importantly for Hammer Studios, successful sequel in this enduring series.
Overall, Dracula Has Risen From the Grave sits very nicely in the Dracula series and its grisly beginning and exciting finale definitely pleased audiences at the time and Dracula himself would rise again in 1970 with another sequel and fan favourite, Taste the Blood of Dracula which kept up Hammers reputation despite cinema beginning to head in a more dark and daring direction. For long time fans, this classic vampire villain and series certainly has some bite left in it yet.
Are you a fan of Hammer? Let us know if you think this one had some bite.