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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)

Hell O Prisoners

Sorry for the delay. Workin on somethin' uptop. 

Time for Disc #1, Movie #7, 50 Horror Classics

"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." Lord Acton


Hammer Film Productions

Presents

Director Alan Gibson's



In a secluded farmhouse on the outskirts of London, a ritual is taking place. In luscious Argento inspired red, four men cloaked in white sit transfixed by the spectacle at which they stare--a beautiful naked long haired blonde writhing in the now and in anticipation of what will come. Ok. Here's part of the blonde.
 
 
Chin Yang (Barbara Yu Ling) prays aloud, slits the throat of the cockerel, drains it's blood into a chalice, and while still warm, pours it on the sacrifice's soft warm underbelly. The men's eyes widen as they approach the altar. They reach, and dab a bit of blood, and mark their foreheads with inverted crosses, when the alarm sounds. 
On the other side of the house, Undercover Agent Hanson (Maurice O'Connell), who was evidently more of a  uncovered undercover Agent, had managed to escape, killing his captor, but when he left, he tripped the alarm--a great big light beam at the base of the doorway. His captors pursue, donning the crraziest 70's fur vests, Mod do's, and reflector shades. Well covered, he makes it to an awaiting car, and is whisked away to their facility where a Physician waits, and soon says, “obviously, he’s been systematically beaten…” 
 
“Thank you, Dr.” 
 
Before he dies, he is able to tell them what's been going on at the house, and, hopefully, produce a short viable video from the gizmo in his watch, and five descent photos. While speaking, he tells them about one of the men, John Porter, whom they know. Head of the Department. Has power over pensions. Among others things.
 
Scotland Yard has word that there is a "group of middle aged men indulging themselves in some sort of sick orgy. That's what we've got. Maybe the truth's in here." says the Inspector, as he removes the intricate little metal wheel from the inside of Hanson's watch. Just then the Dr. comes up. "I don’t suppose anyone will be allowed to claim him. Usual routine? False name on the death certificate?”
sorry, love this pic

They decide to consult another man, Inspector Murray (Michael Coles). Together they take a look at the evidence.They have a lead that a group of influential men  are visiting the house regularly. They look at the slides. Four of the most prominent members of society, and then one blank image. The door was visible where each of the men were shot, so to speak, but this fifth photo was just the doorway and no man. Murray wants to hit up University Lecturer in Anthropology and Eastern European History, and "Authority on the Occult,"  Dr. Lorimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). 
On the other side of town, after a very long night at work, the Inspector's secretary was kidnapped from her vehicle after driving down a street that, from what I could tell, had no apparent signage that would even remotely indicate a dead end, especially a dead end that ends in a V. The motorcycle guys totaled her car with a crowbar, and she ends up in the same room as Hanson, tethered to the bed, but after some shaking of doors and knobs and window shudders and a preponderance of fog, Dracula (Christopher Lee) enters and takes her...on the neck. 
 
Van Helsing listens and watches to the evidence. The cockerel, the blood, the prayer, the sacrifice, "Death is no prison for those who have given their souls to the Prince of Darkness," Chin Yang prayed, as she buried her knife into the gut of the girl. But soon, the girl rose, and the wound heeled before their eyes. No. It was not  exactly a satanic ritual. It was specifically for the Glorification of Blood. All the evidence: The cockerel,  the blood, the sacrifice, the marking of the inverted cross. No. This was not your average Satanic Ritual. Dracula was involved. Vampirism, Van Helsing revealed, was practiced usually by sophisticated mature adults. These men were "probably hypnotized."
 
Jessica (Joanna Lumley), Van Helsing's granddaughter, and “right hand," recognizes one of the men, Dr. Julian Keeley (Freddie Jones), and points out that her Grandfather knows him, too. They'd gone to college together. Van Helsing hadn't spoken up, cause he wanted to talk to Keeley first. They concurred that that was a good idea, so Van Helsiing went to the Keeley Foundation to hit up Julian.

When he does, Van Helsing finds that Keeley is not really up to par. Evil rules you know…Evil and violence are the only two measures that hold any power..The Deadly sins...or the Deadly Virtues.....Nothing is too vile...Nothing is too dreadful. Too awful....The thrill of disgust....Beauty of obscenity.” While listening to Keeley, Van Helsing is checking out his petri dishes, and finds that Keeley's been working on a way of accelerating the bubonic plague.
 
“I found the new strain….I grew them….exposed them to radioactive neutrons…Rots on the bones. In minutes…I've finished. I've finished in time...”  Van Helsing looks around, and starts asking questions. He heard Keeley say it had to be completed by the 23rd of this month. And then he starts drilling him about who commissioned him, but the motorcycle guys have been watching the house, and they come in and shoot, missing Julian, but grazing Van Helsing. They ck on him, and know he's alive, but leave him, and as far as he can tell, they take Julian, but when he wakes up, he finds Julian hanging from a hook on the ceiling, and all of the petri dishes are gone. 
 
The Inspectors make way to the farmhouse, and Murray, especially, wants Jessica to stay there, but, of course, she doesn't. They never do. So while the cops are questioning Chin Yang, Jessica's landed herself right smack dab in the middle of a basement full of women vampires. The secretary is chained to the wall, but smiles when she smells the guest. The Inspectors hear her screams, and they manage to get her, and get away. And then it gets complicated.
D.D. Denham funded all of Keeley's research, and Heads the Keeley Foundation. He is a recluse, and is said to be into chemicals, oils, banks, and land. He and the other four men in the photos are on the Board of Directors, and Denham Headquarters and the Foundation is built on top of the cemetery where Dracula died in the previous film. Denham moonlights as the "Lord of Corruption.” Master of the Undead. The one and only...Count Dracula.” Van Helsing destroyed him two years ago on this very spot. But he's come back. He's been Called Back. And I expect he did exit the door in the fifth photo. 
 
They figure Dracula's plan is to take down, well, everyone. He's got the four men, his four horsemen, who have viable connections, to well, everyone. So Van Helsing can't help but think that Dracula wishes his own demise. Maybe, he's just burnt out, and wants to hang it up, and was fine cashing in a couple years ago. But there is this question about the date. Going over a Boolean Disaster map of the world, Van Helsing explains, every disaster the world has ever suffered coincides with where these circles meet. "He marshals his disciples, the living and the Dead." The Date chosen by Dracula himself. The Sabbath, the week before Halloween. He will control over everything, and then nothing.

Murray and Jessica decide to do a stake out while Van Helsing plans to meet up with D. D. Denham. The guard has no intention of letting him in. No one ever sees Mr. Denham. But, the phone rings, and directions are given for the visitor to hit the red button in the elevator which will take him directly to Denham's floor. Van Helsing totes a small gun with one silver button freshly made from a silver cross he melted the night before, and answers "no" to the guard when he's asked if he's carrying a camera. 
 
Sitting behind the desk in the dark, D.D. Denham, Count Dracula, speaks first. "I've been expecting you....Ever since Julian took his own life...his nerves failed him...new political regimes must some times be necessary to be persuasive…”
And he fires up a bigg stogie. “Helps me to concentrate.” He accidentally lays his hand on the Bible Van Helsing placed on his table, and instantly screams in revolt. His hand smokes and sizzles."You are Count Dracula!" and Van Helsing immediately whips out his cross and bares it as a shield. The Count cowers in the shadows. And then Van Helsing pulls out his gun, his dinky little gun. “Foolish man," says Dracula, "Bullets cannot harm me.” 

“Silver bullets can.” 

When in stampede a couple of the horsemen, who move in straight for the kill, but Dracula says it cannot be made so simple for him, “Not for Van Helsing...Nor for his Granddaughter.”
Murray and Jessica out run a sniper, but fur-vested-shade-wearing-gun-toting motorcycle guys await them inside their getaway car, so they're pretty much screwed and are hustled back to the house. Murray wakes up and sees Chin Yang who slinks up to him and says she needs help to get away. When he brings up the fact that she lives there, she says it's not by choice, and then she begins to glamour him. It’s working. He starts to kiss her, but then something's not right, and when he looks again, she has fangs,so he pushes her away, "In God's Name!" They wrestle, and he throws on her a net, grabs a spike, and wastes her, right where it counts, in the heart. Her feet flex. I love that part. Her teeth and fangs bared and bloody; she's down. 

And now another lady vamp approaches wearing a red robe. Actually they all end up wearing red. Until I put my glasses on, it looked like they were in the vampire ward at the prison. Prison reds.  Murray makes the sign of the cross. And then another approaches. He makes another sign. Another approaches. Another sign. And there's this one that looks like Elizabeth Taylor. He thought of Van Helsing talking about the repellents, and he remembered the fresh water, so he turns on the fire sprinklers. The little red flames burn out. 
 
The horsemen, Dracula, and Van Helsing enter the ritual room where Julia is asleep on the altar. Van Helsing will have a front row seat when Dracula sacrifices his granddaughter. "On the eve of the Sabbath"  he begins, "I chose this blood of yours to be my consort....The instrument of my final conquest...The vial...Swifter and more awesome then the Black Death..The Plague.”

“And so" Van Helsing asks, "You will destroy every living being on the earth…including you…Is this your Deathwish, Count Dracula?"

 
"I have chosen four messengers of death..Four carriers of the plague who will infect their miserable Brethren.” And the most prominent men get it. "We served you faithful!” one shouts. And Dracula throws the vial to the man, who automatically catches it, and can't let go, and as the clock ticks up to 12, he is compelled to squeeze a bit too hard, and on the stroke of midnight, the vial shatters, and he's infected.
Murray finds the camera controls, turns them on, and sees the ensuing sacrifice, but the Watch busts him, and in the tussle, the guard electrocutes himself by jammin his weapon into the control panel. Murray's off.
Plague man is rotting. The ceiling caves in from the fires upstairs and quickly spreads throughout the mansion. Murray gets Jessica. Dracula and Van Helsing duke it out. Van Helsing literally breaks out the window and runs into the woods. The house is burning down. Van Helsing notices a Hawthorn tree. The Hawthorne tree. The tree from which Christ's crown was made."Count Dracula!" he beckons. And Dracula comes. And he walks right into the Hawthorn. He gets all tangled up. Deeper and Deeper, like quicksand, when Van Helsing sees the fence. Dracula almost gets free, but the Hawthorn trips him, and Van Helsing plunges a fence post into Dracula's chest, and Count Dracula is smoke to dust. 
Well, what do I think? Good, but too much work. It's almost like they tried to validate the idea of Dracula with the monotonous din of intellectual, technical, and scientific  banter. And if I thought I was free from the Atomic Age for just a moment, I found I was wrong, as it was an atomic age plot, but it was weak, and there were so many subplots going on in this movie, that it shone no brighter than the others. It's definitely worth a watch, and you gotta see the fur-vested-shade-wearin-gun-totin motorcylists, they are truly hip. I see a lot of Argento, lots of red, which I love. One of my favorite lines is one of the Inspectors reaction to Van Helsing Vampire theory. "I can see kids doing it for kicks, but these are sophisticated mature adults…” I'm giving it 3 flames on the flame scale. I absolutely loathed the music. It took me five views, at least, just to get passed the opening credits, till I finally just turned the audio down. After completing this, it felt like more of an achievement to watch rather than entertainment.
 
Next it's Disc #1, Movie #8, Creature from the Haunted Sea (1962). This has got atomic age flick written all over it. But it sounds fun!
 
Until next time...Keep those fires stoked.
Eternally Yours,
Warden Stokely
 

2 comments:

  1. Creature From The Haunted Sea isn't nearly as much of a creature feature as its name implies. That title is kind of a bait and switch here. You should really treat yourself to a week off from the "50 Horror Classics" and watch something new and exciting for Halloween. If your sense of duty obliges you to tough it out, at least go to one of the good ones. If it isn't a lousy transfer, Carnival Of Souls is creepy and genuinely haunting. I heartily recommend viewing in the wee hours of the morning while only a hair away from asleep.

    As little time as I've found this Pre'Ween to watch movies, I'm ashamed to admit I'm currently wasting a viewing opportunity with One Million Years B.C. Harryhausen's stop motion animation is great, of course, but there's not much else to break the tedium.

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    1. Thanks for the reprieve Brandon! Yes, I have to admit, I've been taking advantage of AMCs FEARFEST. I mean it's only 19 days and nights a year! I've seen Carnival of Souls. It's a doosey. And yes my sense of duty obliges me to tough it out. Hopefully, my posts will be more entertaining then some of the movies! I'll stick to the order, if for no other reason, but so that I don't miss something fantastic! lol. But yes, I will definitely start branching out, and watch something new and exciting on which to report. Thanks Brandon!

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