Dracula Has Risen yet again. Christopher Lee’s fabulously sex-sessful stint as Hammer Films’s blood-sucking closet freak continued with this 1968 installment, directed with an ornate attention to detail by Freddie Francis (who, whether working for Hammer or their rival Amicus, always mounted productions that were as visually classy as they were tonally ashy). Lee, who it must be said has given far more enthusiastic performances than his check-chasing work here, breaks out of the ice that encased him at the conclusion of Hammer’s previous Dracula film and enslaves a local Priest in an effort to wreak revenge on the Monsignor (who locked him out of his castle by sealing it with a massive gold cross). His plan is to take the Monsignor’s niece, which would be tougher for the old Count if her dashing, would-be heroic boyfriend Paul weren’t an atheist and, thereby, non-user of the very trinkets (crucifixes and Bible passages) that would stop Dracula. Beginning with a tense reworking of that iconic S&M image—a bound and gagged body suspended by the feet inside a gigantic bell—that features nearly fluorescent blood, the film is preoccupied with the nature of blood surrounding the Dracula legend, and not simply the delicate trickles from neck punctures. The film’s hypnotic credits sequence uses 2001-style color filters to approximate the strangely voluptuous P.O.V. of a vampire gazing upon his prospective victim’s pulsing mass of teeming veins and arteries. It’s a seductive nightmare of red tubules and tissue against a curtain of deoxidized blue and it sets the tone for a Dracula film that finds unique and ornate methods for working sanguine imagery. For starters, Lee’s eyes are frequently and unnervingly bloodshot whenever his sexual drive begins to rev into gear. To mirror this, director Francis films the scenes that center around the vampire with yellow-brown gels around the frames’ edges, giving the impression that they too are from Dracula’s omniscient view. They give Dracula Has Risen From the Grave a musty, jaundiced sensuality (like finding Great Aunt Mildred’s mothball stank-ridden garter belt hidden in the back of her Victorian closet) that characterizes Hammer’s blending of gothic tradition with modern prurience.
Warner's commendable transfers for this Hammer line preserve the studio's line-production films, warts and all. The prints might be a bit grainy and covered with a fair amount of particles and dirt, but the colors are vibrant and there doesn't appear to be any digital jiggery-pokery to artificially boost the film's limitations. The sound mix is nothing special, but the dialogue comes through well enough.
Just a trailer, but it's a charmingly '60s-horror one that's well worth taking a toke to.
Hot blood carouses thorough the veins of this handsome Hammer Dracula installment, even if Christopher Lee apparently took a cold shower before filming started.