Tuesday, October 12, 2010

DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (Freddie Francis, 1968)

Two men must discard the nihilistic pantheon of the void and grasp the sharp edge of true faith because their very souls are at stake. Director Freddie Francis focuses his cinematic talent upon the seductive Count and his virginal bloodletting, telling a tale of ravenous sexuality and revenge.

The story begins with blood-soaked hemp that rings the chimes at midnight, when death rattles it last breath upon a frightened village. The nameless Priest is lost in the shadow of doubt, consumed by Dracula’s castle that still looms above the town like a deadly sentinel, a beacon of evil in the starless night. When the regional Monsignor visits, he must put the fear to final rest, and he and the Priest hike towards the malignant edifice with a cross to bear. The Priest can go no further and succumbs to his sickening fear, while the Monsignor claims the unhallowed ground in the name of The Lord with a giant crucifix. A storm causes the Priest to stumble upon his rocky descent, both spiritual and physical, and spills his faithless blood (by chance) into the mouth of Dracula, held in a frozen stasis.

Dracula has now risen not so much from the grave (he wasn’t buried) but from a frozen pond, with the Priest as his human lackey. The fanged antagonist seeks revenge on the Monsignor for consecrating the isolated castle, and tracks him down to raise Hell. A subplot involves the Monsignor’s daughter Maria and her affair with a baker’s son Paul, an avowed atheist who worships upon the altar of scientific method, creating a religious melodrama. Dracula easily seduces and infects the buxom tavern wench Zena who has a crush on Paul, and uses her to lure Maria to her everlasting doom.

The story is infused with lascivious humor, such as the scene when a drunken Paul is helped into bed by Zena, who begins to kiss and unzip his pants when Maria appears unannounced. The look of sexual frustration upon Zena’s face is priceless, and she makes no apologies about her libidinous intentions. The film is ripe with sexuality as Dracula sucks the life from Zena and seduces Maria, taking her virginity and tainting her body. Paul still doesn’t believe in the Almighty so when he drives a wooden stake through Dracula’s heart, it has no effect. Together, he and the Priest must make amends (and amens!) with their god to destroy him once and for all. That is, until the next movie.


Final Grade: (B)

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