Sunday, July 17, 2011

THE SATANIC RIGHTS OF DRACULA (Alan Gibson, 1974)

The Prince of Darkness rises once again into the modern world: this time, to spread a far deadlier contagion than mere vampirism! Director Alan Gibson confuses horror convention for spy drama, giving birth to this stillborn tripe that is MOD SQUAD meets DRACULA; an idea worth its weight in camp but played without humor...only thick gothic humours.

Christopher Lee’s final appearance as Dracula at least allows him more dialogue instead of relegating him to a caped corpse hovering over frightened girls. Unfortunately, Lee doesn’t appear until half-way through the picture and the obtuse plot fails to demonstrate the need for Dracula, thus there is no suspense or tension as we await his ethereal presence. Lee is delightfully wicked but it’s Peter Cushing as Van Helsing who gets the majority or screen time (and dialogue). Cushing’s elegance and professionalism makes this a better film than it should be, and he devises an original way to destroy, once and for all, his immortal nemesis: by a crown of thorns!

The bland story revolves around powerful men participating in a secret satanic cult, but is a mish-mash of spy games and gothic horror. Shaggy-vested assassins on motorcycles, security systems, and micro-cameras become the arsenal for a impotent branch of the government's own secret service. The film spends too much time blathering exposition instead of showing us, and Gibson’s innumerable close-ups become visually tiresome and dull, much like a bad television episode.

The finale involves Dracula being led into a hawthorn bush, as if guided by more than chance (and Van Helsing). Dracula suffers his own undead torment before the hero stakes him and watches him dwindle away to ashes and dust. Forever. Thankfully.


Final Grade: (D-)

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