Tag Archives: Dracula

Kung Fu From Beyond The Grave (1982)

VHS cover
VHS cover

Starring Billy Chong, Lo Lieh, Sung Gam-Shing and Fang Mien, directed by Lee Chiu for The Eternal Film Company.

Green-lit ghoul
Green-lit ghoul

During the annual Ghost Festival, bare-chested hero Chun (Chong) is visited by the eyeless, green-faced spectre of his dead dad, who informs his son that he was a victim of murder. Chun decides to go to Yellow Dragon Town to get revenge for pops, but it won’t be easy as the villain controls a bunch of henchmen and is aided by a black magician priest (Gam-Shing). After Chun is pestered by hopping undead corpses in a playful scene, he’s inspired to go back to the location of a book of magic, which he uses to raise a group of mangle-faced undead to do his bidding.

DVD cover
DVD cover
These undead know how to make their own crucifix
These undead know how to make their own crucifix

This film is a great deal of fun!

Just to illustrate this, let’s look at what happens in a nicely-mounted confrontation between Chun and his ghosts versus the bad priest, who uses a magical cape and two long-tongued spirits in pointy hats to fight back. Chun stands his ground, retaliates by using his glowing magic book, turning the black magician’s spirits into puddles. But the movie’s weird factor is now suddenly turned up a notch as the priest piles on the pressure… by summoning Count Dracula! Wonderful stuff!  

Zapped by the magic book!
Zapped by the magic book!

Billy Chong’s fight moves are a joy to watch, plus we get to see a deadly ghost with stretching arms, a long-range flamethrower breath attack, women’s underwear thrown at the wizard to weaken him and a scene where the main villain (Lieh) is chased by the burning scalps of his victims!

These surreal elements, added to fine action courtesy of martial arts directors Alan Hsu and Sung Gam-Shing, make this a very entertaining kung-fu-horror-fantasy yarn.

Chun's eyeless, green-faced dead dad
Chun’s eyeless, green-faced dead dad

Dracula (1979)

Undead Mina
Undead Mina!

Count Dracula (Frank Langella) arrives in Whitby on the doomed ship Demeter that runs aground during a stormy night. He is discovered by Mina Van Helsing (Jan Francis), who is visiting her friend Lucy Seward (Kate Nelligan). The suave Count visits Mina and her friends at the Seward’s mansion that is also the local asylum.

Dracula starts preying on the women, turning Mina into a ghastly vampire and offering Lucy eternal, undead life as his bride. Jonathan Harker (Trevor Eve), Lucy’s fiancé, joins forces with Mina’s father, Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Laurence Olivier), to combat the charming-but-deadly Count.


Just like Universal’s 1931 production of DRACULA, that starred Bela Lugosi, the screenplay for this version of the Bram Stoker story was based on the 1924 stage adaptation by Hamilton Deane and John L Balderston. Langella starred in the Broadway play and had been nominated for a Tony Award for his performance.
(This version of the tale also changed characters and names around too).

A sailor has his throat ripped out
A sailor has his throat ripped out

I think this is a very satisfying, enjoyable, Edwardian period-set vampire movie.

I know some horror fans avoid this version because it’s a ‘romantic’ take on the story, but it is a great-looking production that boasts a fine score by John Williams, a memorable central performance by Frank Langella and a good supporting cast, including Donald Pleasence and Tony Haygarth, who is great as Renfield.

Frank Langella
Frank as Drac!
Lucy fears the cross
Lucy fears the cross
Creepy undead Mina!
Creepy undead Mina!

With a screenplay by W. D (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) Richter, the film has a bunch of well-done horror moments directed by John Badham, such as the underground encounter with a very ghoulish-looking undead Mina, Dracula twisting Renfield’s head 180° to break his neck and the Count crawling vertically down walls in slow motion.

Wonderful stuff.

Oh, and I like the love sequence between Dracula and Lucy (which many people knock), that uses the sumptuous John Williams score really effectively… and features laser effects!

Love scene
Okay, the love scene does go a bit ‘James Bond title sequence’, but that’s probably because Maurice Binder was Visual Consultant on this movie…
A beautiful matte shot by Albert Whitlock
A beautiful matte shot by Albert Whitlock
Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing
View from a spider's web
View from a spider’s web

About the colour timing…
In 1991 John Badham (who had originally wanted to shoot the film in black and white) tweaked the colour timing for home video with a desaturated look. This remains the most widely available version (it’s the version available on Amazon Prime, for instance).

Desaturated version
Desaturated version
Theatrical version
Theatrical version

For their 2-Disc Blu-ray Collector’s Edition, Scream Factory included the desaturated version plus the original version that screened in theatres (which I saw and enjoyed so much).

Mina gif
Thought I’d show Mina one more time!
Van Helsing confronts Dracula
Van Helsing confronts Dracula

Sucker of Souls (2019)

Captured by the beast
Head ripped in two!
Head ripped in two!
Geyser of blood from victim!
Geyser of blood!

In a cave-like tomb some mercenaries and an archaeologist have to deal with a red-eyed, naked, bearded humanoid who transforms into a large, demon-like monster after feeding on a young archaeology assistant.

Human-like Dracula
Dracula is initially human-like…
Drcula starts to transform
…but he starts getting bigger after feeding…
Toothy-faced monster
…until he becomes a toothy-faced monster

The creature is actually Dracula, who halts momentarily in his attack when he sees a cat, allowing the survivors to flee, regroup, and leave an explosive device that blows Dracula up. The team runs down a tunnel that opens-up into a large chamber, where other monster-like vampires await…

There are more of the monsters!
There are more of them!

SUCKER OF SOULS, an episode from season 1 of the Netflix animated anthology show Love, Death + Robots, has a pleasing, sketchy animation style reminiscent of comic strip illustrations, zips along at a brisk pace, and portrays Dracula as a being capable of becoming a completely non-human beast.

He's a beast!
He’s a beast!

Made by the Paris-based Studio La Cachette, SUCKER OF SOULS has a pretty simple plot, includes some obvious, not that funny pussy jokes, but is an entertaining 13 minute short.

Mercs with guns
I liked the hand drawn style
THe merc holds the cat
Cue the pussy jokes…
The characters run away
Run away!

Dracula A.D. 1972

Dracula holds out his hand
Respect the ring!
Dracula AD 1972 poster

In 1872 Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) battles Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) atop a runaway coach in London’s Hyde Park. Dracula gets impaled on a broken wheel spoke, causing him to disintegrate. Van Helsing also dies… just as a youthful Dracula acolyte (Christopher Neame) arrives on the scene and collects the powdery remains of Dracula. He hides the evil dust in a church graveyard where Van Helsing has just been buried, then the camera points up at the sky… and a jet plane flies overhead!

Dracula AD 1972 titles
A jet plane! In a Hammer Dracula film?!
Dracula is impaled!
Dracula gets spoked!

This entry in Hammer’s Dracula series is very enjoyable!

This was the first of Hammer’s Dracula series to take place in a contemporary setting, with Dracula being brought back to life in modern London by an acolyte called Johnny Alucard (also played by Neame). Dracula then preys on a group of young ‘hip’ partygoers, one of whom is actually a descendant of his arch enemy… Van Helsing.

Johnny Alucard
Johnny Alucard! Wait… what if you spell that backwards?

DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972) was the sixth Hammer film to star Christopher Lee as Dracula, with Peter Cushing returning to play Van Helsing: the last time he’d played the part was in THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960), which hadn’t featured Lee. So this film was also the first to star both Lee and Cushing in their respective roles since DRACULA (aka HORROR OF DRACULA) in 1958.

Caroline Munro
Caroline Munro’s character doesn’t find the ceremony that funny anymore

This film is looked down upon by many Hammer fans and critics, and I am aware of its shortcomings. Dracula never strays from the derelict deconsecrated church and the ‘swinging London’ trappings seemed dated even at the time of the film’s release (as filmmaker Brett Piper pointed out to me a while back: the “kids” are some old men’s idea of “the younger generation”). It’s also hard not to smile at the scene where Cushing needs to use a pen and paper to work out that ‘Alucard’ is ‘Dracula’ spelled backwards!

Lobby card

But I think the modern day setting does add to the story: just how many more period-set Hammer Dracula stories could have been made? The ‘hippy’ protagonists are far more interesting than the rather bland leads in the previous couple of Dracula outings, Christopher Lee looks great as the Count and Cushing is good, as always, playing a descendant of Van Helsing. Christopher Neame is memorable as smarmy acolyte Johnny Alucard, who has a great fight with Van Helsing, Caroline Munro & Stephanie Beacham supply the Hammer glamour and Michael Coles provides solid support as Inspector Murray.

Johnny Alucard meets his end in the bath!
Bath time for Johnny
Michael Coles would go on to play Inspector Murray again in the next Hammer Dracula movie
Stephanie Beacham's character would also return in the next film, but this time played by Joanna Lumley
Stephanie Beacham’s character would also return in the next film, but this time played by Joanna Lumley

There’s an enjoyable final showdown between Lee and Cushing, where the contemporary score (guitars, etc) contributes to the sequence as Van Helsing combats the Count in the church ruin with a silver knife, holy water and a stake-filled pit.

Dracula is in trouble!
Van Helsing vs Dracula

Mike Vickers’ great soundtrack has a blaxploitation vibe to it, really adding to the viewing pleasure of this film, which has been re-evaluated by the likes of Kim Newman, who chose DRACULA A.D. 1972 as one of his top 10 favourite vampire movies. Newman also featured a character called Johnny Alucard in his fantastic ANNO DRACULA series of novels.
Author and actor Mark Gatiss is a fan too, setting the third episode of his BBC/Netflix DRACULA (2020) miniseries in modern times. The episode sees the descendent of Van Helsing lying in a hospital bed, and the number of her ward is… AD | 072.

Dracula AD 1972 poster
The place: Kings Road, Chelsea

Give the movie another viewing, I’m sure you’ll dig it, man!

Dracula decays
Dracula is defeated once more… until the next time

Hammer pre-production flyer, illustrated by Tom Chantrell, for Dracula Chelsea '73", which became Dracula AD 1972
Hammer pre-production flyer, illustrated by Tom Chantrell, for Dracula Chelsea ’73”, which became Dracula AD 1972