Hammer’s horror efforts have always been more about ominous atmosphere than compelling plotting, and that’s certainly true when considering Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, the studio’s third feature to star Christopher Lee as the undead count. Director Freddie Francis drenches his turn-of-the-20th-century action in shadow and fog, which enhances the mood of overripe menace and sexuality. The story concerns Dracula’s resurrection (after having been encased in ice at the end of 1966’s Dracula: Prince Of Darkness) at the moment Monsignor Ernest (Rupert Davies) says some prayers and sticks a cross on the door of the villain’s castle. Locked out of his home, Dracula decides to take revenge on the Monsignor by traveling to the religious man’s hometown and seducing the Monsignor’s niece Maria (Veronica Carlson), who’s currently dating atheist boyfriend Paul (Barry Andrews).
Paul’s predestined transformation from a disbeliever to a man of faith is telegraphed early on, but Francis is far less interested in narrative surprises than in haunting imagery. In that regard, his sequel is a consistent success, from the opening sight of a possessed priest dumping a corpse out of a coffin so Dracula can have a new slumbering chamber to repeated close-ups of the vampire’s bloodshot eyes, full of wide, wild evil. While Dracula Has Risen From The Grave frequently makes no sense on a logical basis, its lush set design and over-the-top performances give it a nightmarish aura. Furthermore, the film is a prime showcase for an imposingly lanky Lee, who embodies the Prince Of Darkness through long stretches of silence punctuated by bellowing commands. There’s also a subtle eroticism to his take on the character, as when sinks his fangs into the neck of Maria, who responds with the plainly symbolic gesture of knocking a children’s doll off her bed.
Availability: Dracula Has Risen From The Grave is available on DVD, which can be obtained from Netflix or your local video store/library, or to rent or purchase from the major digital outlets.