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The best of Lee's Dracula sequels
on 15 December 2007
For the US release of Hammer's fourth Dracula film (only the third to actually feature Christopher Lee, the Count sitting out Brides of Dracula), Warner Bros. used a one-sheet of a woman's neck with a sticking plaster on it, following the title Dracula Has Risen From the Grave with the single word 'Obviously.' The film itself, however, is anything but tongue-in-cheek, and played deadly straight with a conviction the series gradually lost over the years. It's probably the best-looking of all the Hammer Dracula sequels, and also the first where Christopher Lee actually speaks. As usual he's almost a background figure for much of the film, with the bulk of the film carried by Barry Andrews' atheist student romancing Veronica Carlson's niece of Rupert Davies' Monsignor, who inadvertently starts the blood flowing again when his attempt to exorcise Dracula's castle only results in the Count being revived from his icy grave by blood from a convenient cut. Finding himself cast out of his home and aided by Ewan Hooper's terrified priest (Renfield presumably being otherwise engaged), Dracula determines to take his revenge on Davies and his kin, stopping off en route for a light snack with Barbara Ewing's busty redheaded barmaid.
With a prologue that takes place before Dracula, Prince of Darkness and the main body of the film taking place a year later, it takes some liberties with the vampire mythology: the revived Dracula's first appearance is as a reflection, he has no problem removing crosses from willing girls' necks while a stake alone is no longer enough to kill him: you have to pray as well, which is a bit of a problem when your hero doesn't believe in God. Yet they're not as jarring as they might be, the latter resulting in one particularly memorably gory sequence. The change in director from Terence Fisher, sadly in decline at that time and unavailable due to a car crash, to Freddie Francis gives the film less of a production-line feel than most of the studio's Dracula series and, despite an awkward filter in some scenes and a distinctly jaundiced look for the Count, the film has a much more expansive look and feel almost unique in the series, with a striking and well-employed rooftop set courtesy of undervalued production designer Bernard Robinson and some relatively unfamiliar Pinewood standing sets rather than the overused backlot at Bray. He gets good performances too, with a particularly nice turn from Michael Ripper as an amiable innkeeper (as opposed to his usual miserable and terrified innkeepers).
Unfortunately while the PAL DVD boasts excellent colour and definition, some shots look oddly distorted, as if stretched, and the sound wanders in and out of synch far too often for comfort. On the plus side it does restore the censor cuts of about half a dozen gallons of blood spurting from Dracula's chest after he gets staked and includes the original trailer.