Spoiler Alert! I intend to pretty much recount the plot of the following movie. I will not give away the ending, however, because by that point I had almost entirely ceased paying attention.
I had DVR’d Dracula Rises from the Grave (1968) when I DRV’d the other Christopher Lee Dracula movie whose name escapes me. Saturday I watched it while Steven was at work. I would have waited and watched it with him, but Steven is pretty much All Christmas All The Time these days (with the occasional DVR’d Castle episode or true crime show thrown in).
In pre-movie commentary, Ben Mankiewicz says that Lee did not want to play the role a third time, but the studio talked him into it, probably with a fat check. It must have been, because they sure didn’t tempt him with a great script that offered acting challenges and Oscar talk. Well, I’m not judging. Actors have bills to pay, too.
The movie opens with a cheerful young man whistling as he rides his bike to the church, where he works. When he goes to ring the bell, blood is running down the rope. Eek! I like a movie that doesn’t waste any time. In a creepy shot, we see a slaughtered young lady hanging upside down inside the bell (cue jokes about her face ringing a bell).
The young man spends the rest of the movie saying, “Ah-uh-ah!” instead of actual lines, apparently shocked into imbecility, because he seemed pretty normal before. These movies love to have a character that can only say, “Ah-uh-ah!” I’m sure it makes it easier to write dialogue.
As the movie progresses, the lady in the bell takes on a real “Waaait a minute” quality, because Dracula actually has not yet risen from the grave at this point. It’s never explained. I guess it’s just a set piece to start us off creepy and get the kid out of having to learn any lines.
There’s this fairly wimpy parish priest with the oddest pattern of baldness I’ve ever seen, a narrow strip down the middle of his head. All he wants to do after the bell lady incident is sit in the pub and drink. This is where the Monsignor finds him. The Monsignor is told that nobody will go to church because they fear the evil Dracula. Yes, we thought he was dead, but the shadow of his castle falls on the church, obviously a bad sign.
The Monsignor decides that he and Wimpy Priest will go to the castle to prove the evil has been destroyed. Stand by for the next “Waaaait a minute” development. The two holy men leave before dawn, carrying a really big crucifix for good measure. Finally Wimpy Priest can go no further, they must turn back, soon it will be dark.
Excuse me, what? How far away is this castle? And how big is it if from that distance it can still cast a shadow that touches the church. Perhaps it is on a mountain that goes straight up, but still.
Now, anybody who saw the previous Christopher Lee Dracula movie (whose title escapes me) knows the titular vampire went to a cold, watery end (I can’t say “grave” because that’s where he sleeps when he is undead). So right away Dracula is better off in this movie, because you may recall that he began the other movie as a box of ashes. At least now he is already reconstituted. And apparently the cold water helped him regenerate his vocal chords, because he has lines this time. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Monsignor begins some exorcism rite at the door of the castle, leaving Wimpy Priest to wait for him partway down the mountain. There is a lot of thunder and lightning. I’m not entirely clear on this, but I think what happens is that Wimpy Priest falls, hits his head and bleeds on frozen Dracula.
You may recall that blood revived Dracula when he was ashes, and so it is now that he is frozen. And it doesn’t take a whole person’s worth of blood to do it this time, so bonus for Wimpy Priest: he gets to be in the rest of the movie.
Monsignor, meantime, has completed his exorcism (or whatever it was) and sealed the door to the castle with the big crucifix. I had thought that in cases like this you burned the castle (or house or mansion, as the case may be) and scattered the ashes. Apparently not always.
Boy, is Dracula ticked off when he arrives home to find the locks have been changed.
And we’re off on a vampire revenge caper. We meet a beautiful blonde, a tawdry redhead and a stalwart hero, among others. “Ah-uh-ah” boy makes another appearance, and Wimpy Priest gets to be Dracula’s henchman.
I have to admit, I pretty much stopped paying attention after a while. I only let the recording play out so I could write this blog post. And I see I am over 800 words, so I guess it’s a good idea to stop my plot summary now anyways. It actually isn’t too bad of a movie. I may DVR the other Christopher Lee Dracula movies if they turn up on TCM. I’ll let you know.
(NOTE: The movie title that escaped me earlier was Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966); I wrote a blog post about it.)