Following the events of Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966), the vampire lord (Christopher Lee) lies buried under the icy river that flows past his castle. Monsignor Ernst Mueller (Rupert Davies) arrives from the monastery at Kleinberg to find all is not well in the village. The local priest (Ewan Hooper) is an alcoholic and villagers won’t attend Sunday Mass because Castle Dracula casts an evil shadow over the church. The Monsignor’s attempt to exorcise the castle are hamstrung by the blundering priest, who flees and cuts his head on the cracked ice. His blood flows into the vampire’s mouth and sure enough, Dracula rises from the grave! A crucifix prevents Dracula re-entering his castle, so he does what any disenfranchised loner would do - shacks up in the basement of his local pub. Here, student clod Paul (Barry Anderson) is at odds with the Monsignor who won’t let his niece Maria (Veronica Carlson) marry an atheist. Dracula enslaves the priest and puts the bite on comely waitress Xena (Barbara Ewing), before setting his sights on lovely Maria.
On a scripted level, Hammer’s fourth Dracula movie is no great shakes, centring mostly around a tedious love story, while Christopher Lee skulks in the shadows. However, with former cinematographer Freddie Francis calling the shots, near-psychedelic visuals transform the slight story into delirious, comic book horror. It’s great fun, with eye-catching moments including a corpse hung inside a church bell, the fairytale colours in Maria’s bedroom (shot by DP Arthur Grant using the amber iris filter Francis invented for The Innocents (1961)), Dracula leading the virginal heroine through the ghostly woods, and his impalement on a giant crucifix, cloak flapping wildly while his eyes weep blood. The religious themes in Anthony Hinds’ script don’t really amount to much and some horror fans (and Lee himself!) have criticised the seen where Dracula survives his staking, because Paul lacks the religious conviction to back it up. It’s a controversial twist on vampire lore, that I personally don’t have a problem with, but can understand why many do. Hinds screenplays often take a “make it up as you go” approach that can infuriate, although you can’t deny it’s a great shock moment when Dracula rips the stake from his heart and throws it back at pitiful Paul.
Ah yes, Paul. Get used to hearing that name. For some reason every Hinds-scripted Dracula that followed features a dullard hero named Paul. Hammer could have renamed their series “the Amazing Adventures of Dracula and Paul”, except that sounds like a Transylvanian folk rock album. Barry Anderson proves a vapid hero and Rupert Davies, an ineffectual substitute for Peter Cushing. But Veronica Carlson was one of Hammer’s most winning heroines and here provides the fresh-faced innocence crucial for any gothic fairytale. She went on to tackle her most challenging role in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969). It was on the set of Dracula Has Risen From the Grave that Hammer received the Queen’s Award for Export. The story goes the official presenting the award watched filming on the final scene, with Christopher Lee screaming and covered in gore, and remarked: “I say! I believe that man belongs to my club.” Dracula would return in Peter Sasdy’s Taste The Blood Of Dracula (1969).
A much respected cinematographer for decades, British Francis made his way up from camera operator on films like The Small Back Room, Outcast of the Islands and Beat the Devil to fully fledged cinematographer on such films as Room at the Top, Sons and Lovers (for which he won his first Oscar), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and The Innocents (a masterpiece of his art).