Another film with a dense, confused audience-surrogate character: pilot Rex (Leon Greene, a Holmes in The Seven Percent Solution), who meets his old buddy Christopher Lee (same year as Dracula Has Risen From The Grave), then goes searching for their missing friend Simon. They find that he has joined a posh group of satanists (Britain was too polite for all this – the satanists reel in horror when their leader kills a goat), and try to rescue him through frequent use of crosses. Rex falls for satanist Tanith (Nike Arrighi: Day for Night, The Perfume of the Lady in Black) so they attempt to rescue her too, pursued by the Victor Garber-looking cult leader Mocata (Charles Gray, another Holmes in The Seven Percent Solution). Satanic possession and kidnapping follow, then evil is defeated in a very Christian ending.

Lee uses the interrotron on Simon:

Giant spider terrifies little girl:

Don’t think I’ve watched a mummy movie since I was eight, because that’s the last time a living mummy seemed scary or interesting (I’m not counting the 1990’s Mummy series, since those were more about poor computer effects than mummies). But for some reason I watched this instead of The Curse of Frankenstein as my annual Hammer horror. And it wasn’t scary or interesting. Not a terrible movie, a classy-looking production but, well, it’s about a mummy. What can you do with that?

Same writer and director as Hammer’s Dracula and Frankenstein movies, starring Creature/Count Christopher Lee as the mummy and Doctors Frankenstein & Van Helsing Peter Cushing as the wimpy archaeologist who defeats it. Lee appears unbandaged in flashback scenes, a high priest with a forbidden love for a princess (Yvonne Furneaux, title character in something called Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie). He tries to resurrect her after her burial and is caught, mummified alive and buried behind a secret panel in her tomb.

John FrankenHelsing Banning:

However-many years later in 1895, archaeologist Felix Aylmer (of Olivier’s Henry V) digs up the tomb despite warnings about curses. An Egyptian local (George Pastell, actually from Cyprus) who still believes in the ancient gods swears revenge and a couple years later carts the Lee-mummy to Britain and has it assassinate Felix and his buddy. Felix’s son Peter Cushing escapes due to the lucky fact that his wife is the same actress who played the Egyptian princess, and she’s able to override the mummy’s commands.

Christopher Lee, before:

… and after:

Cushing figures out the plot, manages to convince the local police of the facts (it’s rare in a supernatural movie that the police believe the hero’s story), then saunters over to the vengeful Egyptian’s house, introduces himself and insults the man’s silly religion. This of course draws another mummy visit, but this time Cushing is armed – which should lead to the terrific poster artwork with a beam of light passing through a hole in the mummy’s midsection, but sadly doesn’t. Good wins out over evil, assuming Cushing is good – the movie doesn’t mind his participation in the looting of Egypt’s sacred history for the benefit of British museums.

Kind of a slow movie, with flashbacks that repeat whole scenes we just watched 45 minutes earlier. All the IMDB trivia articles are about the various ways Christopher Lee got hurt during the production, but he still stayed with Hammer through the early 70’s.

When I heard that Roy Ward Baker, who’d worked with Marilyn Monroe and Bette Davis, director of the acclaimed 1950’s Titanic movie A Night To Remember, had died, I didn’t think it would affect me. Certainly I wouldn’t bother to have memorial screenings a la Claude Chabrol, since I’d just ignored the death of the more important-seeming Arthur Penn – after all, this is SHOCKtober. But I looked him up on IMDB anyway, and to my surprise, the newspaper obituaries neglected to mention (out of courtesy, I suppose) that Roy helmed low-rent horror flicks for Hammer Studios in the 70’s. So I grabbed one of those right away.

I watched Hammer’s very first vampire movie last year, then skipped straight to this one, made in the final dark days of Hammer horror, when the studio was losing its market share and resorting to silly gimmicks, like pairing up with Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong for a kung-fu vampire sequel. Christopher Lee wanted nothing to do with it and bowed out of the series, leaving the diminished, token role of Dracula to John Forbes-Robinson (who’d had a small part in Battle of the River Plate, which also featured Lee).

the fake chinese dracula with the fake european dracula:

Peter Cushing returned from the original to play Van Helsing for the fifth time. VH has traveled to China in search of more vampire stories, and gets them from David Chiang (Seven Man Army, Seven Blows of the Dragon, Seven Lucky Stars) whose village has been overrun by the seven titular monsters – actually six, since his ancestor killed one. Hong Kong cinema already had their own vampire stories, so VH amusingly points out some differences between European and Asian vampires (the former are afraid of crosses, the latter fear buddha statues) and we learn others visually (the Chinese vampires are crazed, bloodthirsty zombies, not sexy creatures like Dracula). Cushing is joined by his gun-toting son Robin Stewart (previously in Horror House with Frankie Avalon) and a rich hanger-on feminist (Norwegian Julie Ege of The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins, The Amorous Milkman). Together they run off to help Chiang and his six brothers free the village, stopping first to kick the ass of a local gangster, who receives an arrow through the neck for interfering.

loving couple Julie Ege and David Chiang:

loving couple Szu Shih and Robin Stewart:

Even with the son wasting our time falling for Chiang’s knife-brandishing little sister (Szu Shih of Supermen Against the Orient, The Crooked Profligates) while Chiang falls for the Norwegian, and despite multiple appearances of rubber bats on strings, the movie totally has my sympathy because of all the undead kung-fu. Three golden vampires appear in our heroes’ cavern resting place and are dispatched (fire works well, Cushing discovers, and weaponless Chiang finds he can punch their dusty hearts out) then the fight at the village against the last three claims most of the brothers. Chiang impales himself and the bitten Norwegian on a stake. Dracula (have I mentioned he’s in the body of a long-haired Chinese gent?) reveals himself to Cushing, who kills Drac in about ten seconds. I know it’s not Chris Lee, but the history these two characters have had together would seem to deserve a more dramatic ending.

Bury me with a sword inside a giant egg, just in case this happens:

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.” – Harker

This was excellent. I knew Hammer Horror was a major hole in my viewing history, but I’d had the wrong idea about it. Somehow assumed it was a studio of low-budget, slow, decorative films a la Blood For Dracula. Here’s Wikipedia on this film’s predecessor, 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein: “Hammer’s first Gothic horror went into production. The use of colour encouraged a previously unseen level of gore. Until The Curse of Frankenstein horror films had not shown blood in a graphic way, or when they did it was concealed by monochrome photography. In this film, it was bright red, and the camera lingered upon it.” Of course, Hammer’s Dracula eventually went the way of all horror franchises, with increasingly silly sequels culminating in a showdown between Dracula and seven kung-fu brothers.

Jonathan Harker: John Van Eyssen, with a minor part in Quatermass 2 and no future in the cinema:

Harker roams around doing a lot of actory business for the first ten minutes, meets a girl who asks for help in vague terms, seems like the usual. But Harker isn’t the usual patsy – he’s actually here to kill Dracula. The girl, Drac’s wife, vamps out and Christopher Lee makes an awesome bloodshot-eyed bloody-mouthed action appearance, tossing her aside and biting Harker himself. JH goes into the basement the next day with stakes in hand, but stupidly kills the girl first, waking the main man who takes care of Harker easily.

Valerie Gaunt, also with no future in cinema, returning from Curse of Frankenstein:

Christopher Lee’s first Dracula movie and my first Hammer horror movie (not counting Moon Zero Two’s appearance on Mystery Science Theater). 36-year-old Lee went from minor roles in minor Powell/Pressburger flicks to the new face of British Horror in just two years.

Jonathan’s buddy Van Helsing figures things out and goes home to inform the family, but Harker’s girl Lucy dies of vampire-related causes. Lucy is the sister of either Mina or her husband Arthur, I dunno which, and V.H. soon becomes suspicious that Mina is under Dracula’s spell.

I don’t know Peter “Grand Moff Tarkin” Cushing very well. Looks like he didn’t recover from the collapse of his horror career in the late 70’s. He’s very good here, and carries the bulk of the movie.

I can’t remember who Mina was in the original novel but here, Lucy (Carol Marsh, star of a puppet version of Alice In Wonderland a decade prior) is Jonathan’s wife, and Mina (Melissa Stribling of The League of Gentlemen: the film thriller, not the TV comedy) is the wife of her brother Arthur (Michael Gough of The Small Back Room, later Alfred in the 90’s Batman films).

Mina gets the familiar marks on her neck and Van Helsing discovers Drac is hiding out in his own cellar. Some vampire hunter. Drac flees, tries to bury Mina (?) and gets killed by sunshine. Way more action-packed than the other Drac stories I’ve seen lately.

Hammer respected Dracula’s death less than Universal did – they had Lee play the Count a bunch more times beginning with Dracula: Prince of Darkness in ’66.

Wikipedia again: “The film was an enormous success, not only in Britain, but also in the USA, where it inspired numerous imitations from, amongst others, Roger Corman and American International Pictures. It also found success on the European continent, where Italian directors and audiences were particularly receptive.”