BySandra Harris, writer at Creators.co

IRISH FILM INSTITUTE HORRORTHON 2015: DRACULA A.D. 1972. INTRODUCED IN PERSON BY HAMMER ACTRESS CAROLINE MUNRO, FOLLOWED BY A Q. AND A. AND PHOTOGRAPH-SIGNING SESSION WITH CAROLINE MUNRO!!!

DRACULA A.D. 1972. 1972. DIRECTED BY ALAN GIBSON. STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, PETER CUSHING, MICHAEL COLES, STEPHANIE BEACHAM, CAROLINE MUNRO, MARSHA HUNT AND MICHAEL KITCHEN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This was always going to be the film of the entire 2015 Horrorthon for me. Not that I didn’t enjoy the rest of it. Oh God, no! Sitting in the dark in one or other of the screening rooms of the Irish Film Institute on Eustace Street, I gave myself up entirely to the magic of horror films old and new, American and even home-grown.

Over the course of the five days (Oct. 22nd -26th), I didn’t give so much as a thought to my unpaid bills, the washing-up, or the ongoing feud with the neighbours over wild parties. Theirs, by the way, not mine…! But this special commemorative tribute to Christopher Lee, who sadly passed away in June of 2015, was something I’d looked forward to since the details of the films were released shortly in advance of the festival. For me, it would be my final movie of the Irish Film Institute Horrorthon (Oct. 26th) and I was happy to be going out on a high.

The most exciting thing about the screening, of course, was that scream queen and well-known Hammer actress and Bond Girl Caroline Munro was going to be present throughout. After a nice lunch of sausages and chips in the IFI Café-Bar, my kids and I spotted her in the foyer about forty-five minutes before the screening was due to start. Over we sidled for a closer look and an introduction.

She was absolutely lovely to us! Uncool as ever, wearing my Hammer heart on my sleeve, I blurted out that I thought she looked beautiful and so glamorous, which was true, and that she’d hardly changed at all since the days of DRACULA A.D. 1972. She laughed at this and said deprecatingly that maybe there was a little more of her since that time but truly, she looked amazing!

The famous hair that she flings about so wantonly and sexily in DRACULA A.D. 1972 was still long and thick, dark and glossy with maybe a few blonde highlights. Her make-up was immaculate, her smile dazzling. She was wearing snug black leather jeans and black suede knee-boots (calm yourself, lads!) teamed with a black vest with a long-sleeved long caftan over the top of it all.

And the bling on her! Her wide belt was silver, she wore a fabulous glittery necklace and she had rings on every finger. I felt like a total scruff-bag beside such well-preserved glamour, to tell you the truth. During the Q. and A. session after the movie, she told me (and the whole audience!) that I had ‘fantastic hair’ but compared to her glossy do, it feels more like a tangled birds’ nest, haha…!

Anyway, she was totally lovely to me and my kids. I embarrassed my son dreadfully by telling Caroline that he had a huge crush on her now after watching her in THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD the previous day. As a matter of fact, at the signing-session after the movie she signed a photo of herself looking stunning as Mariana in SINBAD and it’s now his to keep forever. Aw, bless…!

Caroline and her entourage sat at the back of the theatre for the screening of DRACULA A.D. 1972. When she was introducing the film, she said that the film was always considered a bit of an oddity and that we should look out for the groovy clothes and far-out hairstyles on the actors and actresses.

Some people feel that Dracula shouldn’t have been put into this modern setting but this film and THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA have always been my favourite of Christopher Lee’s DRACULA films. It didn’t do Sherlock Holmes any harm to be transplanted into World War Two Britain in the brilliant Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce collaborations of the Nineteen-Forties and I don’t think it hurts The Prince Of Darkness either. Dracula, that is to say, not Ozzy Osborne…!

Having said that, the best part of the film is probably the scene at the start of the film in which Dracula and Peter Cushing, playing Van Helsing, grapple ferociously on top of a speeding carriage way back in 1872. It’s nail-bitingly exciting and bloody and it just feels so real. Then we fast-forward to a century later. Dracula is brought back to life by the adding of his ashes to fresh blood and he’s only got one thing on his mind. Revenge. Revenge against the Van Helsing family, of which Peter Cushing’s Lorrimer Van Helsing and his grand-daughter Jessica, played by Stephanie Beacham, are the present-day incarnations.

Needless to say, Christopher Lee is sternly sexy as the Count we women simply love to love. Christopher Neame hams it up fantastically as the sharp-cheekboned, too-cool-for-school scallywag Johnny Alucard. Johnny’s all-mouth-and-trousers when Dracula’s not around but he instantly becomes Dracula’s little bitch when the Count drops in to say hello. Oh yes, when the Count’s in town, Johnny’s all Yes Master, No Master, Three Bags Full Master. You can count on it.

Incidentally, the whole cinema burst out laughing when Peter Cushing was shown painstakingly figuring out on paper that ‘Alucard’ spelled backwards is… Well, I’m sure that you brainiacs can figure that out for yourselves!

Peter Cushing looked so cuddly and adorable on the big screen in his soft grey cardigan, little bow-tie and good-quality overcoat. Stephanie Beacham as Jessica Van Helsing drew the short straw in the hair stakes and wore a desperate cap of blonde hair over some longer blonde hair throughout.

Caroline Munro thoroughly deserves her moniker of ‘scream queen’ by reacting exactly as a woman should react to the presence of the Count, that is to say, screeching hysterically at first and then swooning in his arms, overcome by his presence and powerful sexuality. She’s gorgeous in it too, wearing that long dress that famously accentuates her legendary bosoms which, if it’s not too personal to say so, have stood the test of time and then some.

The setting of the ruins of St. Bartolph’s Church are deliciously atmospheric and spooky and the music is far-out and groovy throughout. Check out STONEGROUND providing the tunes for the party at the start of the modern-day part of the film, they totally rock, haha! The hippie kids are all great fun but the dialogue…! Let’s just say that it’s a teensy-weensy bit… ahem, stilted. But it doesn’t really matter because this movie is the most fun you’ll ever have watching a DRACULA film. It leaves me with a lovely warm feeling every time. It’s… it’s… it’s the most, man…!

Caroline Munro settled herself comfortably on the platform afterwards and said laughingly that the film was ‘a bit of a blast from the past.’ She was relaxed throughout the Q. And A. session and seemed genuinely happy to be talking about her film career, which encompassed such movies as CAPTAIN KRONOS VAMPIRE HUNTER, THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD and the James Bond outing, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME.

I asked her if she had any particular favourite Hammer memories and she told me (well, she told us, but it honestly felt like she was talking just to me!) about how she used to sit around the set of DRACULA A.D. 1972 knitting squares (yes, squares!) while Christopher Lee talked fascinatingly and at length about his real-life travels through Transylvania. Let’s just say that I was quite jealous…!

Then she told an hilarious story about how she was driving home one night in her little Mini after filming DRACULA A.D. 1972, and she was in a bit of a tearing hurry because she had friends coming for dinner and she needed to cook something for them to eat. She’d been unable to get a lot of the fake blood or the ‘Kensington gore’, as she called it, off of herself. Driving fast- by her own admission, she’s a fast driver!- she was stopped by a copper on the way home. He looked incredibly concerned to see this beautiful young woman with blood all over her face and hair.

‘Um, are you all right, Miss…?’ he asked curiously.

‘Oh yes, thank you, Officer!’ trilled the divine Miss Munro. ‘I’m just in a terrible hurry to get home to cook the dinner…!’ Needless to say, he let her go…

After the Q. And A. session had ended, Caroline signed photos, Horrorthon programmes and personal items for the predominantly male crowd… and little me, haha. I bought the SINBAD photo for my son and a gorgeous photo of Caroline with Christopher Lee in DRACULA A.D. 1972 for myself, the iconic one of Caroline covered in blood while the Count holds her close from behind and hungrily eyes up her lovely neck. At only a tenner each, I considered ’em both to be quite the bargain. She’d brought her special ‘signing’ marker-pens with her. They’ll sign any surface, she told me…!

She signed my Horrorthon programme for me and also my Hammer book. If any of you guys have the big black book from 1997 called THE HAMMER STORY by Marcus Hearn and Alan Barnes, turn immediately to page 157. Under the picture of Caroline Munro screaming (she’s great at that!), you’ll see a grand big handy white blank space. In this space, she wrote:

‘Just For You, Sandra, Love, Caroline Munro.’ She even drew a little loveheart! She stood up then and hugged me and then that was it. I had to move out of the way to make room for the long line of lads clutching their DARKSIDE magazines and old movie posters.

I walked home on my own in the rain and the dark, stopping off at the chipper for a bit of good old-fashioned comfort food to stave off the pangs of sadness, sadness that my brilliant day was over and, in all probability, I’d never see her again. Still, I’ve seen her once and she’s beautiful, friendly, a genuinely nice person and a real lady. Meeting her gives me a good strong Hammer connection that I didn’t have before, although I’ve personally always thought that just loving the Hammer films and actors and directors, etc., is connection enough for anyone. Godspeed, Miss Munro. You’re a real swell dame.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.

Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.

She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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