This year, I decided to celebrate Halloween with a Hammer Horror double feature. I would have preferred to watch The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula, but the sporadic availability of those titles forced me to venture off the beaten path and sample some of the studio’s… quirkier efforts:
Dracula A.D. 1972: This “modernization” of the vampire mythos is a fascinating time capsule. While the “creative choice" to transport Christopher Lee’s diabolical (albeit extremely sexy) bloodsucker to London circa 1972 was obviously motivated primarily by budgetary restrictions, the filmmakers take full advantage of the setting, exploring the conflict between Britain’s traditional (read: elitist, snobby) class system and the rapidly emerging youth counterculture; as far as the upper crust is concerned, the cursed undead aren’t nearly as terrifying as the mods, beatniks, and hippies that threaten the established social order. It would be a gross exaggeration to call this juxtaposition a “theme”—it lurks deep within the subtext—but it still manages to elevate the material.
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde: The most surprising thing about this gender-bending twist on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is that it isn’t remotely ironic, campy, or exploitative; it plays its premise completely straight (pardon the pun). The LGBTQ subtext is absolutely intentional, and is handled with an unexpected (though certainly not unwelcome) degree of grace, nuance, and maturity; indeed, it’s perfectly valid to interpret the movie as a cautionary tale about the dangers of repression, denial, and self-loathing that—despite a few narrative blemishes—remains fair for its day.