The year 1968 brought the next Dracula outing from Hammer Films. Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), was directed by Freddie Francis; Fisher had originally been scheduled to do it, but had been hit by a motorbike as he was crossing the street shortly before production began and suffered a broken leg. Francis stepped into the breach and created a very visual film full of religious - and erotic - symbolism. 'Veronica Carlson, Hammer's new star discovery…Dracula's most beautiful victim,' intoned the breathless narrator in the film's trailer. Only 23 years old at the time, Carlson had been spotted in a London tabloid by James Carreras, who was always looking for beautiful ladies to cast in his films. The tall, buxom blonde was immediately put under contract to Hammer, and her 'glamour' poses in a graveyard were among the big selling points of Has Risen.
As it had become customary for Dracula to have two 'victims' per film, New Zealand-born Barbara Ewing was cast as the other, a barmaid named Zena. The bawdy pub scenes, including a ribald drinking song ('Here's to the best man who can drink the most of us - there'll be a maiden waiting in his bed') indicated the direction in which the series was headed. Carlson was the virginal heroine, with Ewing the 'loose woman' who didn't need much convincing by Dracula to become a creature of the night. She wanted Dracula as much as he wanted her. Ewing didn't fit the role, so to speak, until the role fit her: she was given a push-up bra to bring out more of her 'charms,' as required by the Hammer brass.
When your humble author interviewed Carlson years later, she recalled meeting Lee for the first time: 'I think it might have been the still photographs. The ones where he was going to bite my neck. They're still all over the place. People buy them at conventions. In any case, that was quite interesting. He's got a wonderful way about him that's quite captivating. All that comes across on the screen is there, almost palpable in the man. It was very easy to work with him because he just used those qualities. He has a grace and a dignity about him, and you're a little bit in awe of him.'
Francis helped Carlson through the love scene with Paul (Barry Andrews), her boyfriend in the film: '…That was when Barry had to undo my dress in the back…there was a big stink about it because I didn't have a bra on and all that. It's so silly, isn't it? By today's standards… although I wouldn't want it to be within today's standards. I couldn't cope. But he helped me through that very gently and reassured me.'
One of the most memorable scenes in Has Risen is the one in which Dracula enters Maria's bedroom, in which she keeps dolls and stuffed animals around her bed. As the scene ends, Dracula is tenderly nuzzling her, then biting her, and at that moment, there is a closeup of her squeezing one of her dolls tightly. The whole scene is redolent of a young, innocent woman losing her virginity, perhaps having an orgasm in the process. Carlson told me of how the scene was directed by Francis: '(I was) a child-woman. Quite pure. That was a very valuable doll. I can remember one of the men lying on the floor to catch it so it wouldn't fall. In fact, when I let it go someone yanked it quickly to make it look like it had fallen. I remember that well; it couldn't fall, it was very valuable…But that was the way Freddie explained it to me; naive, sweet young woman.'
Ewing was also nervous about the 'erotic' scenes between her and Andrews. Her only film experience to that time had been with Francis as director in the Amicus film Torture Garden (1967). In 'Little Shoppe of Horrors,' she told interviewer Oscar Martinez, 'Yeah, I was very nervous about doing those scenes. I hadn't done any scenes like that… Freddie Francis was such a nice man and he knew I was nervous - they weren't anything very much - but he cleared the set and talked it over with me and… made it fine for us.'
Ewing plays the saucy young barmaid to the hilt. If Maria is the virginal character, then Zena is the woman you'd most want to meet at the corner bar. 'Your dumplings are pouring over, Zena,' says one student to her, eyeing her copious cleavage. 'And your fly's undone,' she whispers in his ear, causing him to leap to his feet. Good-natured and earthy, she becomes a very short-lived vampire; Dracula has her body burned, as he only has eyes for Maria, whom he is obsessed with 'deflowering.' The imagery of innocence corrupted is one of the film's strongest visual motifs, and this emphasis on sex, blood and religion made Dracula Has Risen From the Grave into Hammer's most profitable Dracula film of all, ensuring that there would be more to follow.
COMING SOON: PART FOUR THE COUNT. VICTORIAN MORALS. LINDA HAYDEN AND ISLA BLAIR