Nerd Testament #3: Never Drink…Vine

One of the best of the Hammer Dracula films starring the peerless Christopher Lee was Dracula Has Risen From the Grave.  The Man Himself delivers only a couple of lines in the picture, which is about par for the course with the series (and one of the great tragedies of that fine set of films is that Christopher Lee’s magnificent voice doesn’t get used enough.  Fortunately there is Jesse Franco’s magnificent Il Conde Dracula, in which Lee plays the Count as written in the book, and delivers my favorite monologue, the one about the glories of the past), but he doesn’t need to say anything, because his glare says it all.  He opens up by asking “who has done this thing?” and then spends the rest of the movie silently working to punish the person who had done that thing, and then announcing “the revenge is complete,” in a grimly satisfied way that sends chills down the spine.  Dracula’s instinctive response to being crossed it to put everything else on the back burner and punish the guy responsible, such is his pride.  And this is something Lee captures magnificently, portraying Dracula as a no-longer-human aristocrat.

Let us all take a moment to contemplate how completely awesome Christopher Lee is.

Christopher Lee


Where was I?

Dracula Has Risen From the Grave.  Yes.  Good.  Moving on.

It’s about the vengeance of Dracula.  It’s about pretty ladies in nightgowns getting bitten in the throat.  It’s about youthful courage and love overcoming the powers of darkness.

And, most importantly for our purposes today, it’s about faith, and about how men may respond in the face of evil.

There are, in this story, three men of consequence besides Lord Dracula.  Two of them are priests, and the third identifies himself as an atheist, though he’s really more of an agnostic.  All of them come face to face with Count Dracula.  One breaks.  One stands.  And one is reborn.

There is a village still reeling from the horrors enacted by the now-dead vampire lord, who was swallowed up by clean running water at the climax of the last film and now lies dead beneath the ice.  But still the village lives in fear, and the church stands empty, for the shadow of Castle Dracula falls upon it, and that dark place is steeped in evil, even with its master gone.  The village priest is a broken man now.

To this place comes Monsignor Mueller, on a routine tour of the churches under his charge.  He is less than pleased by this state of affairs.  And so, taking up the great cross from the church altar, he ascends the mountain towards the castle, with the trembling priest in tow.  But where courage fails, strength fails, and he falls on the wayside.  Literally, he falls.  And hits his head on a rock.  And a trickle of blood flows from his scalp, down the rocks, and into the lake.  It’s not much, but just a drop of blood from a faithless priest is enough to restore Dracula to life.  And as the good Monsignor seals the gates of the castle with the holy cross so that Dracula may not enter, and recites the Rite of Exorcism so that the dark miasma of that place will dissipate, the Count is claiming his new servant.

And when he sees what has been done to his home, he goes to work taking his revenge.  With nothing but an increasingling mad slave and a stolen hearse, Dracula follows the Monsignor to the city where he resides with his widowed sister and beloved niece.  The vengeance of the Son of the Dragon is not direct.  It is subtle.  He begins his work by seducing the girl, infecting her with his evil.  By making her a vampire, he will inflict pain greater than death upon those who love her.

It is, ultimately, the third man who will stand in Dracula’s path.  An earnest young student driven by an insatiable desire for knowledge, he’s the man courting the young lady.  He runs into difficulties on this front when, at dinner, he answer’s the Monsignor’s question about which church he attends with the statement that he is an atheist, and is thrown out.

But as a reasonable man, he’s not about to reject the evidence of his eyes, and so when crunch time comes, he accepts that he’s embroiled in a battle with forces supernatural, and the Monsignor, in his dying moments after seeing his life fall apart at the hands of Dracula, entrusts his niece’s salvation to this youth.

In the end, she is redeemed by his love for her, while Dracula, ironically, falls off a cliff and is impaled on a large cross, which pretty thoroughly settled his hash until Taste the Blood of Dracula came out.

Four men, then, play a part in this story.  Also three women, but unfortunately they’re mainly relegated to the role of plot devices, serving to drive the story forward while wearing nightgowns and low-cut blouses.

There is Dracula.  So consumed by wrath and pride is he that sleeping in a sewer in a coffin he stole from a dead woman while seeking revenge is preferable to returning home and going about his business.Not much of a role model.

There is the village priest.  When confronted with real evil, he lost his hope, his courage, and his faith.  Faithless and afraid, he became a slave, and ultimately a monster.  Building on my last post, this is a consequence of being ruled by fear.  Afraid of Dracula, he became a pawn of Dracula.  Unable to trust that God’s power was greater than the vampire’s, he fives himself over instead to Satan’s power.  This is something that has happened in the real non-vampire-infested (as far as we know) world.  People given over to fear have done terrible things, from burning books (and Black Sabbath records.  I’m not sure it’s a sin as such to burn Paranoid, but it is a waste of an awesome album), to hanging innocent men and women as witches.

Then we have the good Monsignor, who serves as our hero for the first half of the film.  He is rather a better role model.  Fearless in his faith, but kind and gentle as well.  His gospel to the pitiable priest is “if God is with us, who can stand against us?” This seed falls on hardpacked ground, and the birds swoop down to eat it before it grows, but he does his best.  However, this good man is not perfect, either.  His response to the young man’s lack of belief broke the bounds of courtesy and kindness, and neither did it serve as a good witness to the youth.  In fairness, he’d had a rough day at work, directly confronting the supernatural forces of darkness with the power of Almighty God, and thus might well be short with an agnostic.  And in the end, he puts his faith not only in God, but in the young man’s love and strength of character.  And that faith was rewarded.  Note, therefore, that the purposes of the Kingdom of Heaven are probably better served by inviting atheists into your home, rather than throwing them out.

Finally, our hero for the second half, when in most Dracula pictures youth does battle with old age, our young lover.  An earnest youth, he expresses a desire to learn the truth of the world.  He does.  It takes a personal encounter with Dracula fully persuade him, but by the end of the movie, he’s seen with his own eyes the power of faith.

There might be a moral in there about how you should learn to embrace the unscientific, the mystical side of life.

There might also be a moral in there about how much easier it is to do that if there are actual vampires running about being destroyed by the power of the holy cross.


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