Dracula A.D. 1972: Peter Cushing’s Striped Suit
Peter Cushing as Professor Lorrimer Van Helsing, occult researcher and descendant of the famous vampire hunter
London, Fall 1972… A.D. 1972, that is
Film: Dracula A.D. 1972
Release Date: September 28, 1972
Director: Alan Gibson
Wardrobe Supervisor: Rosemary Burrows
Just days away from Halloween, today’s post responds to a request received earlier this year from BAMF Style reader Alan, who suggested the “extremely cheesy and, at times, ridiculous” Hammer production Dracula A.D. 1972, starring horror maestros and real-life pals Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing reprising their usual roles as Count Dracula and Van Helsing, respectively.
Despite its title, we’re not immersed immediately in the world of Ted Heath’s London as the opening is set in the wee hours of September 18, 1872, as vampire-hunter Lawrence Van Helsing succumbs to the fatal wounds sustained in felling his foe, the infamous Count Dracula.
A jet soaring across the sky to a funky disco beat transfers us from Gladstone-era England to the much-awaited A.D. 1972 promised by the title, where a still-swinging London is played out in vignettes photographed by cinematographer Dick Bush leading up to a free-lovin’ Friday night party in full swing, scored live by Stoneground. The hip revelers in attendance include Johnny (Christopher Neame), who looks eerily familiar to a figure we saw at Van Helsing’s grave, as well as Caroline Munro, five years shy of her role tempting Roger Moore’s James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me. Sadly, Munro’s adventurous, outgoing Laura falls victim to Johnny’s black magic ritual that resurrects the long-dead Dracula… thus Munro meets her early death at the hands of a Bond villain, rather than 007 himself this time.
One of the sacrificed Laura’s friends was Jessica Van Helsing, whose grandfather Lorrimer was a descendant of—and a dead ringer for—the famous Lawrence, who gave his life to kill Count Dracula one hundred years to the day earlier. Seeking answers about Laura’s violent end, Scotland Yard enlists self-described “crackpot” Lorrimer Van Helsing, who becomes the front-line fighter against the reincarnated Dracula.
What’d He Wear?
The setting of Dracula A.D. 1972 allows for more contemporary wardrobe choices than are usually seen in the Hammer horror catalog, particularly when Victorian villains like Dracula are involved.
Pushing 60 by the time the film was produced, Peter Cushing dresses tastefully in layered menswear that transcends the trends of the early ’70s. When Alan suggested that I write about this movie, he suggested that I begin with his favorite outfit, “a navy suit that he wears with a burgundy waistcoat for a long day that starts with a meeting at Scotland Yard and ends with killing a vampire.”
In lieu of the old-fashioned cape favored by his 19th century forebear, Cushing’s modern-day Van Helsing wears a charcoal knee-length raincoat. The fly front closes over four large plastic buttons, each sewn to the body of the coat a few inches in from the edges, with the top button positioned about two inches down from the top and the lowest button positioned just below Cushing’s waist. The coat has a bal-type Prussian collar that Cushing wears flat, flapped hip pockets gently slanted toward the back, and a long single vent. The set-in sleeves are finished with plain cuffs not adorned with any straps, buttons, or other fasteners that could get in the way of vampire-killing.
The labels of Van Helsing’s raincoat and suit jacket can be briefly glimpsed as he puts on his coat in Inspector Murray’s (Michael Coles) office, flashing a white label with black and yellow text stitched against the coat’s burgundy rayon lining.
The coat’s label does not appear to match any era-used labels I’ve seen from the outerwear “usual suspects” like Aquascutum, Burberry, Hart Schaffner & Marx, Hickey-Freeman, or London Fog, but there may be some eagle-eyed BAMF Style readers who can identify Van Helsing’s coatmaker (and would earn special points for ID’ing his suit tailor as well!)
The wool suiting that Cushing wears in Inspector Murray’s office appears to be patterned with a subtle black stripe bordered by rust and yellow shadow stripes that fade back onto the dark navy ground.
Aside from a long single vented jacket (instead of double vents), this suit is otherwise tailored and styled to match the details of the taupe suit he wore in his introductory scene, consisting of a single-breasted, three-button jacket and matching flat front trousers finished with plain-hemmed bottoms. The trousers are held up by red suspenders (braces), briefly glimpsed as Murray’s team assists Van Helsing following his confrontation with Alucard (Christopher Neame).
After spending the first two thirds of Dracula A.D. 1972 in genteel, professorial bow ties, Van Helsing takes a more businesslike approach once the stakes gets sharper (if you’ll forgive the pun), wearing a navy blue necktie with thin stripe sets in yellow and light blue following the traditional British “uphill” direction.
Cushing wears a cornflower blue poplin shirt made either of cotton or a then-fashionable polyester blend. With its large point collar that occasionally refuses to be contained by the waistcoat’s neckline, the shirt may be one of the few pieces in Van Helsing’s wardrobe influenced by contemporary fashions. The front placket and the squared barrel cuffs are fastened with large clear plastic buttons.
Cushing’s burgundy flannel waistcoat (vest) may be more effectively described as “blood red” in the spirit of Dracula A.D. 1972. The single-breasted odd waistcoat has seven red plastic shank buttons with the lowest left undone over the notched bottom. The waistcoat is tailored to Cushing’s lean, 6′-tall frame with double sets of front darts and detailed with welted upper pockets and set-in hip pockets with shaped flaps. He carries his gold pocket watch with the gold chain worn “single Albert”-style through a small hole next to the third button of his waistcoat.
When anticipating action in the chilly London night, Van Helsing pulls on a pair of short brown suede gloves, the same as he would wear with his predominantly brown suede outfit when finally facing Dracula during the film’s conclusion.
Apropos his more businesslike outfit than usual, Van Helsing deviates from his usual brown suede ankle boots to wear what appears to be a pair of black calf cap-toe oxfords.
How to Get the Look
Peter Cushing dresses for Professor Van Helsing’s deadly business in the Hammer horror classic Dracula A.D. 1972, wearing a navy striped suit and tie with an appropriately blood red flannel waistcoat and supplemented with a charcoal raincoat to serve as the contemporary update of the vampire-killer’s traditional Victorian cape.
- Dark navy subtly striped wool suit:
- Single-breasted 3-button suit jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and long single vent
- Flat front trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms
- Burgundy flannel single-breasted 7-button waistcoat/vest with welted upper pockets, shaped-flap lower pockets, and notched bottom
- Cornflower blue poplin shirt with large point collar, front placket, and 1-button squared barrel cuffs
- Navy striped tie with thin yellow-and-blue “uphill” stripe sets
- Red suspenders/braces
- Black calf leather cap-toe oxford shoes
- Charcoal knee-length raincoat with Prussian collar, four-button fly front, slanted flapped hip pockets, set-in sleeves (with plain cuffs), and long single vent
- Brown suede gloves
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Silver bullets are impractical… and garlic is not 100% reliable.
Classic Van Helsing from Dracula (1958) hunts his silent footed foe whilst wearing a double breasted tweed suit, which he can button one handed, smoking a cigarette and expositing, Cushing had talent. Let’s not forget he also ordered Darth Vader around while wearing carpet slippers and smelling like lavender, according to Carrie Fisher.
Excellent. Now do Christopher Lee’s suit from Horror Express! If you can shoe-in Telly Savalas’ Cossack uniform too it would be a plus.
Cushing’s suits both on screen and in his private life were usually tailored by theatrical costumiers Berman & Nathans