Saturday, October 13, 2007

Horror of Dracula (1958)

Dir: Terence Fisher

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Don't Dare See It...Alone!

Plot: After Jonathan Harker attacks Dracula at his castle (apparently somewhere in Germany), the vampire travels to a nearby city, where he preys on the family of Harker's fiancée. The only one who may be able to protect them is Dr. van Helsing, Harker's friend and fellow-student of vampires, who is determined to destroy Dracula, whatever the cost.

My Rating: 8/10

Would I watch it again? Oh, yeah.

#05 on Hammer Horror (1957-1976)

The Hammer Studio horror films of the late 50s and throughout the 60s were, for the most part, all quite good. Their Dracula films started with this one (with Lee as the Count) and ended with THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1974 - Lee's last in the title roll) and THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974 - kung fu vs. vampires!). In all, Lee played him 6 times for Hammer. If my memory serves me he has more dialogue in HORROR OF DRACULA than he does in any subsequent Hammer Dracula film and possibly more than the rest combined.

The story is different than the classic telling. This time Harker goes to Dracula's castle with the intent on killing the vampire. I'm cool with changing things up as long as it's not distracting and it isn't. Lee is fun as well as Cushing. I can't recall a film where I didn't like Cushing's performance. He always manages to bring everything to the table and then some.

One of the things I like about Hammer's horror pictures is the lush, rich, vibrant set design and camerawork. It just leaps off the screen. The atmosphere is thick to the point you can almost smell it. Even the mediocre Hammer horrors are elevated by these elements alone to the point that they hold my attention longer than any other studio's films would with the same plot/dialogue.

One standout scene for me has always been Van Helsing's dash across a

large table, leaping onto the drapes, pulling them down to expose the morning sunlight on Dracula thereby killing him. The action is quick but we See the deterioration of Dracula and we feel, as Van Helsing does, some pity for Dracula. Quite unexpected.

Are these films scary? No. But you couldn't do much better if you want well-crafted, fun, Gothic eye candy in your horror.

Oh, and the music! WOW! James Bernard's score is one of the all-time greats. The dark richness he gets out of his orchestra is one of the most important layers to these Gothic horror films and any of these films would suffer greatly without it.

Last year around this time I watched 5 of Lee's 6 Hammer Dracula pictures and I can hardly distinguish them from each other. That's mostly why I'm jotting all of this down so I can at least try to remember them long after I've seen them.

Here's the list of the Hammer Dracula films:

Horror of Dracula (1958)
The Brides of Dracula (1960)
Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969)
Scars of Dracula (1970)
Dracula AD 1972 (1972)
The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)

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