Hammer Films: “Horror of Dracula” (1958)

Christopher Lee Dracula

Christopher Lee didn’t have much to do as the Creature in “The Curse of Frankenstein” since Peter Cushing as Baron Victor von Frankenstein was the true monster of the film, but now that Hammer Films was undertaking Bram Stoker’s novel, Lee was going to at least have some lines. Lee and Cushing worked with the same director, Terence Fisher, at the helm.

Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssan) infiltrates Count Dracula’s castle by posing as a librarian. This opening sequence is the only time that Dracula speaks in the entire film. Harker is soon revealed to be a vampire slayer in this adaptation, a protégé of Dr. Van Helsing. Harker is bitten by Dracula’s bride (he only has one in this version), but is sure to destroy the bride before he loses his humanity. Dracula goes in search of a new bride, targeting Harker’s fiancé, Lucy (Carol Marsh). Dr. Van Helsing arrives at the castle and puts Harker out of his misery, then joins the other characters for the remainder of film, trying his best to protect Lucy despite the ire he draws from her family.

Arthur Holmwood (Michael Gough) is the brother of Lucy as appose to her suitor as he was in the novel, and Mina (Melissa Stribling) is Arthur’s wife as appose to Jonathan’s fiancé. R.M. Renfield was left out of the film altogether. Lucy is eventually turned into a vampire, so Arthur becomes Van Helsing’s new assistant. Lucy as a vampire might be more chilling than even Dracula. Dr. Van Helsing drives a stake through her heart, then waits for Dracula to make his next move. Little does he know that Dracula has taken up residence in the cellar of Arthur and Mina’s home.

Dracula sets his eyes on Mina and takes her back to his castle. Van Helsing and Arthur give chase. Dracula buries Mina alive, then is pursued into the castle by Van Helsing. The conflict ends when Van Helsing rips the drapes off of a window and Dracula is disintegrated by sunlight. Arthur dug up Mina just in the nick of time and the curse was broken.

Only Peter Cushing returned for the first sequel, “Brides of Dracula,” which was a very misleading title as the alluring female vampires in the film had no connection to Count Dracula. Christopher Lee returned for “Dracula: Prince of Darkness,” which was like a precursor to “slasher” movies in its approach as two couples were stranded at his castle and got killed off by a silent killer. Lee played the part mute because he was displeased with his dialogue in the script. “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave” was clever in that Dracula was inadvertently resurrected by an exorcism gone wrong and an atheist ends up being the one who must vanquish the evil count. Lee and Cushing were reunited as Dracula and Van Helsing in “Dracula 1972 A.D.”

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About domcappelloblog

New York based screenwriter.

Posted on August 9, 2013, in Hammer Films, Horror and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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