Horror of Dracula (1958)
Director: Terence Fisher
Peter Cushing/Van Helsing
Like a giant hungry mosquito, Count Dracula (Lee) is going about town sucking some blood while wise-yet-tough-as-nails Dr. Van Helsing (Cushing) is on his fanged tail, looking to stake him down. Time to visit some old school!
Who Will Be His Bride Tonight?
I haven’t seen many Hammer Films and the ones that I did see, I was way too young at the time to remember “Jack Tracy” about them today. So it was with virginal-like anticipation that I sank my teeth into the very first “Hammer” Dracula flick “Horror of Dracula”. I’m happy to report that it was love at first bite. Loosely based on Bram Stoker’s novel of the same name, “Horror of Dracula” came through like a freight train with no brakes by displaying a beyond-infectious classic “horror” feel that emanated out of its every pore. I got off on the film's lavish Gothic sets, the stellar period costumes, the top notch (for the time) production values and the striking locations at hand (loved the cemetery). Genre films don’t look, feel or smell like this anymore, that’s for damn sure! Breathe in that pure horror air!
To top that off, the flick also sported a razor ace in its deck which was the Count himself tackled by the great Christopher Lee. Although I’ve heard people praise his performance as a suave yet deadly being, I can’t say that I found much subtlety within the character and you know what…I LIKED THAT! In my opinion, Dracula here wasn’t the debonair, smooth talker that other incarnations have made him out to be...he was a freaking leech on two legs that just didn’t mess around when it came to getting his female snack. The dude had a relentless demeanor about him, a vicious and greedily thirsty way of being that so rubbed me the right way. Now that’s what I like to see! Dracula can join me at the local pub for drinks any day! He’s my kind of hombre!
It should also be said that Dr. Van Helsing, played by the great Peter Cushing, also largely contributed to making this adventure such a rousing and enjoyable one. Cushing’s gripping performance was pleasantly contrasted, where you felt his genuine caring as a good doctor, but when it came time to whoop some fanged bootie, he also punched in his “staking” clock with purpose. Add to all that quality jazz, a slew of highly memorable sequences (Drac’s nightly visits to Lucy were captivating in their staging and execution), a swift pace, exciting fight sequences, yummy blood splats, moody directing, engaging plot turns galore, mucho creepiness and the occasional erotic undertone, and you get a fanged ride that was hands-down hypnotic in its classic aura and highly refreshing in its old fashioned ways.
On the slight dull side of the tooth, the movie didn’t have enough Dracula in it for my liking. We needed more Count stuff, especially during the semi-laggy middle section. The script also sported a couple of boo-boos. For example, why did Helsing, who was just dying to stake that pesky Dracula, not kill him when he initially had the chance? (he went for the broad instead) His trivial choice came across as an obvious “dumb dumb” move solely there to serve the plot. Lastly, was it me or was Arthur (Gough) not too shook up when people close to him died? Damn, the man took loss very well! TOO WELL! Shed a tear, dude! Call “Stella” to high heavens…do something!
But those minor peeves aside, much like Dracula’s female victims who couldn’t help but succumb to the man’s supernatural presence, I too couldn’t help but be sucked in by the overall quality and oh-so old fashioned air of this picture. Also, did you see Christopher’s Lee face when he gets peeved off! Ouch! That’s some scary stuff! Dracula is in the house and he’ll drink the place dry!
I heard that in 1958, the gore found in this flick was, at the time, unmatched. We get lots of yummy bright red blood, brutal stakings in the heart, a decomposing vamp and lovely crucifix burns. We get enough chew toys to chew on.
Christopher Lee (Dracula) wasn’t in the film much, but his imposing presence, impeccable delivery and his winning “I’m pissed off so run bitch” face made him quite the memorable character. Peter Cushing (Van Helsing) was at his charismatic and endearing best as the good, ass-kicking doctor. No wonder he got typecast after the role! Michael Gough (Arthur) just didn’t do it for me! Blink man! Blink! Feel something, you wooden plank! Melissa Stribling (Mina) hit all the right notes. I particularly relished her “after the fact” way of acting…chilling…
T & A
We get some buxom young ladies, looking fine, fine, fine in all of their cleavaged glory! The ladies get Christopher Lee looking swank…'nuff said.
Terence Fisher delivered a fast-paced, well shot and highly atmospheric film. I particularly enjoyed his use of shadowing and the way he furiously delivered his plot turns, pacing-wise. Good show!
The heavy-handed, yet fitting, score by James Bernard worked like garlic up a vamp's nostrils and contributed to the film’s classic feel.
Maybe it’s because I haven’t sucked on many 1950’s genre lollipops, but I couldn’t help but be totally transfixed while watching this opus. The sets, the mood, the locations, The Lee, The Cushing, the gore, the cleavage, the grandiose score…I fervently loved every micro-second of it all. Sure, the script had its faults, the pace slowed down during the middle block and I wanted more Drac Attacks, but overall I came out of this watch a big winner and am looking forward to swinging the “Hammer” once more. Get the ladies lined up, here I come Drac!
The other 6 “Hammer” Dracula flicks starring Lee are: DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966), DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968), TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1969), SCARS OF DRACULA (1970), DRACULA A.D. (1972) and SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973). You bet I’ll try to seek them out!
Lee was replaced by David Peel for “The Brides of Dracula” (1960) where even though the flick was a Dracula flick, the lead blood sucker was named Baron Meinster and was NOT playing Drac…?????
Michael Gough went on to play Alfred in the 4 Batman movies.