Friday, 22 October 2010

The Brides of Dracula

Year: 1960
Director: Terence Fisher
Screenplay: Peter Bryan, Edward Percy, Jimmy Sangster and Anthony Hinds (uncredited)
Starring: Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, Yvonne Monlaur and David Peel
Running Time: 85 minutes
Genre: Horror, supernatural, Hammer Horror

Summary: Transylvania, the late 19th century: Marianne Danielle (Monlaur), a young French schoolteacher, is on her way to take up a job at a girl's school. However, she ends up starnded in a small village. With nowhere else to go she accepts an offer to stay the night at the large castle of the sinister Baroness Meinster (Hunt). During the night Marianne discovers that the Baroness' son (Peel) is chained up in his room, and helps him escape. However, it turns out that the son has a dark secret, as during the following night a young woman in the village is found dead, drained of blood. The locals immediately recognise that a vampire is on the loose and send for the aid of Dr. Van Helsing (Cushing), the only man who was able to defeat the most powerful vampire of all - Count Dracula.

Opinions: This is the first official sequel to Hammer Studios Dracula (1958) which was also directed by Terence Fisher and starred Peter Cushing with a script by Jimmy Sangster. However this lacks one crucial ingredient from the original, and that is Christopher Lee as the Count himself. Dracula does not appear at all in the film, and is only mentioned twice. Lee wouldn't reprise the role of Dracula until Dracula: Prince of Drakness (1966). In this film the role of principal villain is taken by David Peel, who doesn't really make much of an impression. He's kind of bland, and doesn't really have a lot to do until the end. It doesn't help that he looks like a sixties pop star. It's hard to the bloodsucking undead seriously when it looks like he's going to break into "You Were Made for Me" at any moment. However, Peter Cushing was rarely better as Van Helsing than here bringing a strong sense of dignity and gravitas to the part as well as a welcome physicality in the action scenes. Yvonne Monlaur makes for an engaging and attractive lead. As often with the Hammer films the production values are strong, and the film effectively blends action with humour. However some of the techniques haven't aged well, notably the use of "day for night" filming (in which a scene is shot during the day but with a special filter to make it look as if it is taking place at night). Incidentally there is a very brief cameo by Christopher Lee: During the close up of the vampire's eyes towards the end of the film, the eyes are actually Lee's in a clip from Dracula.
This is an enjoyable slice of Hammer Horror and should appeal to fans and newcomers alike.

Filming The Brides of Dracula proved a real pain in the neck for Peter Cushing.

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