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Terence Fisher's DRACULA (HORROR OF DRACULA in the USA; 1958) is the best vampire film of all time. No other picture combines the right amounts of horror, humor, action, and eroticism. Britain's Hammer Films is legendary for their horror films--this is the best of them all. Although quite different from the book in many ways, I feel this picture captures the spirit of Stoker's work better than the more literal adaptations. Everything works here--Fisher's tight, crisp pacing, James Bernard's throbbing, full-blooded score, and especially the acting. Christopher Lee inherits the role of Dracula from Lugosi and makes it his own--he still holds the record for most film performances as the Count. Peter Cushing is the definitive Dr. Van Helsing--by turns tough and tender, his interpretation far outshines those of far better known actors--Anthony Hopkins and Laurence Olivier played the part later, but their performances were totally inferior to Cushing's. And how about Michael Gough--Alfred in the recent BATMAN films--as Holmwood? He's a treat in his own right! Lugosi came first, and later films spent more money; however, the best combination of all elements is in HORROR OF DRACULA. It is required viewing for all vampire fans.
Hammer's Dracula, the first Dracula film to incorporate fangs, blood,
and red eyes, brings the best Dracula to the screen - Christopher Lee.
I first saw this on TV at home on Thursday 5pm on a channel that featured some classics. I also remember seeing War of the Worlds and others every Thursday. Each time they repeated it, I was there watching it. I just bought this DVD for my collection and the color and quality is awesome.
In Stoker's book Mina Murray is Harker's fiancé and Lucy Westenra was Arthur Holmwood's fiancé. Despite these changes the story holds together nicely. Sangster manages to avoid having Dracula turn to a bat to make the character more believable. In Stoker's book the Lucy character dies and returns as a child-lusting vampire so Van Helsing and Holmwood stake her as shown in the movie.
Trivia: Lee said the fangs he wore were easy to speak with but not eat. The contacts he wore were very painful and made him teary eyed and his vision a bit blurry.
There are some scenes that were deleted. One was of the impaled Harker in the early stages of decomposition which was removed by the British censor when it was released in English speaking countries. Surprising because it was tame compared to other scenes. Another scene that was removed by the same censor was Dracula's stages of decomposing during his death scene. This scene was reportedly left intact in foreign speaking countries and the rumor is Warner does not consider the scenes to be worth pursuing. What U.S. audiences see is the jump to the final stage of dissolving. Lee says they were kept in for the Far East parts of the world because they were considered to be too gruesome in those days. There are stills floating around of them both. A solid 9 out of 10, this remains the best Dracula film ever made. Yes, much better than the overrated "Bram Stoker's Dracula."
It's difficult to overestimate the significance of Dracula. Far more so
than its predecessor, The Curse of Frankenstein, it set the tone for
Hammer's movie output over the next two decades - the two decades
(1956-1976) when British films, or at least British horror films, were
among the best, most admired and most imitated in the world. A far cry
from the terribly English whimsy of the Thirties and Forties, or the
provincial, "arty" stuff that's predominated since the end of the Eady
levy in the 1980s.
With this movie, Hammer not only created an international star out of Christopher Lee, but a worldwide phenomenon that persists, in series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and films like Sleepy Hollow, to the present day. Taking the Kensington gore quotient of The Curse of Frankenstein, and combining it with an unprecedented dose of eroticised violence, Dracula revolutionised horror, ultimately leading to the breasts and blood exploitation movies of the Seventies, as well as the heavy sexual overtones of films such as Alien and The Company of Wolves.
The movie benefits from two astonishing central performances. Christopher Lee's Dracula is a creation of passionate intensity, to whom Cushing's monomaniacal Van Helsing is the antithesis fire and steel; hot-blooded animal instinct versus cool scientific rationalism. This has led some critics to identify Van Helsing as the real villain of the piece, a brutal fanatic who coldly pounds a stake through the vampirised Lucy. Either way, both actors give supremely effective performances. The final confrontation between the two remains the single most iconic scene in any Hammer film. Hardly surprising, given their on screen charisma, that Lee should reprise his role six times and Cushing four.
The most influential British movie of all time, Dracula's electric mix of sex and death fuelled a global revolution in genre film-making, and presented Hammer with a formula that they would return to again and again over the next two decades.
I'm not a big fan of horror films but I was very impressed with this
one, titled "Horror Of Dracula." (For some reason, it's just called
"Dracula" here on the IMDb site.
This is a solid re-telling of the Dracula story with some legitimate thrills provided to the viewer along with pretty photography and sets and a tasteful lack of blood.
I'm curious how this looks and sounds on DVD. Story-wise, they might have embellished some of the action scenes and made Dracula a little more powerful. (I can't see him feeling a regular human being which he did here in the end.) Other than that, it's a well-done movie with no exaggerated characters, nice colors, no problem understanding accents....one of the better Dracula films ever made, just maybe the best. It's that good!
It also features two of the best classic 'horror" actors of all-time: Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Highly recommended, particularly for people who might be hesitant to watch a "Dracula" film. I'll think you'll like this version.
An outstanding film on all accounts! This is far and away a better vampire(Dracula) film then the Universal film because of its action and pace, its acting, and its rich musical score and lush cinematography. Now I like the old Universal film a lot, but this one just seems to have so much more blood coursing through its veins, so to speak. The story is a variation on the novel, and the Universal film is actually much more faithful, but Horror of Dracula compensates by having the core of the film centered around two polarized opposing forces of good and evil. Christopher Lee is excellent as Dracula, bringing to the character a genuine menace and some sophistication mixed with brutality(lacking from Lugosi's performance). The real star, however, at least for me is the venerable Peter Cushing in the role of Professor Van Helsing. Cushing's character is a man single of purpose in his quest to rid the world of Dracula. Cushing brings a great deal of charm, grace, and incredible professionalism to his role. Other performers are quite good. Michael Gough is very good in his role, and Miles Malleson is very humorous in his minute role of an undertaker. Director Terrence Fisher deserves most of the credit for the success of this film and the way vampires were to be treated afterward in film. Fisher directs with precision and creates a rich tapestry of vibrant colors and wonderful sets with his discerning eye for detail. This film's importance cannot be overlooked as it revolutionized a whole sub-genre of horror...and brought us two wonderful actors....Lee and Cushing...together in two of their greatest roles. That is enough for me!
Hammer made several classic horror movies : The Curse Of Frankenstein,
The Curse Of The Werewolf, Dracula - Prince Of Darkness, The Devil
Rides Out, She, The Quatermass trilogy amongst others. However for me,
their first Dracula movie is a true horror masterpiece.
Although based on the novel by Bram Stoker, the movie doesn't even try to adapt the book. Jimmy Sangster simply took the characters and events he needed, and went off and did his own movie, and it works brilliantly.
Jonathon Harker arrives at Castle Dracula under the guise of being Dracula's new librarian. Actually however, he's there to destroy the vampire. When he fails, Dracula wrecks vengeance on Harker's fiancé and family, while Van Helsing arrives in the hope of ending what Harker couldn't....
As I said, nothing like the novel but it doesn't matter. This is the best Dracula movie ever made.
To begin with, the set design by Bernard Robinson is superb. His design of the castle is fantastic. Jack Asher, the cinematographer does a stunning job lighting the movie, especially Dracula's first appearance. The music by James Bernard, taking it's cues from the title, Dracula, is wonderful, bringing excitement, dread, fear and everything you could ask for.
Terence Fisher, Hammer's most important director, keeps things going at a brisk pace, staging some brilliant set-pieces. Fisher made most of the early horror classics: The Curse Of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Curse Of The Werewolf. He also made many more movies for Hammer, but this is his finest movie.
Where Hammer got lucky was Christopher Lee. His Dracula performance is gripping. He's charming when he needs to be - watch the brilliance of his first appearance. He appears at the stop of the stairs looking menacing, thanks to the lighting and music, then walks down the stairs and introduces himself! Brilliant.
But Lee is scary and terrifying as he needs to be, when stalking Mina and Lucy, but also almost passionate with them. And he proves a worthy adversary for Van Helsing....
...which brings me to Peter Cushing. Simply put the best Van Helsing on screen, played by the best actor ever in the horror genre. Cushing brings compassion to Van Helsing (watch the scene with the child in the graveyard) but also determination and obsession at ridding the world of evil. Even though he made a lot of horror movies in his career, and thus is somewhat under-rated as an actor, he never gave a bad performance and here like Lee he is at the top of his game. it's no wonder that they both became like a double-act in horror movies!! Although by todays standard, some of the acting may appear wooden, or 'ham(!)' and some of the effects, especially in the movie's stunning climax may have dated the movie as a whole has not.
It's still a battle between good v evil, which reaches a climax in a brilliant finale in the castle as Darcula and Van Helsing face each other. If you watch carefully, you'll see it's Van Helsing's knowledge that wins out, not strength.
When I saw this a child it scared the hell out of me. Time and repeated showings may have weakened the scare factor of this movie, but this is still,and will always be, my favorite horror movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Vampire films before 1958 were always in black and white and partially
were not very gory considering that a vampire drinks blood. The
Universal films were done producing monster movies and the sci-fi era
was born with all sorts of creatures from outer space invading our
planet. Then the Hammer Studios from England came along and the world
never knew what hit them, we had blood, we had sex, we had great
actors, we had excellent sets, we had frightening scares and most of
all, we had color! Horror of Dracula was the first vampire movie we
ever had that was in color and we were introduced to Christopher Lee,
arguably one of the best and most memorable Dracula's. Standing over
six feet tall, the man had a true presence and one of the most
memorable entrances for Dracula. He enters the room for the first time
with a gigantic BOOM and I don't think we could have prepared for such
a horror film.
Jonathan Harker arrives at the castle of Count Dracula, posing as a librarian. He is startled inside the castle by a young woman begging for help, claiming to be a prisoner. Dracula then greets Harker and guides him to his room, where he locks him in. Jonathan starts to write in his diary, and his true intentions are revealed: he has come to kill Dracula. Harker again is confronted by the desperate woman. She begs him for help but then bites his neck. Just as she does, Dracula arrives and yanks her away. Armed with a stake, he impales the woman. But when he turns to kill Dracula, the Count has already awakened and is waiting for him. Dr. Van Helsing then arrives at the castle, looking for Harker. In the crypt, Van Helsing is horrified to discover Harker lying in a coffin as a vampire. Staking Harker, he leaves to deliver the veiled news of Harker's death in person to a wary Arthur Holmwood and his wife Mina, brother and sister-in-law of Harker's fiancée Lucy Holmwood. It turns out Dracula already got ahold of Lucy and turned her into a vampire. After convincing Arthur that Dracula must be destroyed, Mina -under Dracula's spell- lets Dracula stay in their cellar and now Arthur must kill Dracula before Mina meets the same fate as Lucy.
So is this film worth all the hype it gets? I personally love the Hammer Dracula films but I do admit they have a certain camp value too. Jonathan is played with such lack of personality and is so bland, at times you can't take him seriously that Van Helsing would send him to kill Dracula. But Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are what make this film great, they're terrific actors who have great chemistry. Their last fight scene is just incredible and the effects are still outstanding by today's standards. Plus the image of Dracula growling with blood dripping from his fangs is one of the best images of a horror film and is the definition of why we are scared of vampires. Dracula is not only portrayed as a monster, but a sexual predator. The scene with him biting Mina is so intense and has a great jump moment after he bites her with an owl screaming at Arthur. Terence Fisher knew how to truly give the audience a good scare. Horror of Dracula isn't just one of the best scary movies of all time, but it's a true classic in itself. It's classy, it's scary, it's intense, it's everything you could want in a horror movie. It doesn't kid around when the first image we see in the film is blood dripping down on Dracula's coffin, you know you're in for a ride.
Often regarded as the highlight of Hammer horror's oeuvre, The Horror
of Dracula stands up today as a fresh and inventive take on what is
maybe the best story ever written. Hammer is a studio that has had many
a fine hour, and although this is one indeed; I think that there are
several other films from their ranks that just top it. Just, being the
operative word as this is certainly up there with the best of them. As
you might expect, the story follows that of Bram Stoker's original
novel; with a young man travelling to Dracula's castle, and not
returning. This attracts the attentions of Professor Abraham Van
Helsing; an authority in the field of vampirism who then sets out to
slay the malevolent fiend that is the source of all the foul play in
the movie; Dracula himself.
Although this is based on the classic story, Hammer very much makes it their own. Of course, the campy horror styling that that the studio has become famous for features strongly in the movie and serves in giving it that classic Hammer feel. Furthermore, this movie features both of Hammer's greatest stars; Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Christopher Lee may be no Bela Lugosi, but if there was anyone other than Bela Lugosi that I would want to play Dracula; Christopher Lee is that man. He isn't actually in it that much, but the moments when he is are the best in the movie. He has an incredible amount of screen presence, and all of that is transferred into the character of Dracula. In a similar way, Peter Cushing plays Van Helsing. Like Lee, Cushing has buckets of screen presence, but it's all in a very different style. While Lee is a defined evil, Cushing is more subdued, which allows him to adequately play the hero as well as well as he plays the villain. I've got to be honest, I prefer Cushing in the bad guy role; but he still makes an excellent hero.
Terence Fisher, one of Hammer's premier directors, directs the film and does a great job with it. The atmosphere of the Gothic period setting is spot on, and a constantly foreboding, and intriguing atmosphere is created throughout. The way that the smoke drifts across the graveyard in the movie is among the most atmospheric things Hammer ever shot. Dracula is a great story, and this Hammer yarn more than does it justice.
This is the definitive version of Dracula. Everything in the film is
done to absolute perfection. The portrayal of Dr. Van Helsing and the title
character, Dracula, are the best representations, EVER! The two great
actors, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are at their best in representing
their characters. Unlike Lugosi, Christopher Lee shines in every scene with
the ferocity and animal-like tendencies that Dracula should have. And the
respectable actor and gentleman, Peter Cushing, takes the character of Van
Helsing and makes it his very own. The look on his face at the end of the
film shows a man, although exilarated and relieved, who is almost sad that
his life's work is nearing a close.
The incredible score, written by James Bernard, almost yells the life
story of Dracula. The lavish scenes and rich color still hold up in today's
world as astounding, original works of art. The gore and blood level is
relatively low in today's standards, however, back then, people would be
scared out of their wits. This film is a 5 star movie. Grab a loved one,
some popcorn, dim the lights, and watch a real good horror movie for a
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Shot in the wake of the success of "The curse of Frankenstein",
"Dracula" (known as "Horror of Dracula" in the US) was Hammer studios
second foray into the Gothic horror genre and reunite the same crew who
worked on Frankenstein: Terrence Fisher directs, Jimmy Sangster writes,
Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee star. The story pays only lip service
to Bram Stoker's novel: Jonathan Harker travels to Castle Dracula to
destroy the lord of vampires (Christopher Lee) but is instead defeated
by him, leading a vengeful Dracula to prey on his fiancé, Lucy, and her
sister-in-law, Mina, with Harker's old friend Van Helsing (Peter
Cushing) as their only hope.
The movie is clearly designed to work against the expectations of an audience familiar with the 1931 Bela Lugosi version. Technicolor replaces the black-and-white photography. Instead of an old ruin haunted by rats, bats and spiders (and armadillo!), castle Dracula is a cozy well-lit seigneurial residence. Christopher Lee drops the mannerism and heavy-accented English associated with Lugosi's portrayal of the count while Peter Cushing's Van Helsing receives a similar make-over: Edward Von Sloan's old foreign doctor is replaced by a younger Sherlock-Holmes type played in the grand tradition of Basil Rathbone. The climatic showdown has him wrestling with Dracula. More importantly, Hammer amped the level of violence, gore (in glorious Technicolor) and sex to a level which might look tame today but that, at the time, pushed the British censorship system to its limit. For the first time in a horror movie, vampires were displaying fangs, ruby-red blood splattered the screen.
Along the years, Dracula had become a metaphor for women sexual empowerment in front of a male-dominated society considering sex as a threat and trying to repress it. Earlier versions did not dare to fully portray this metaphor and later versions watered it down by trying to make the Dracula character more sophisticated (both the 1979 Universal remake and the 1992 Coppola's version, for instance, give Dracula a romantic interest in either Lucy or Mina, making him a much less permissive metaphor for love instead of sex).
This is what makes the Hammer version superior as it absolutely nails down the subtext. In this movie, Dracula appears as an archetypal character, the inhuman materialization of some ancient primary principle of nature. Part of this effect is achieved by Sangster's decision in the script to have Dracula not utter a single word once his vampiric nature is revealed at the beginning of the movie (this deprives Dracula of any distinct personality hence enhancing his mythic status), part by Christopher Lee's mesmerizing performance portraying the count with all the magnetism of a dangerous but fascinating wild animal, part by Terence Fisher's clever direction: every time Dracula is on screen, Fisher have him move fast within the frame, each of his movement amplified by his long floating cape, making him a dominating presence over any other characters sharing the screen with him, nowhere better illustrated than in the famous scene where Dracula attacks his vampire bride and where Christopher Lee's movements across the room are reinforced and amplified by the rotating movement of a globe. Another example is the introductory shot for Dracula: it starts as a long shot of Dracula at the top of a stair; the character rushes down the stairs toward the camera, the shot ending with a close-up of Christopher Lee's face. This fast transition of the character from the background to the foreground leaves an overall impression of energy and overwhelming power.
The erotic nature of the vampire's embrace is also made clear: Dracula's victims prepare themselves for his nocturnal visit as if he was a lover, arranging their bed and their nightgown for him, anticipating with a clear excitement Dracula's bite. The transformation Dracula brings in them is astonishing. Before their encounter with the vampire, they are model examples of submissive women in a male-dominated conservative society: Lucy, the damsel in distress in constant need of a man to protect her; Mina, the model wife looking for her husband's every need. Under Dracula's influence, they become more sensual, more assertive, more rebellious and independent much to the horror of their male guardians.
"Dracula" was a hit for Hammer which became a brand name in horror and they subsequently shot many sequels to it but none of them reached the height of this first installment, one of the best movie to come out from Hammer studios and without any doubt the finest Dracula movie ever made.
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