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|Index||172 reviews in total|
After the enormous success of 1995's classic mix of horror and
science-fiction, "The Quatermass Xperiment", the relatively small
studio named Hammer Film Productions decided to dedicate most of their
productions to the fantastic genres. A sequel to "Quatermass" quickly
entered into the studio's plans, but it would be another movie what
would become a success even bigger than "The Quatermass Xperiment" and
the birth of what is now known as "Hammer Horror": Terence Fisher's
"The Curse of Frankenstein". Thanks to its use of vibrant colors and
daring (for the time) sexual undertones, Fisher's reinterpretation of
"Frankenstein" renewed the interest in horror films and set the basis
for a new style of Gothic horror. A style that would be perfected in
Fisher's next movie for Hammer, another reinterpretation of a classic
of Gothic literature, Bram Stoker's "Dracula".
In this version of the famous novel, Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) is a librarian who arrives to Count Dracula's (Christopher Lee) castle to work. At the castle, Jonathan finds a strange woman (Valerie Gaunt) who asks him to help her escape from Dracula's enslavement. Jonathan agrees, but she is not a normal woman, she's a vampire, an undead creature who preys on humans to feed on their blood. This doesn't surprise Jonathan, as he is actually a vampire hunter determined to kill Dracula, who is an ancient and powerful vampire. Unfortunately, his plan goes wrong and ends up bitten by Dracula, transforming him in the very thing he was going to kill. Days later, Harker's friend, Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) arrives looking for his friend, but finds him as a vampire and is forced to kill him. However, this is only the beginning, as now Dracula has Jonathan's fianceé Lucy (Carol Marsh) as his next target.
Like "The Curse of Frankenstein", the screenplay for this movie (titled "Horror of Dracula" in the U.S. to avoid copyright infringement with Universal's film) was written by Jimmy Sangster, who makes a considerably different story than the one done in Tod Browning's movie. For starters, this time Van Helsing is not only the one with the necessary knowledge to hunt the monster, but also a proficient fighter and overall a more active character than before. Count Dracula has also been reinterpreted, as Sangster takes the sensuality of the vampire one step beyond, and enhances his aggressive brutality without diminishing the Count's classy elegance. A notable trait in Sangster's script is the considerable amount of development he gives to his characters, as while the plot a bit simplistic, he makes us really care about the protagonists while at the same time making Dracula a fascinating creature.
Once again, Terence Fisher's directing is what elevates this work from a good story to a great movie, as in "Dracula" he seems to take everything that made "The Curse of Frankenstein" a hit to the next level, resulting in the definitive example of Hammer Horror. With Bernard Robinson's beautiful art direction and Jack Asher's excellent cinematography, Fisher creates an atmospheric Gothic nightmare in bright colors that even today remains as fresh and influential as it was the day it came out. Fisher's use of color in horror here is even more calculated, as also uses them to shock and terrify as exemplified by his fixation with the bright red of blood. This time Dracula is a real monster, and Fisher makes sure to make him the ultimate predator, however, his seductive image is kept intact as Fisher plays on the Victorian sexual repression with subversive subtlety.
One of the best elements in this version of Stoker's novel is definitely the acting of the cast, which is for the most part of an excellent quality. The stars of "The Curse of Frankenstein", Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, appear here in the roles that made them legends. As Dracula, Christopher Lee shows his very powerful presence, making a terrifying portrayal of the undead monster that almost equals Lugosi's classic performance. On the other hand, Cushing truly is the star of the film with the magnificent display of talent he gives as Dr. Van Helsing. Personally I think that nobody has given a better performance as Van Helsing than the one Cushing does in this movie. However, the movie is not only about Cushing and Lee, as Michael Gough truly shines in his role as Arthur Holmwood, Lucy's brother forced to join Van Helsing's battle against Dracula in order to save his family.
The rest of the cast is also excellent, with great performances by Melissa Stribling as Arthur's wife Mina, and the aforementioned Carol Marsh and John Van Eyssen, who make the best out of their certainly small roles. Credit must go to Fisher's directing of his cast as well, as he really seems to get the best out of each one of the actors, making "Dracula" one of the best acted movies of the ones Hammer produced. In fact, if there's a flaw in this Gothic masterpiece, that would be that sadly there isn't enough time to fully enjoy each one of the diverse characters that Sangster, Fisher and the cast have created in this movie. Just like any other story with multiple film versions, it's hard to resist the temptation to pick a "best version" of "Dracula", specially when two highly celebrated films (this one and Browning's) are among those adaptations.
Personally, I prefer Browning's 1931 version over this one, however, Terence Fisher's "Dracula" is a masterpiece of Gothic horror as good as the one by Universal, and my choice is based more on personal preferences than on any superiority in terms of quality. Thanks to Fisher's masterful directing and the amazing performances of its cast, "Dracula", or "Horror of Dracula" as it's known in America, easily ranks among the best movies that came out of the legendary Hammer Film Productions, and simply one of the best horror movies ever made. 9/10
I saw this not only because of the brilliant story but also because of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, two of the best actors I know. And I was not disappointed at all, in fact although I do have respect for the 1931 film and like the 1992 film this 1958 Dracula is the best version. It has atmospheric lighting and cinematography and the costumes and sets are wonderful colourful. The score is also very haunting while never becoming too grandiose, the script is not stilted and flows well and the story apart from the odd slow moment draws you in and does a good job condensing the source material. It is beautifully directed by Terrence Fisher, and there is some very good, great even from some, acting. Jonathan, Mina and Lucy are believable and written in a convincing manner. But this Dracula will be remembered by me for two performances. One is Peter Cushing, who is the ideal Van Helsing, his interpretation is eccentric yet done with charm and grace too, no over-theatricality in sight. The other, and this is my personal favourite, is Christopher Lee as Dracula, who manages to not only be terrifying but also sensual, although I like Lugosi and Oldman a lot in the roles Lee for me of the Draculas is the only one to capture BOTH these qualities. All in all, in my opinion because of the production values, atmosphere, Cushing and especially Lee, this Dracula is the best one. 10/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Few things in modern horror films impress me these days. Special
effects dominate story and all the actors looks like they aren't old
enough to drive. Today's horror film is very hard to take seriously.
"Horror of Dracula" is one of the best examples of what horror films once were (and should be now). Well paced and rather unpredictable at times, this version of Dracula is one of my favorites.
What tops this film for me is the cast. I'm so used to seeing the actors that occupy movies today that I forgot what real adults look like. Christopher Lee is one of the most imposing figures to walk in a dark cloak and Peter Cushing's steely determination makes him one of the most understated action heroes in film history. Yes, I said "action hero." The final five minutes of the film more than cements this. There are no ridiculous fight scenes with punches and kicks but a manic struggle to the death that seems brutal and real. Cushing's Van Helsing is the only one I've ever seen so bad-ass that Dracula RUNS AWAY whenever he sees him.
A great movie. Enjoy it for the beautiful piece of craftsmanship that it is.
Don't quite understand the popularity of this one I found it 82 of the longest minutes of my life. It's a completely lifeless version of the Dracula story, made and performed with the energy of an episode of masterpiece theater. Peter Cushing is decent as Van Helsing, but all the other actors are terrible. I'm sorry, but I found Christopher Lee excessively wrong in this, his most celebrated part. He made absolutely no impression on me, and he doesn't compare to Max Schreck or Bela Lugosi, or even Gary Oldman, sad to say. The set design (especially Dracula's castle) and the cinematography are pretty good, but the bright colors just do not work that well in a horror film. Does this movie scare anyone? There isn't even a smidgen of eeriness in the entire movie. Then is it camp? There was nothing funny about it, either, and that, without a doubt, includes the poorly conceived comic relief bits. I seriously hope this isn't indicative of the rest of the Hammer horror series they have been one of the major holes in my film knowledge. If they don't get better than this, it's a hole that I'm unsure I want filled. 5/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The first and best of Hammer's "Dracula" films starring Christopher Lee
in the iconic role in which he is the most remembered actor of all-time
next to Bela Lugosi. The film is striking for its emphasis on
atmospheric horror at the expense of "jump scares" and "busses",
particularly considering that it was released in 1958 in the midst of
the giant radiation monster phase of horror/sci-fi movie-making.
Compared to the great majority of such films the dialog and action here
are both toned down and relatively down-to-earth (or, heh heh, beneath
The excellent set/art design is a lasting credit to Bernard Robinson, probably the best low-budget designer of all time. He innovated the concept of spacing items out evenly in the space provided as they will strike the eye of the viewer, instead of cramming all the objects at his disposal into the forefront where the camera's focus is. He also does just as good a job at emphasizing the deep red color scheme in the design as he did in this film's remarkable sequel, "Brides of Dracula" (which did not feature Lee or, for that matter, Count Dracula).
The story is more or less the original Dracula story; actually this film is closer to the source material than the original Universal film with Lugosi, as they actually take the time to explain how Dracula fled his homeland and include the dialog with the official who guards the port (turned into comic relief in this version). One change that perhaps improves the story and certainly gives the early sequences added narrative drive is that in this one Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) only pretends to be visiting Dracula on business, but is already a full-fledged vampire hunter and in league with Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). Nonetheless he falls prey to Dracula's woman, who tries to convince him that she is his prisoner.
Ah . The women of Hammer! They make their debut here, at least in the sense we tend to think of them in tight period costumes and walking that fine line between ruined innocence and diabolical hunger. Carol Marsh is particularly memorable in this one, her face like a child wavering between fear and excitement as she's seduced by the vampire. When she herself issues forth from the crypt to sate her hunger she picks a disturbingly young victim (and blood relative) and her face reveals a similar childlike state in the vampiric trance likewise her suggestive comment to her brother (Michael Gough) confirms a childhood fixation. Vampirism was often associated in the old world with incest, a theme that Tod Browning attempted to touch on in "Mark of the Vampire" but met with studio/censor interference. In this film and its sequel the theme was made explicit.
Christopher Lee's performance is the one that "made" him, whether he likes it or not. His bloodshot eyes and his bared teeth are unforgettable; this is the most sensual and animalistic Dracula that had been seen on screen up until its time. I love his entrance and the way he uses the cloak to bring a majestic air to the character. The way he delivers lines isn't nearly as memorable as Lugosi, and he may have known it since he asked to make the performance purely visual for the first sequel in which he appeared. Lee seems to have run in fear of his association with the character; I can understand the reluctance to be associated with films like "Dracula A.D. 1972" and in fact the Dracula character in general is so powerful that it can be difficult to escape, but there's nothing in this original film for the actor to be ashamed of.
Cushing introduces his interpretation of Van Helsing, arguably the best in film history although he's even better in "Brides" because he makes the character more ambiguous in that film. I just get a kick out of how seriously he takes vampirism and the way he manages to make those elements seem totally serious he is not a "camp" actor, but he is a great B-movie actor through his ability to make us believe crazy stuff like this is actually sensible. There's really no American counterpart to Cushing because no American actor that I can think of approached horror and sci-fi material with as much dignity at least no one who could actually pull it off.
Terence Fisher and his photographer Jack Asher also deserve praise both for the economy of their film-making and the sheer beauty of the way they approach the Gothic trappings of the genre. Their photography is in perfect sync with Robinson's set designs and shows why Hammer was the ultimate B-movie studio of its era careful collaboration between the artists and technicians that not only hides the low budget but enhances the production values to a level that even a better funded project might not have been able to achieve. The integrity of the production and the performances are, in my opinion, the source of this film's status and reputation as one of the great horror films of all time a reputation which it well deserves.
The impact and influence of the Irish writer Bram Stoker's 1897 novel
"Dracula" cannot be denied or ignored and its significance in the
history of horror literature and horror cinema is nothing short of
phenomenal. Anyone who has ever read this famous story though may just
agree with my opinion that certain chunks of it are extremely boring
and heavy-going! Fortunately, when Hammer Studios decided to film their
version of "Dracula" in the late 1950s, they chose not to stick too
closely to Stoker's original novel. The end result is a film that is
regarded by many as a masterpiece of horror cinema. Hammer's "Dracula"
(a.k.a. "Horror Of Dracula" - an alternative title that I hate)
features an action-packed script by Jimmy Sangster and stylish, expert
direction by the now-legendary Terence Fisher. This film also benefits
immensely from the inspired casting of Christopher Lee as the title
character and Peter Cushing as his nemesis, Dr. Van Helsing.
Both of these wonderful actors brought certain qualities to their respective roles and gave performances that many fans and critics now regard as being definitive and both of them successfully reprised their roles in other films. Lee's portrayal of Dracula has many layers. Initially he appears to be courteous and charming but we then find out just what an evil monster he really is and what vile acts he is capable of. Lee's Dracula also possesses a sexual magnetism that was not really seen in previous Dracula films. When night falls, beautiful women are only too keen to open their French windows and allow him into their boudoirs.
Cushing's Van Helsing is an educated man of science who is also equipped with sufficient knowledge about vampirism and the supernatural to be a worthy adversary for Dracula and other bloodsucking fiends.
This film contains pretty much all the elements you would expect to find in a Gothic horror film - terrific sets and locations, brilliantly-staged set-pieces, atmospheric lighting, scary music and probably the greatest climax of any film ever made.
If you have seen Hammer's "Dracula" before then you will probably want to own it on DVD and watch it over and over again. If you have not seen it, then what are you waiting for? Track down this DVD release and enjoy one of the best horror films of all time. I only wish I could award this film more than five stars. It is THAT good.
Thus far my favorite Dracula film for sure. Not only did this film get me interested in Dracula movies, but started my obsession with Hammer Films. Hammer productions was a small movie company that started in the 30's and ended in the 70's. During this time they paved the way for horror films by persevering despite much criticism. They were mocked for making only cheap inconsequential exploitation pictures. Through time this view would be disregarded as short-sighted and ignorant. Today Hammer Films are regarded as some of the best films of their genre. Additionally, they didn't stop at horror but made films that touched on many other genres such as thrillers, dramas, comedies, and even swashbuckling adventures. I hope you will appreciate this film as I did and open you up to the many great adventures and thrills of Hammer.
It just would not be Halloween with seen one of the Hammer Horror Films
starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
And, what better one to watch than Dracula. Lee's Dracula is smooth and sophisticated and perfect for the role of a Count.
When he bends over the beautiful but helpless woman, she doesn't need to be naked, as you see her breasts heave and the short bursts of breath right before his penetration. Makes me want to roll over and have a cigarette afterwards.
Cushing is a magnificent Van Helsing, and he has a professional air about him that is quite endearing. He suffers fools as a gentleman.
There may be argument over the nest Dracula, but this is certainly in the running.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
So stated a UK cinema patron on being interviewed in the queue for this
film back in 1958. However Hammer's first stab at the Dracula myth is
so much more than just a blood bath, it's a stylish, fast-moving Gothic
fairy tale that plays like a demonic ballet at times. It may well be
Hammer's best ever horror film.
Jimmy Sangster's script achieves a remarkable condensation of the novel but takes the story in new directions. Consider the following: Harker arrives at Dracula's castle to become his librarian.
He is, however, concealing his real purpose from Dracula - he is a vampire-hunter sent to destroy him! Harker is bitten but stakes the vampire woman who cursed him.
However, Dracula awakens and finishes him off leaving Van Helsing, Harker's ally, to stake his friend and colleague through the heart.
And that is just the first fifteen minutes! The standout cast are simply astonishing in their parts. Peter Cushing is a brilliant Van Helsing, a man of action and resource, whose obsession to destroy Dracula becomes almost a mania at times. And yet Cushing also gives him a softer side, showing great concern for all those touched by Dracula's curse.
And then of course there is Christopher Lee, who gives the Count a powerful sensuality and demonic presence never equalled to this day. He may be the most convincing throttler in screen history, choking Harker with a sadistic animal fury that has to be seen to be believed. He is nothing short of sensational in the role; he and Van Helsing are superbly balanced foils for each other. The legendary duel at the end between the two adversaries is exciting and thrilling - a breath-taking climax to a superbly-paced film.
There's sterling support from Michael Gough, slightly camp as ever but still likable, Melissa Stribling as his wife and soon to be vampire victim and John Van Essyn as Harker. George Woodbridge takes on the suspicious innkeeper duties with fine aplomb. And even Catweazle (Geoffrey Bayldon) pops up as a suspicious hotel porter. There are some scenes of humour amidst the horror, and they work surprisingly well. Best of all may be Miles Malleson's priceless undertaker.
With top notch direction from Terence Fisher, magnificent production design from Bernard Robinson, and a classic music score from James Bernard (Dra--Cu--La!)it seems astonishing today that the film only cost £81,000. This is the best Dracula film ever made, and one of the finest films the genre has ever produced.
Hammer perfected a formula in this film that, somewhat bewilderingly,
they used only one other time I know of, "Hound of the Baskervilles."
The usual Hammer film mixes lurid mid-20th Century shock with the
Gothic atmospherics horror films inherited from the Victorian era. So
far, "Dracula" follows the Hammer norm; but then the filmmakers decide
to tighten the script and include healthy doses of action unfortunately
lacking from later films from the studio.
So the brief "Horror of Dracula" moves in a whirlwind to include some essential points from the Stoker novel, capturing all the implications of Dracula's incredible prowess (especially with women) without allowing any of these to drag us down in unnecessary melodrama, letting enjoy the thrill of the chase as well as the excitement of the requisite shocks.
A brilliantly constructed, filmed, and acted thrill ride.
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