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Am I being too presumptuous to say that this is the greatest vampire film of
the 20th century?
This was one of Hammer's early efforts (far superior to the respectable, but so-so CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN), the film that launched the careers of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Though you'd never know it, due to its high production qualities, this was actually conceived on a low-budget.
I first saw this at an afternoon matinee back at the ripe, impressionable age of eight, and it left one hell of an imprint in my cinematic memory. When I recently rented it, I feared it would simply be a fond, childhood memory, not living up to my expectations today. Fortunately, I was wrong, for I actually enjoyed it more as an adult, being that I could now appreciate its intelligent dialogue, that passed me by as an overzealous brat, impatiently waiting for the shock scenes.
Sangster's script is brilliant; a successful blending of superb storytelling, literate dialogue, strong chacterizations and great action. Fisher's direction is atmospheric, imaginative and highly absorbing. He can frighten you without a ton of effects or having you grabbing for your airsick bag. There isn't a single superfluous moment here. It's one of those rare films that you hate to see end, playing on the old show-biz tradition of "always leave them begging for more." How come filmmakers today never take that into account? It's usually just the opposite: It seems as if they never want to end (the wrong kind of relentlessness), somehow harboring the grand delusion that we just can't get enough of a good thing. HAH!
I don't need to critique the plot since you more or less already know it. There is a subtle, underlying theme (not obviously bashed over your head) of victorian, sexual repression in which Lee's Count (superb, unforgettable performance, accomplishes much in his limited screen time, proving that less is more) is a degenerate liberator of his female victim's suppressed erotic desires. They willingly submit to his sinister seduction, but, in the usual dramatic irony, get a lot more than they bargained for. (As a dumb kid, I never quite picked up on that until puberty started approaching - HMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!)
Cushing's performance as Lee's worthy adversary, Dr. Van Helsing, is tremendous. He can be graciously mannered and wildly determined simultaneously. Lee's Dracula initially appears as the attractive, romantic prince, cleverly concealing a bullying, sadistic brute who couldn't care less what D.H. Lawrence had to say. Even when he's off-screen, his menacing presence continues to dominate; you never know when he is suddenly going to appear. The climatic confrontation between Cushing and Lee has earned its fame. As a kid, it had me and the entire audience literally jumping up and down in our seats. More popcorn was spilled at that showing than perhaps any other cinematic presentation.
What more can be said? The lush color hints at the evil that often lurks within palatial surroundings. The pulsating score is highly riveting. Being that this film is a period piece prevents it from actually "outdating" (like many of the Hammer films). It's also encouraging to note that many younger kids today have gotten hip to it as well - proof that it is truly a TIMELESS CLASSIC! RENT IT!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Horror Of Dracula(1958)is considered by this writer to be the best
version of all of the cinematic versions of Dracula to date.
Peter Cushing deservedly so is listed as the star of this film as he portrays the best version of Dr. Van Helsing ever put on the screen. Cushing plays an eminent man who is highly educated in medicine,theology,.....and ridding the world of Vampirism.He appears to be a man in his forties,who's dapper in appearance but is also courageous,sympathetic,athletic and can fight any vampire to the death.Peter Cushing IS THE ULTIMATE DR. VAN HELSING.
Christopher Lee gives an excellent interpretation of Count Dracula like none that has ever been seen before.Lee's Dracula appears to be the true nobleman at the beginning of this film who greets the newly arrived Jonathan Harker(John Van Eyssen) with an air of mild arrogance but also supposed appreciation because this version of Harker is supposed to be someone who can arrange and take care of the Count's enormous library of books in Castle Dracula,but Harker is actually working with Dr.Van Helsing to rid the world of vampirism.However,it is Harker who ultimately falls victim to Lee's Dracula when the Count is in his more vicious state where he has gore dripping from his fangs,his eyes are blood red and he hisses like some wild animal;this is the Count Dracula who is present through the rest of this classic film.Jonathan Harker seemingly disappears until Dr.Van Helsing arrives at Castle Dracula,enters Dracula's crypt but finds his friend (now a vampire) sleeping in Dracula's coffin.The Dr. takes it upon himself to destroy his now undead friend.
Cushing's Van Helsing arrives at his late friend's fiancée's family home to explain to them about Harker's death without going into much detail.Not surprisingly,Arthur Holmwood(Michael Gough)is angered by the Dr.'s unspecific details of Harker's death and cremation.However,his wife Mina Holmwood(Melissa Stribling) is understanding and even calls upon the good Dr.for a second opinion to speak with him about her sister in-law Lucy(Carol Marsh) who is suffering from a case of anemia!
Cushing's Van Helsing cannot save the young lady's life because the Holmwood's maid(Olga Dickie) ignores Dr.Van Helsing's instructions which in turn makes it possible for Lucy Holmwood to allow Dracula into her bedroom... where she is found dead the next morning.
A few days after Lucy's death,the maid's daughter(Janina Faye)is lured by an undead Lucy Holmwood back to the vampire's crypt,but she is stopped by Van Helsing as he presses a crucifix to this vampire's forehead causing Lucy to scream and run into the family crypt. Later on that morning,Holmwood watches in shock and horror as the Dr. drives a stake into the heart of the undead Lucy.Arthur Holmwood now understands the importance of Dr. Van Helsing's work.
The Dr. and Holmwood join forces to stop Count Dracula.As they begin working together,Dracula lures Mina to a funeral parlor where he's hiding in! He makes her his next meal...ultimately,kidnapping her as they rush back to his castle.Van Helsing and Holmwood arrive at Castle Dracula as the vampire is burying the helpless Mina in an open grave!The vampire stops,runs inside his monolithic castle, but Cushing is in unstoppable pursuit of the fiend. The finale of this film with Dr.Van Helsing and Count Dracula fighting to the death was suggested by Peter Cushing who asked the film's director Terence Fisher if they could have a scene that would,"be some sort of Douglas Fairbanksian scene?"So in the finale when he's trapped by Dracula,Cushing's Van Helsing jumps onto a long rectory table, runs down it and leaps as far as he can from it toward a pair of long curtains that he pulls off of a pair of the castle's window's which allows sunlight to flood the room and causes Dracula to fall to the floor.As the vampire tries to crawl away,Cushing's Dr.Van Helsing paralyzes Dracula as the Dr. puts two candlesticks together that form a cross which ultimately causes the evil Count's demise ...leaving nothing but dust,hair and Dracula's signet ring.The Horror Of Dracula is sheer cinema magic from beginning to end.
This is why Hammer Films is famous.
Jonathan Harker (Van Eyssen) arrives at Castle Dracula posing as a librarian with the intention of destroying Count Dracula (Lee) who is the lord of all vampires and the most evil creature on Earth. Unfortunately, after Harker is bitten by Dracula's vampire bride he realises that he is doomed to become a member of the undead and while his senses are still his own he sets out to destroy the Count and his bride in blood. He stakes the bride but he is then overpowered by the Count and is turned into a vampire. Dr Van Helsing (Cushing) arrives at the castle and destroys Harker but of Dracula there is no sign. Meanwhile Lucy Holmwood, Harker's girlfriend has been struck by a mysterious illness. Dr Van Helsing suspects that she has become the victim of Dracula in revenge for the loss of his vampire bride and that Lucy is to replace that woman. His suspicions are confirmed when Lucy dies and she is seen leaving her tomb every night. Lucy has become a vampire and Van Helsing manages to destroy her before she attacks the niece of the Holmwood's housekeeper. With the help of Lucy's brother Arthur (Michael Gough) he sets out to trace Dracula's coffin and destroy him thus ending his evil reign of terror.
After the enormous commercial success of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), Hammer turned to Bram Stoker's classic horror story Dracula as their next subject for filming. They wasted no time in re teaming stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee along with screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, cameraman Jack Asher and director Terence Fisher. The result was another box office smash and Hammer's reputation as the finest purveyors of horror since Universal in the 1930's was fully opened. The film spawned six sequels all of them starring Lee as the Count. However, none of them with the possible exception of the first really lived up to this one because the scripts went increasingly away from Stoker's original and Lee's Dracula was sadly reduced to little more than a supporting character. They were Dracula PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966), Dracula HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968), TASTE THE BLOOD OF Dracula, SCARS OF Dracula (both 1970), Dracula AD 1972 (1972) and THE SATANIC RITES OF Dracula (1974).
Dracula (US: HORROR OF Dracula) is probably the best horror film Hammer ever made. The lighting of Jack Asher is excellent, the sets were well used and the performances of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are outstanding. The night time scenes are especially impressive and are not so obviously day-for-night as they would be in some of the company's later films. The script by Jimmy Sangster scales down the original novel considerably due to the film's small budget, but compared to the awfully overblown version by Francis Ford Coppola in the early 1990's this film is still more effective.
This classic gives us Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee doing battle, Hammer-film style. Lee as Dracula is swave and menacing but doesn't get to say or do much (unlike Bela Lugosi). Cushing as Van Helsing is amusingly low-key. It is a bit hard to believe the "veddy" British accents in a story that is evidently set completely in a fictional Germanic location, and the music is overwrought to the point of being campy. Nevertheless, the mixture of comic relief and horror provides for a good Halloween movie.
'Dracula' a.k.a. 'Horror Of Dracula' was the first entry in Hammer's Dracula series and still remains one of the best. It isn't perfect, and I think it's a little overrated by some horror buffs (it isn't better than Todd Browning's 'Dracula' no matter what anyone claims), but it's still a great movie. The movie changes several key points of Bram Stoker's original novel, but that's okay, virtually every movie version of the story has beginning with Browning's horror classic back in the 1930s. Anyway, the script is pretty good, and Terence Fisher's direction is even better. The cast is the best thing about the movie, especially the inspired teaming of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, one of horror's greatest partnerships. Lee is still THE best Dracula overall in my opinion, even if some of the movies he appeared in were a bit weak. Cushing and Lee are joined by legendary character actor Michael Gough ('Horrors Of The Black Museum', 'Trog', 'The Legend Of Hell House', 'Sleepy Hollow', etc.etc.), and seeing these three greats work together makes this one a joy to watch, and the handful of dull spots (yes, there are a few) much easier to tolerate. 'Dracula' is definitely in my Top Ten Hammer movies and that makes it highly recommended viewing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A part of me is quite baffled that a couple of big name stars sunk so
low as to appear in what is effectively a pretty cheesy horror movie.
Well, I'm probably being a bit harsh though since Christopher Lee has
gone down in history as being the actor to play Dracula, just as Boris
Karloff is seen as The Frankenstein's Monster (and as it turns out the
Mummy as well). The problem was that the acting actually wasn't all
that fantastic, and the movie, you have to admit, is actually pretty
corny. Mind you, it isn't one of those 'so bad that it is actually
good' type of movies, nor is it cheesy in the sense that it is bad
The Horror of Dracula is a classic movie, and rightfully so, it is just
that looking back at this film from 2017 it does make me scratch my
head in wonder.
I probably don't need to go to much into the plot because, well, it's Dracula and I'm sure we all know the plot. No, come to think of it, we don't because I get the feeling that most of us think that the plot of Dracula is similar to Rocky Horror Picture Show, when in reality it isn't. In fact it is closer to the book, though there are quite a few poetic licenses used, such as making Jonathon Harker a rather minor role, and also switching the female characters around (Lucy is now Harker's fiancé, and they have introduced a completely new character as well). Other than that the plot is similar in that we are dealing with Dracula coming to the civilised world to wreck havoc.
The film itself is pretty basic, and actually seems to be quite low budget as well. However, as I suggested, it isn't actually a bad film. It's a classic, and rightfully so, particularly since it launched this whole modern horror genre. Mind you, we are talking about slasher flicks here, though a part of me was half expecting that Dracula would eventually go on a killing spree, particularly since they kill of Harker near the beginning of the film. However, this turned out not to be the case. In the end, it is quite a fun film, and it actually makes me want to go and watch some of the Boris Karloff classics as well (though I think I'll stay away from some of the more cheesier Dracula films).
Hammer's first movie from endless Dracula stories and what's a picture,apparently settled on German as show in the picture and characters's name too....perhaps the best from hammer studios really, bringing Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) as top billing, gave to us an impressive value of this character against the evil Dracula,this Gothic style taking the story in another level and how to destroy the Dracula,the plot is very exciting with all gorgeous and sexy women along the picture, Dracula (Christopher Lee)with another great performance giving to him a kind of trademark for all career as irreplaceable Dracula, a movie to see many times indeed,hoping for best restoration in near future maybe in Blu-ray.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Some years ago it was written that "Lee and Cushing are the only
Dracula and Helsing on the cinematic map, in the hall of fame, and I
can't see them ever being bettered." That is the general and
overwhelming consensus on this site, although there are still a few
laughable retards in their habitual denial.
Dracula and van Helsing, in this version, are unbelievably real. They are totally convincing. Van Helsing is the archetypal Victorian ethical gentleman, courteous, considerate, dauntlessly resolute, athletic and well-informed. Dracula is the pagan defeated demon from immemorial ages past, a fiendish but superbly imposing nobleman from a forgotten age.
The acting support is adequate if not great, though memorably good are Woodbridge, the surly landlord; Malleson, the jolly undertaker; the corruptible customs official; Mina (or Lucy) and the little girl. The geography is distinctly vague. An excellent anachronistic touch is the bottle of Gordon's gin in the inn's uncertain locality, just the kind of familiar everyday British product you'd expect to find in Transylvania --- if that's where this is.
I've seen some of the other versions, and they are all totally forgettable. This one is indelible. You could say it has permanent bite; and the plot holes are legion but quite irrelevant.
One can get caught up in only acceptance of the oeuvre of such things as Dracula and Frankenstein. One has to admit at some point that the cinematic presentations of the 1930's grossly misrepresented the original works of literature. Did that damn them in any way? Of course not. So sometimes we criticize a more contemporary effort because of its roots. In this wonderful episode, Christopher Lee is an outstanding Dracula. This is kind of an after-the-story story where the principle characters move on. Dracula is still a danger to the world, and Van Helsing and the others are trying to put a stop to his reign. Jonathan Harker, Mina, Lucy, and the rest are still involved in some way. The acting is great. The scenes of horror are startling and grotesque. The sets are really quite remarkable. One of the better adaptations of the Dracula canon.
Horror films have changed quite a bit since the 1958 movie "Dracula", for the better well that's up to you but for me, this is a reminder of a less violent age of scary films. In fact on that previous point, this movie really isn't scary at all and if it weren't for the slightly eerie and imposing Christopher Lee, this would look like a light drama. Having said all that I did find this to be an OK movie, maybe felt it is not as good as some say but nevertheless an engaging plot.
The story is pretty nicely set up, a mysterious count who is gaining interest from certain people who seem to think he is up to something more sinister. Of course many things unfold throughout and the plot is actually quite full to say this movie is only 82 minutes long. The one point about the whole story that entertained me personally was just how engaging it is, I didn't expect to be asking questions about it and actually wondering what was going to happen next, well made.
Now as mentioned Christopher Lee is imposing, and playing Count Dracula with his frame makes him seem even more sinister, easily the darkest thing about this entire film. Alongside Lee and probably the best actor by far is Peter Cushing who as Abraham Van Helsing is great, a really good choice to play the role and stands out. Overall I did however find the acting not to the standard I expected, sure the main actors are good but cast such as John Van Eyssen and Michael Gough were not great and make this slightly too unrealistic at times(even with vampires around).
Terence Fisher is a good choice as director, he seems to know how to get the most out of the script and his work with Cushing and Lee is fine work indeed. It is also written well and the movie has the kind of script that works well in a horror film like this, not too horrific but still can thrill you. Keeping on the lines of behind the camera work, the score is also good, it is loud but in a good way, can weirdly make you jump at certain moments, people can have good horror fun with this movie.
With this take on Dracula you might expect good or bad depending on your views of old horror movies, but all in all this is in my view a nice attempt and well worth it. So recommendations, well many will probably enjoy this quite a bit with it's nice style and good leading actors, but many could also dislike both. No matter what critics say this is truly one movie you have to see for yourself before making your mind up.
Overall a short review for a short movie, there isn't too much you can say about this piece, like it or not I still can't see anyone who would think Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing are bad here, with Cushing leading the way for me in top form. Hammer Horrors are famous and this is the first of them, it represented a new kind of film back in the day and maybe even scared some back then, these days it probably won't but be safe in the knowing it could still give you nightmares.
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