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As you can see by my rating, I like this film and think it's a good
one. But the main thrust of my comments here will be to convey my
personal opinion that, while I enjoy it for what it is, I do think it's
also overpraised by many horror fans worldwide who seem to elevate it
to iconic status, above and beyond all others of its ilk. "Horror of
Dracula" is indeed a rousing vampire film, and a notable offering to
feature the legendary character of Count Dracula. It is probably the
first quintessential film I'd recommend to see if you're new to Hammer
Horror; but when considered as the "definitive" be-all and end-all
representation of Bram Stoker's immortal horror tale, it falls short.
In this obviously expedient version, the British Hammer studio tried to utilize a tight budget to full effect, and in the process attempted to present modern audiences with a completely different type of Dracula than they were accustomed to in Bela Lugosi's previous performance. So it is that "Horror of Dracula" tries to make up for having little money by spicing up the proceedings with a strong dose of fangs, hisses, blood, and a very speedy pacing, in what was probably an effort to distract from the cheapness as well as "improve" upon the more lethargic movement of the 1931 Tod Browning classic. And guess what? For many people, it worked! Audiences lapped up this approach, and the movie was a great hit both then and now. For many today, Christopher Lee has replaced Bela Lugosi as the true embodiment of Count Dracula for all time. Speaking for myself, I will always prefer Lugosi's rendering of the role, but Lee comes in at second place.
The story in "Horror of Dracula" is pretty basic, with Dracula staking a claim on victims, and then the great vampire hunter Van Helsing (expertly played by Peter Cushing) arriving to challenge his bloody rampage and hopefully save the day. As with just about any cinematic revision, some specific changes were made. And I've always felt they hampered the movie from becoming the truly "great" masterpiece which so many inexplicably believe it is:
1.) In this version, Jonathan Harker arrives at Castle Dracula (actually, with the meager budget it looks more like a cozy little cottage) fully aware of who and what Dracula is, but with the intention of posing as the vampire's librarian before actually destroying him. He also arrives on a bright and sunny afternoon (probably due to insufficient cash flow for night filming) which I feel ruins a good chance for chills and shudders.
2.)I also don't like that the voyage to England is gone.
3.) The character of Renfield has been completely written out. Now, in all fairness there were liberties taken in Browning's "Dracula" too, of course, but those worked for me (such as Renfield being the one to visit Drac and then being turned into his slave).
4.) Dracula's lack of any good dialogue. Bela Lugosi has more juicy dialogue in the 1931 film than Christopher Lee gets to speak in all of his many Hammer Dracula films combined! Aside from Lee's talk about there being "a great many volumes to be indexed" what else does he have to say? In the Lugosi film there are so many: "Listen to them - children of the night ... what music they make!" "I never drink --- wine..." "To die, to be really dead, that must be glorious!" "There are far worse things awaiting man -- than death..." "For one who has not lived even a single lifetime, you are a wise man, Van Helsing.."
5.) Though I do like Chris Lee as Dracula, my preference for his look and style comes more in later films. He's just too young in "Horror of Dracula" (he was only 36 at the time) and he relies way too much on just showing his teeth and hissing, and springing over tables like some acrobat. I'll take the deliberately slow, creepy and otherworldly strange creature as played by Bela Lugosi easily.
6.) The loud and deafening score by James Bernard is sometimes way overblown for a picture like this. Some of it is deliciously ominous and works perfectly (like in an early scene where a vampire woman eyes Harker's throat with a compulsion to bite) but the over-blasting of horns and trumpets are enough to wake the dead.
7.) The lack of supernatural abilities by Dracula is a tragic mistake. He doesn't change into bats or wolves, for instance. And not only doesn't he do these things in this but the Jimmy Sangster script even has the nerve to go out of its way to claim those old tales are "common fallacy"!
The final result is a good, solid, entertaining vampire movie that is not really "Dracula". In closing, I can't and won't take anything away from Peter Cushing. He's marvelous. And the final sequence where he meets up with Dracula for the grand finale is admittedly one of the highlights in all of cinematic horror. *** out of ****
This is probably the best of the Dracula movies, although the 1931 Bela
Lugosi one is excellent too.
A man comes to Castle Dracula to work in the library there but the real reason he's there is to try and kill the Count himself after several women have gone missing, believing Draclua is responsible. Dracula finds out about this and he kills the man. Van Helsing is then called to the scene after more women go missing and teams up with Arthur Holmwood, whose sister has been killed by Dracula and his wife nearly becomes a victim too after she is bit on the neck. Van Helsing defeats Dracula at the end when he is exposed to day light and melts away. But he'll be most definitely be back...
This is Hammer at its very best, Dracula is very creepy and atmospheric, helped by the excellent score.
The excellent cast includes Horror veterans Christopher Lee in his most famous role as Dracula, Peter Cushing (The Curse of Frankenstein) as Van Helsing and Michael Gough (Konga, Horrors of the Black Museum). With Melissa Stribling and Charles Loyd Pack.
Dracula is a must for every horror fan out there. Fantastic.
Rating: 4 and a half stars out of 5.
It's hard to say if this really is the best Dracula film. The 1931
Dracula was more atmospheric, both versions of Nosferatu more artistic
and the 1991 version more visually impressive. Some of the scariest
vampire movies have been without Dracula in them at all, such as the TV
movie Salem's Lot and the almost silent Vampyr. Nonetheless, the 1958
Dracula may be the most enjoyable version of Bram Stoker's endlessly
adapted story, and after the good but uncertain Curse Of Frankenstein,
shows the Hammer filmmakers at full throttle.
Stoker's novel has been drastically simplified, but this gives the film a pace few other versions have. The introduction of a sexual element to Dracula's attacks on women seems old hat now but it's easy to see how this and the, by today's standards, quite minimal, use of blood -actually SHOWING a stake going into a body!- must have shocked those used to the cozy restraint of the Universal films. The climatic disintegration of Dracula in the sunlight is, however, still hugely impressive and horrifying to this day.
Christopher Lee remains the archetypal Dracula even it he got fed up with the role and Peter Cushing definitely the best Van Helsing, and that includes Hugh Jackman. Michal Gough is rather excessively hammy,though. Kudos to Bernard Robinson's sets, hugely impressive on a tiny budget, and James Bernard's pounding music. Perhaps creepy atmosphere is a touch lacking,and although often hailed as the best Hammer film, in some respects some of their later, more flawed films are more interesting. Nonetheless, it's still effective, as are indeed most of the sequels.
What can you say about a Dracula flick? There are so many: but this is from
Hammer Productions with the right atmosphere, castle, ample bosomed women,
creepy effects and Christopher Lee as the Prince of Darkness.
Director Terence Fisher and writer Jimmy Sangster dared to recraft Bram Stoker's fable of the "man in black", with the toothsome smile. All in blood curdling Hammer color.
Lee takes the first stabs at becoming the master blood sucker. Also in the cast is that other stellar star for Hammer, Peter Cushing. Rounding out the players are: Michael Gough, John Van Eyssen, Melissa Stribling, Carol Marsh and Valerie Gaunt.
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.
The first of the Hammer Dracula films, Horror of Dracula stars Peter Cusing and Christoper Lee as Van Helsing and Dracula. The film is an interesting take on the Dracula story, which, even by 1958, had been done to death. The film does some interesting things with the story while remaining true to the source material. Cusing and Lee are amazing in this film. Every time Cusing is on screen, you can't help but watch. He is just so captivating. Lee also plays probably the scariest Dracula since Max Sheirck in Nosferatu. The film is surprisingly entertaining, with Cusing proving himself to be the first real horror hero. The film is a massive influence on horror today and has a lasting impact that not a lot of horror films from the era have.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For many years now this has been my favourite of the dozens of horror
films that Hammer Studios produced and also one of my very favourite
horror films full stop. The second of the full-blooded gory
masterpieces that Hammer released in the late 50s (following THE CURSE
OF FRANKENSTEIN, of course), Dracula is an influential, expertly-made
epic which also happens to be the best screen adaptation of Stoker's
famous story. It may not be particularly close to the text not with
the characters having been changed around and even the setting altered
but nonetheless it makes for fantastic, fascinating viewing and it
really is a joy to watch all involved at the peak of their powers.
Terence Fisher brings excellent direction to the movie (his best) and keeps everything together. The pacing is fairly slow, yes, but as the film is packed with atmosphere (dry-ice enshrouded graveyards, spooky woodlands, etc.) and liberally peppered with bloody shocks the various stakings for instance, now tame but back then extremely powerful. The score, by James Bernard, is simplistic but extremely evocative and ultimately thrilling. It has to be one of the best scores for a horror film that I've heard despite being old-fashioned these days. Set design is great, the cobwebby castle locations look brilliant, and of course the costumes and the props are all spot-on.
Christopher Lee is truly outstanding as Dracula and far better than Lugosi in the role (although Lugosi himself was very good, Lee is simply tremendous!). Despite later typecasting this is probably Lee's best screen role and thankfully he isn't overused in the movie, instead his character hides elusively in the shadows only to burst out in full fright at key moments. Peter Cushing is equally good as the athletic, heroic, sporting Van Helsing and again it is one of the best performances of his career, and in my opinion has never been better. Horror star Michael Gough makes a low-key appearance (as a good guy!) in his first of many horror roles and the beautiful ladies Melissa Stribling, Valerie Gaunt, and Carol Marsh are radiant to behold. Plus all the usual Hammer staples John Van Eyssen, Charles Lloyd Pack, Geoffrey Bayldon, George Woodbridge, Miles Malleson filling out minor but memorable roles and you have an expertly-cast little movie.
The best remembered part of the film is, of course, the conclusion, which remains unforgettable to anyone who sees it at an impressionable age. Right from the moment when Cushing learns that Dracula's coffin is in the cellar, the pacing goes through the roof, the music is upped a notch and the viewer is left on the edge of his seat for ten minutes as the terrific conclusion plays out. Who can forget the shot of Lee slowly expiring in the sunlight or Cushing's dynamism as he suddenly leaps banisters and jumps over tables using anything to hand in his battle against the Count. Primitive but nonetheless highly impressive special effects work rounds off this climatic battle between good vs. evil which is in fact one of my favourite moments in a film, ever. Fantastic stuff and a true genre classic.
The definitive Dracula movie.
A vampire-hunter, Jonathan Harker, manages to land a job at Count Dracula's castle. However, while investigating the Count, he becomes a victim himself. His friend, Doctor Van Helsing is soon on the case though, and he is much more resourceful...
Probably the best Dracula movie. Intriguing, engaging and with a few good twists along the way. Also, quite compact - to-the-point and doesn't overstay its welcome.
Christopher Lee is back doing what he does best - being a classic horror villain and being scarily good at it. Peter Cushing does a fine job as Van Helsing. Just a year earlier Lee and Cushing appeared in another Hammer horror classic - The Curse of Frankenstein, with Cushing as Dr Frankenstein and Lee as the monster.
Good supporting cast.
Hammer made their Dracula film in colour and famously cast Christopher
Lee as the tall, dashing, debonair, sensual, athletic yet malevolent
vampire, a far cry from the creaky, creepy and opium addicted Bela
Lugosi in the Universal monster classics of the 1930s.
The film strips down Bram Stoker's book. Jonathan Harker arrives at a remote castle in Central Europe to be a librarian in Count Dracula's castle. However Harker is in league with Van Helsing but incompetently goes to kill his bride first allowing Dracula to take escape.
In revenge Count Dracula searches for Harkers family in a nearby city that looks more like Victorian London than a Gothic Germanic town. However Dr Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) realises that Harker has fallen to Dracula and realises that the rest of the Harker family is in danger.
Christopher Lee actually appears in the film sparingly. He takes the form of moving in a gaseous manner as he lure the female victims. When we first see him, he is urbane and charming but there is always menace and teeth lurking behind him.
Its Peter Cushing who is the main lead ably assisted by Michael Gough as the sidekick. Cushing is also an action hero vampire hunter, just look at him scampering down the long dinner table in the classic finale and holding the two candlesticks as a cross.
The film is not very scary, more of a Gothic period piece done with a low budget. The women are poorly served acting as mere attractive vampire fodder because they do stupid things and put themselves in danger.
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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