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Dracula is dead, and one of his disciples carries on his wicked ways in Eastern Europe. This time around it is the young Baron Meinster(played with credibility by David Peel). A young woman is invited to the Castle Meinster and unleashes the Baron from his shackles to allow him to slake his thirst through the living. This film lacks the star power of Christopher Lee in Hammer's second vampire outing, yet does not suffer greatly due to the wonderful performance of Peter Cushing reprising his role as Dr. Van Helsing and the incredible direction of Terrence Fisher. Fisher's ability to tell a story through film is not to be overlooked, nor is his use of subtle and bright colours to create wonderfully atmospheric sets and scenic centerpieces. Some of the scenes in this film are some of the best to ever come by way of Hammer, including the scene where a servant taps on a buried coffin to show a fledgling vampire the way, the incident with Van Helsing and his wound, and the windmill finale. The cast is very good with particular honors going to Cushing, Martita Hunt as the vampire's sympathetic mother, and Freda Jackson as the demented, crazed servant-nurse. Cushing is as ever implacable from his crusade to save the world from vampirism. Just a wonderful tale!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Probably Hammer's best horror, even though it doesn't have Christopher
But David Peel is equally formidable as an aristocratic young disciple,
Peter Cushing's Dr Van Helsing is still the scourge of vampirism in
It begins with a wonderfully spooky tracking shot over a misty woodland lake (actually Black Park next to Pinewood Studios) and ominous narration (`Transylvania, land of dark forests, dread mountains and black unfathomable lakes. Still a place of magic and devilry as the 19th century comes to a close.'). Hammer gothic depended heavily on photography for mood and Jack Asher lit their early horrors masterfully, but the always budget-conscious studio let him go as his often exquisite set ups took to long.
Pretty Parisian Marianne Daniel (Yvonne Monlaur), en route to her first teaching appointment in a Transylvanian finishing school, is lured into spending a night at the forbidding Chateau Meinster by its haughty Baroness. Explaining away the extra dinner place set by servant Greta, the Baroness says it is for her absent son, `feeble-minded' and locked away in another wing (`We pray for death, both of us. At least, I hope he prays.'). When naïve young Marianne lets Meinster out, Greta cackles in demented glee as a wolf howls into the night (`There's a wolf down there. And an owl. He'll get them all astir, trust him.').
It all comes together in Brides of Dracula. Script, characterisation and acting (Cushing, Peel, Martita Hunt as the Baroness, Freda Jackson as Greta all splendid; even the comic turns - the inimitable Miles Malleson as a sceptical country doctor and Henry Oscar as pompous schoolmaster Herr Lang - are just perfect).
And its horrors, as directed by Terence Fisher, are sudden and violent. Bitten by Meinster, Cushing purges the wound with a red-hot branding iron, doused by holy water. But perhaps the single most macabre moment Hammer has ever devised is the scene where Greta sits astride a new grave like a hellish midwife, urging Meinster's latest victim to rise out of her coffin.
Can Cushing save the village daughters from a fate worse than death? The stakes are high!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Certainly, one of the oddest successes for Hammer. Determined to make a
sequel to HORROR OF Dracula, but with a lead character turned to dust
and an actor refusing to be 'typecast' (Christopher Lee), the film
still manages to be one of the best "Dracula" films (as well as one of
Hammer's of the era).
Set up with a narrated prologue (sublimely eerie photography) that explains that Dracula has left a 'cult' legacy behind, BRIDES picks up with a gorgeous French woman (Yvonne Monlaur) who is passing thru (does one pass thru Transylvania??). From there she meets a Baroness (Martita Hunt) who takes her in for the night. That night the young woman unwittingly lets loose her son the Baron (David Peel). Peel is, of course, a Vampire. It's at this point that Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) enters the scene and so the story is set up.
BRIDES OF Dracula has two main points of interest. First, the truly creepy Oedipel relationship of the Baron and his Mother (if one thinks about it, the Mother is one of the title 'Brides' - someone call Dr.Freud!). There is also the overly protective Housekeeper (Freda Jackson) who thoroughly abets The Baron and his Brides upon his 'release'. Second, there's Peter Cushing's magnificent performance as Van Helsing. In only his second time out in the role, he thoroughly owns it - and comes to dominate the picture. What's also amazing is Cushing's physicality. While there no doubt are some stunt double shots, the majority of the action scenes are clearly handled by the actor himself. Something that too often is over-looked when commenting on the nearly always reliable character actor.
A couple of quibbles. Since Vampires can change into bats, why can't the Baron escape a human sized shackle? And, since the Housekeeper is so smitten with him, why doesn't she release him herself? One could search and ponder why the script doesn't address these issues, but I believe the simple matter of fact is that they just weren't thought through. The film works quite well, nitpicks aside.
Oedipus complex transposed to the vampire myth yielding two unforgettable performances given by David Peel and Martita Hunt. A true pity Peel preferred stage to screen acting (he also interpreted the role of DORIAN GRAY on vinyl), he embodied a Victorian persona yet was handsome, fetching and Wildeian. The classic status of this Hammer Film is yet another of the Cushing/Fisher collaborations though Peel's groundbreaking performance is rarely singled out. His most unusual portrayal of the vampiric disciple Baron Meinster is one of the finest in Hammer's canon. Breathtaking set design, atmosphere and mood place this film the rationale for Hammer's reputation, the equal of HORROR OF DRACULA. The homoerotic cycle of vampirism beginning with DRACULA'S DAUGHTER is made complete here which perhaps influenced Anne Rice and her body of work.
This is an excellent entry in the Hammer studios series of vampire
flicks. Almost everything that fans love about this particular vein of
horror is here; the great Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, atmospheric
sets and lighting, a creepy baroness, direction from the celebrated
Terence Fisher... damsels in danger and the various tropes of the
genre. What could be considered missing is Dracula. This is potentially
confusing since the film is titled 'The Brides of Dracula', but is
clearly set after Dracula's first demise in the series time-line.
What sets this apart as a relatively very good film is the amount of events they managed to squeeze in - which allows actors such as Cushing to flex their ability in a few interesting scenarios. What hasn't aged so well is the writing/portrayal of the young 'heroine', who seems to spend most of her time stupidly wandering into dangerous situations - acceptable in some cases, but in this film it just makes you question what level of intelligence they were trying to impart to her character.
If you're a fan of 'modern' horror, which is more to do with exploitation, you will undoubtedly view this film as very dated with not much to frighten. If you like Hammer horror and understand what it's "all about", or have an interest in Gothic horror films from the 50s and 60s, this film will be a very enjoyable screening.
This is my favorite Hammer Film! Wonderfully written, superbly acted! Peter Cushing is a joy to behold as the "not always playing with a full deck" Van Helsing. His memorable scene in which he exsises the vampires bite from his neck is brilliant! The set pieces and atmosphere are second to none and gives the film an entirely uneasy feeling yet the movie is so brezzy and fun! There are also quite a few chilling scenes which will stick out in your mind for a while after the conclusion. And what a conclusion it is! Fast paced, exciting and quite unique in vampire lore. David Peel is unique to say the least as the king vampire and although Dracula is not to be found in this one, SO WHAT!!! A brilliant film on all counts!
This lush, hypnotic horror extravaganza from Hammer Studios improves steadily with age. The magnificent color design, the sets and the all-out performances of the superb cast makes this a classic right along with "Bride of Frankenstein." Each scene is filmed like a work of art, with purple and azure lighting in the backgrounds, marvelous set pieces and a knockout finale. One cannot say enough about the extraordinary cast. Two Shakespearian pros, Martita Hunt (the wizened Baroness Meinster) and her crazed maid, Freda Jackson (Greta)knock everyone else off the screen. Both also performed in the classic, "Great Expectations" and Martita had a stellar career in films. David Peele is stunning as the vampire. Beautiful, evil, arrogant, it's like watching Dorian Gray (which he performed on radio)at his peak. Yvonne Molnaur as the beautiful heroine is perfect. The vampire girls are all superb. I would put this superb classic at the top of any great horror films. You watch it today and see how modern horror films have degenerated. "Brides" was made by masters at their peak. Now, if we can only get this on DVD, maybe as a double feature with "Horror of Dracula." Bravo Martita, Freda and David Peele! If you never did anything else, you did yourself proud with this glimmering jewel of evil,incest and sex.
Naive young teacher Marianne is on her way to a new position when she takes pity on a young man she finds manacled to the wall in an old castle.But she doesn't realise that Baron Meinster has been chained up by his mother because he's a vampire.Before long Meinster is on the prowl targeting the nearby girl's school-but vampire hunter Dr Van Helsing is on his trail...Very well-directed and fabulously acted follow-up to Terence Fisher's "Dracula" with fantastic acting and plenty of eerie atmosphere.The exterior shots of the windmill in the film's climax are both iconic and awe-inspiring and Peter Cushing is truly memorable as a quick-witted Van Helsing.The script is truly superb with such lovely nuances as never before seen way of destroying the vampire.There is also a spooky village that appears in every movie of this type,utterly interchangeable with the Klausenburg of "Horror of Dracula" or the Vandorf of "The Gorgon".9 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Brides of Dracula" is one of the best films produced by the
legendary "Hammer House of Horror" during the British studio's heyday
in the late 50s/early 60s (IMHO Hammer Films' decline began when they
made a distribution deal with Fox's Seven-Arts division). In fact only
a small handful of color horror films made by any company would really
compare to this Gothic delight. That's not to say that the film
actually achieves the kind of cultural or social relevance that some
later vampire films (i.e. the mis-leadingly titled "Bram Stoker's
Dracula") tried in vain to reach for on the contrary this film's
goals are simple and easily achieved by the excellent craftsmen who
designed and created this film. They were simply trying to make a film
that was sexier, more violent and grotesque, and more visually
arresting than the original "Dracula" film from Hammer but this time
without Christopher Lee and indeed without "Dracula" himself. I'm happy
to report that, like the film's intrepid Van Helsing (Peter Cushing),
they did not accept failure or compromise. Of course that's not to say
that "no expense was spared", but rather to emphasize that in these
early days the Hammer artists and technicians were still carefully
keeping the camera lens focused on the best aspects of their production
in this case lovely Yvonne Monlaur, some well-dressed Bray Studios
interiors, a memorable exterior windmill set-piece, and yet another
unforgettable protagonist courtesy of the great Peter Cushing.
Hammer's best films are a model of efficiency and economy, and this film definitely looks a lot better than it should. Great credit should be given to director Terence Fisher (who directed many of Hammer's best films, including "Revenge of Frankenstein", "The Devil Rides Out" and the original "Dracula") but perhaps even moreso to photographer Jack Asher and art designer Bernard Robinson. The departure of Asher and Robinson in later years was yet another cause of Hammer's decline, and the reason why they were so essential is evident in this film's sometimes breathtaking designs. The sets are so intelligently designed and so well-lit that you really don't even notice how cheap they are not only that but they add a lot to the experience of the film by affecting the audience's mood in overt ways. I love the splashes of deep purple in the background when Van Helsing enters the windmill, for just one example. The film uses a consistent red color scheme to infuse everything with the psychological association of blood and blood-letting. This effectively emphasizes and exploits the fetishism associated with that color and the sensual qualities of the color red.
That's just the first of many fetishes lightly touched upon in this work, though of course it's all done in good taste. Obviously the blood fetish is most pronounced, and the film-makers have done an admirable job of using color film to enhance the appeal in this regard when we do actually see blood on screen it's in small quantities and very effective. The vampire theme is more explicitly associated with homo-eroticism in this film than in any previous horror film I've seen. This became more and more explicit as the Hammer horror cycle progressed, perhaps reaching its zenith in "Frankenstein Created Woman". Here we have both female and male homo-erotic scenes as well as a strong implication of incest between the vampire (David Peel) and his mother (Martita Hunt). In fact Peel is a far more sensual vampire in general than anything I've seen in previous films, highlighted by his light blonde hair and soft features. This makes him a strong contrast to Christopher Lee's animalistic portrayal of the vampire in the first Hammer Dracula film. It was great near the conclusion when Peel emerged with those chains and the look that Cushing gave him . Oh boy! Van Helsing was in serious danger of being the victim of some sado-masochistic "fun" and he was definitely NOT into it! In fact I think other than the great photography and visual style of the movie in general Cushing is it's greatest strength. He is very adept at modulating the level of energy in his performance, and in this film he achieves a steady escalation of emotion and intensity. He starts out as the very dry scholarly type and slowly reveals how deep and emotional, indeed spiritual, his feelings about vampirism are. By the end of the film he's in full action-hero mode, and I found myself clapping and cheering out loud as he put all his impressive physicality on display to vanquish the blood-sucker. Peter Cushing appeared in a lot of bad movies, and usually manages to make them worthwhile. So when he appears in a good role in a good film, it's really something that shouldn't be missed, and something that fans can enjoy again and again.
The film begins by a narrator telling us Dracula is dead..but his
disciples live on to spread vampirism. It's all about a beautiful woman
named Marianne Danielle (Yvonne Monlaur) going to a woman's academy to
teach French. It gets complicated but she ends up spending the night in
castle Meinster. She also meets young, handsome Baron Meinster (David
Peel) who's chained up in the castle by his mother...because he is a
vampire. She doesn't know this and lets him loose. It's a good thing
Dr. van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is around!
OK--this isn't perfect. Some of the plotting is clumsy (i.e.--why didn't the Baron just turn into a bat and fly out of his chains?), Manlaur is a TERRIBLE actress and the fake bats are pretty laughable (I saw the strings at one point!). Still this is just great. It moves quickly and has some great performances by Cushing (of course), Feda Jackson (as Greta--tearing the scenery) and a GREAT performance by Peel. He's sexy, handsome and scary as hell as the vampire. Hard to believe he was FORTY when he did this! Also I'm lucky enough to have a copy of the pristine print they released on laser disc and VHS in the early 1990s. The color is incredible and the picture and sound are crystal clear.
I'm giving it an 8--I WANT to give it a 10 but Monlaur and some clumsy plotting (what happens to the two female vampires at the end?) really work against it. Still--a must-see!
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