The Brides of Dracula (1960)
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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.
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!
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.
"The Brides of Dracula" is a typical vampire movie by Hammer, highly entertaining, with beautiful actresses but also with many flaws. Marianne is a silly woman that makes the movie happens with her stupid attitudes. The ham David Peel is awfully ridiculous in the role of the blonde vampire. It is not explained why the Baron Meinster does not turn into a bat to release from the chains. Who is the creepy man in the beginning of the movie that leaves a log on the road? Why people are so scared of the Baroness if they believe that her son is dead? Why the vampire did not kill Van Helsing and how a red-hot iron together with holy water avoids the victim to turn into a vampire? And the mysterious luggage of Marianne that is never seen? But the secret for enjoying movies from Hammer is to ignore the plot holes and have a good time with the silliness of the story. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "As Noivas do Vampiro" ("The Brides of the Vampire")
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!
Yvonne Monlaur is a beautiful Hammer Glamour Gal of limited acting ability but she's bolstered by her talented co-stars. She is great eye candy, however, as are the two other "brides' Andree Melly and Marie Devereux.
No matter what your film viewing pleasure is,this is Hammer,Terrance Fisher, and Peter Cushing at their best and you won't miss Christophrt Lee at all.
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.
Hammer horrors are always at least visually good, and The Brides of Dracula certainly looks good. In fact it looks fantastic, to me it's one of the best-looking Hammer films. The photography is smooth, rich in colour and enhances the atmosphere rather than detracting and the sets are some of the most sumptuous and atmospheric of any Hammer horror. The music in its most haunting parts positively induces tingles down the spine and while there are a couple of clumsy loose ends the script is one of Hammer's most nuanced. The story is filled with marvellous atmosphere and Gothic ghoulishness and is always compelling and easy to follow, the standout scene is the ending which is like a fairy-tale nightmare come to life.
Terrence Fisher's direction is unflinching and the performances on the whole are very good, especially from a classy and typically impeccable Peter Cushing as one of the best screen Van Helsings and Martita Hunt as a sometimes sympathetic but genuinely scary Baroness, especially in the scene when she's standing behind Monlaur. Freda Jackson is chilling also and chews the scenery with glee(and not in a negative way despite how it sounds) and Miles Malleson brings some amusing comedy that doesn't feel out of place at all. David Peel is nowhere near in the same league as Christopher Lee- then again it's really difficult to follow Lee in any role really- but while a little fey in places he is a worthy and charismatic substitute.
Overall, a near classic if with its weak spots. 8/10 Bethany Cox
David Peel was pretty good as Baron Meinster but just not very convincing as a vampire IMO. Martita Hunt is ideal for the role of Baroness Meinster - she is quite good in this movie. Yvonne Monlaur was very pleasing to watch as Marianne. And Peter Cushing is, once again, smashing as Doctor Van Helsing.
Just some random thoughts on the title of the film because the title is a bit disappointing - yes The Brides of Dracula does fit it to a degree because as they basically said in the beginning narration that Dracula is dead but his brood is still around but maybe a title like "Meinster Manor", "Castle Meinster" or even "The Baron" would have fit the film better. But I guess they needed "Dracula" in the title to help tie in Dr. Van Helsing's part. Hummm... why does a film that surrounds Dracula have to have his name in the title? Personally I would have liked to see this title reserved for Dracula's 3 brides.
Anyway, I would have rated the film higher except for the fact there was a bit of a 30 minute lull.
This time, Van Helsing must battle the young Baron Meinster (David Peel), a vampire and disciple of Count Dracula. The Baron had been chained up by his mother the Baroness (Martita Hunt). Unfortunately, aspiring student teacher Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur), who was staying in their castle for the night, took pity on him and set him free, not knowing the truth about him.
Peel is a handsome, charming, and also convincingly sinister bad guy. Monlaur is pleasing to the eye, although her performance is admittedly a weak link here. Miles Malleson supplies a very welcome dose of comedy relief as a doctor who has interesting methods of preventing himself from becoming ill. Hunt is very good as the Baroness, and Henry Oscar, Mona Washbourne, Victor Brooks, Fred Johnson, and Michael Ripper all provide fine support. But the show is stolen by Freda Jackson as Greta, the Meinsters' insane servant, who in one standout scene lies atop a freshly dug grave and implores the person within to rise. Cushing is of course wonderful. At one point we see something unexpected happen to Van Helsing, but his quick thinking is most impressive.
Co-written by Jimmy Sangster, the script is questionable at times. And the poor bat effect may generate guffaws among some in the audience. But otherwise, this is a good, solid entry in this franchise, worthy viewing for old school horror fans.
Seven out of 10.
With this in mind it turned out to be a blessing when Christopher Lee turned down the chance to do a sequel to "Horror of Dracula" in 1960. Instead, David Peel was cast as the master vampire 'Baron Meinster' in "Brides of Dracula". "Brides of Dracula" has an interesting plot which involves a young teacher, Marie Danielle, journeying to the Lang School in the district of Badstein for the purpose of teaching French & decorum to young girls. She is duped into spending the night at the Chateau Meinster, when the old Baroness, (Martita Hunt) lures her there. At the chateau is the faithful and eccentric old serevant, Greta, wonderfully played by Freda Jackson. There is also a handsome young man who is chained to a pillar near his balcony. In the subsequent scenes, the script explores all of these characters in detail, for which the film is highly regarded. Ms. Danielle (Yvonne Monlaur) unwittingly sets the Baron free, thinking he is persecuted by his mother, not realizing he is a powerful master vampire. She manages to escape, and is aided by Professor Van Helsing, played by Peter Cushing.
The film has a number of very suspenceful scenes, including the resurrection of a beautiful vampire girl from her grave that is strangely erotic to watch. The young vampire is played by Marie Devereux, who is as beautiful and buxom as any hammer actress. Unfortunately, the studio did not give Ms. Devereux any dialogue, and exploited her for her looks only. And so, after this impressive scene, her character is largely forgotten for the rest of the film.
When I saw "Brides of Dracula" in 1960, it contained scenes that are no longer in evidence in any known video release since. I've raised this point repeatedly at conventions and with the publisher of the magazine, "Little Shoppe of Horrors", Dick Klemensen, but haven't received a satisfactory explanation. For example, when I saw the film, I saw scenes in which the Baron takes the blood of the village girl when he first escapes from the chateau, and when he faces down a group of villages who pursue him after the girl's body is discovered. So many people think this is Hammer's greatest film, but I can tell you the film is much more powerful with these missing scenes included. Still, this is a wonderful film to watch, and shows that gothic horror is very effective when it has an aura of eerie beauty and compelling characters.
"Transylvania, land of dark forests, dread mountains and black unfathomed lakes, still the home of magic and devilry as the nineteenth century draws to its close. Count Dracula, monarch of all vampires is dead, but his disciples live on to spread the cult and corrupt the world"
The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula had given Hammer Film Productions enormous success in 1957 and 1958 respectively, it was success that transformed the British film industry's fortunes and put British horror on the map from there on in. The Brides of Dracula is the first of what would eventually be 8 sequels to Dracula, but before it could flourish it had to overcome a major obstacle. Christopher Lee, who had made such an impact as the blood sucking count in the first film, would not return. It's believed a combination of two things prevented Lee's return, firstly he was wary of typecasting and wanted to nail down some other acting roles first, and secondly Hammer didn't want to pay an inflated fee for his services now that he was a name actor.
Is Lee's absence felt? Yes it is. For although in the main, with some nifty writing and a solid plot-the makers have managed to swerve not having Dracula the character in their movie, David Peel's performance as Baron Meinster is weak. Which is a shame because all else around him is gloriously lush. There's a little contrivance dropped in, and a logic plot hole the size of a coffin that involves the Baron being chained up by the ankle (erm, he can turn into a bat can't he?!), but yes, this is a top production that pulses with Gothic atmosphere and features some excellent, and memorable, scenes. With Fisher's direction full of classy shots and Asher's Technicolor photography deliciously ornate, it's one of Hammer's best vampire based movies.
Cushing again is the star, and tantalisingly we are made to wait here for the appearance of his vampire slaying Van Helsing. When we used to watch Hammer films as kids we were always reassured once Cushing showed up, the actor had a class and elegance about him that made us feel safe when the horror began to unfold! Hunt is twitchy and regal in equal measure as Baroness Meinster, Monlaur is pretty and adds some continental flavour to the stew and Freda Jackson is just scary! Were it not for Peel's foppish and fey approach to villainy, it would be well cast across the board. Bernard Robinson's production design is one of Hammer's best (Castle Meinster, The Running Boar Inn, The Windmill) and Williamson's music is in turns ominous and evocative.
From the eye scorching blood red opening titles, to the stunning and ingenious finale (the final shot is a doozy), The Brides of Dracula is a damn enjoyable Hammer Horror picture that's the equal of the first film. 8/10
Brides of Dracula is regarded by many Hammer fans to be the best of the studio's 'Dracula' movies (despite the absence of Christopher Lee in his iconic role as the Count), but I really don't understand the unequivocal acclaim: although Terence Fisher's direction is admittedly impressive, his measured camera-work making the most of the excellent set design and coloured lighting, and Peter Cushing gives another impeccable performance as Doctor Van Helsing, the film certainly isn't without its faults.
The pacing is rather slow at times (particularly before Cushing appears on the scene), the so-so script throws up a few too many unanswered questions whilst taking liberties with accepted vampire lore, and the ending is especially weak (Death by shadow? Really? Is that the best they could come up with?): all of these negative elements serve take the film down a notch or two in my opinion, although one should still be aware that even a flawed Hammer film is, more often than not, still well worth a watch (avoid Brides of Dracula, for example, and you'll miss the wonderfully atmospheric scene in which an old hag, under the control of the Baron Meinster, coaxes a recently 'turned' vampiress from her grave).
1. Incorrect vampire lore:
1a. Van Helsing able to lift the Vampire curse through branding the bite and washing it with Holy water.
1b. Moonshadow windmill (somehow missing the windmill building) able to completely kill Baron Meinster. I can see sunlight doing it, but the Baron is a creature of the night and moonlight should be in his realm.
1c. Baron Meinster entering the school teacher's bedroom without being invited -- which maybe possible if entering the whole school per se was enabled through being invited by the school administrators.
1d. Shacking the Baron. I'm not sure the shackles really works, even if it was silver with holy markings. If so, it might burn the Baron (for Werewolves definitely, Vampires normally not) in addition to holding him. If it doesn't burn him, then what prevents him from tearing it out of the wall or turning into a bat (or mist form) and escaping. From what I can tell, the Baron isn't supernaturally strong as in later Dracula movies.
2. Bad coincidences:
2a. Van Helsing somehow finds Marrianne in the middle of the forest while driving by in a coach. Very unlikely. If she was on the road, I would have bought it.
2b. Running into the con artist doctor who tells Van Helsing about the death at the Girls School.
2c. Greta escapes the priest easily and off screen.
Things unsaid: The Baroness is feeding young ladies to her son. We'll unless she is staking or burning the bodies of his victims, there should be a lot of Brides in the area. So, I assume she or Greta must be disposing of their bodies properly.
Here's what I loved about the movie:
0. Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.
1. Baroness Meinster though creepy wound up being sympathetic. But why wait until sunrise until dispatching her? Unless Van Helsing thinks that it would spare her pain, but he was wrong as she made a sound when he dispatched her. So, that makes me believe that Van Helsing isn't as experienced in Vampire lore as he says he is.
2. The Nurse Greta was sufficiently creepy especially in the scene where she wakes up one of the Baron's Brides from the grave. A very iconic and nice scene. But from Van Helsing's view point, he seems surprised and scared which tells me he's not as experienced as we've seen him in other Dracula movies.
3. Marianne actually being the instrument of her own peril by freeing the Baron. I loved how she tied the key to a handkerchief and threw it to the Baron vs just tossing it.
4. Con artist doctor. I loved how this guy is scamming everyone and is a man of science. The Anti- Van Helsing.
5. The locks dropping off Gina's coffin during the wake and the horse in distress. That was a great scene and extended sequence.
6. Van Helsing being bitten and then using the brand and holy water to un-vampire himself was a cool scene though incorrect vampire lore. Van Helsing rarely gets bitten in the Dracula movies.
7. Using the hot coals by both Van Helsing (to cure himself) and by the Baron to create a fire barrier for his escape and also inadvertently setting the windmill on fire and burning his brides.
8. The windmill shadow was also a cool scene, but I wished it only stopped the Baron long enough for Van Helsing to stake him vs killing the Baron outright.
Overall there was much more to like than to dislike with iconic scenes and a very robust 47 year old Peter Cushing doing stunts.
Peter Cushing is once again superb in his role as the stern Doctor Van Helsing, courageous and brave, battling the vampires at every turn. Yvonne Monlaur is also very pretty in her role as the heroine, and is not the screaming girl we are used to seeing in some other Hammer films. She is more than adequate and quite memorable too. David Peel looks suitably handsome as the Baron, and there is something strange about him which makes him a very good vampire.
There are a number of substantial supporting actors and actresses, such as Martita Hunt, a suitably fearsome old woman, and Freda Jackson who gives a performance which recalls Dwight Frye in some aspects (the manic laughter being one). Miles Malleson turns up as comic relief yet again after his role in Hammer's original Dracula, and it is always a pleasure to see Michael Ripper in a role, however small.
With excellent production values, an appropriately powerful score, and some very memorable scenes, as well as a brilliant ending (truly ingenious), this film is a good, well-rounded slice of Gothic dread from Hammer. There are even some Freudian elements added into the brew. The only criticism would be that the plot is rather shallow and simple, but that doesn't detract from the film at all. A worthy sequel in every sense of the word.
According to IMDb's rating, this seems to be accepted among fans of this series, but I just don't sense it. It doesn't get talked about very often, and I feel it should. It's not as good as Horror of Dracula, but i'd probably rank it as the second best in the series. Like most of the movies in this series. This movie is very lavish, especially the amazing sets. Most people frown upon this movie because of Christopher Lee's absence. David Peel is no Christopher Lee, but he is adequate and fitfully menacing like Dracula should be. This movie has more than enough to overcome Lee's absence. This is a meaningless thing to say in a review. I just wonder why the choice of meal is soup or goulash. I realize this was back in the old days, but it gets a bit redundant. I digress. Peter Cushing is as solid as ever as Van Helsing. He is subtly effective as always, and a joy to watch. Yvonne Monlaur is rather wooden with her thick accent, and moronic character. Her "You've always been so kind to me" act, along with her blasé attitude made me wanna slap her one. How could a woman be this naive? Martita Hunt gives a chilling performance as the Baroness. She's full of class. Freda Jackson is extremely creepy in her role. At first I felt she overdid the hysterics, but that laugh soon began to terrify me. Freda, excellent job. Please stay far away from me! David Peepl acquits himself adequately, as I explained earlier, even if he lacks Lee's imposing presence. The finale delivers thrills in spades with many memorable moments. Chains and ropes only begin to describe the adroit finale
Final Thoughts: David Peel's casting aside, he's not as bad as you may think. I like this movie very much. It has a lot going for it to make it well worth seeing. I don't see why Hammer fans would dislike it