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Dracula
Horror of Dracula

UK 1958
produced by
Anthony Hinds, Michael Carreras (executive) for Hammer
directed by Terence Fisher
starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling, Olga Dickie, John Van Eyssen, Valerie Gaunt, Janina Faye, Charles Lloyd Pack, Miles Malleson, Geoffrey Bayldon, Barbara Archer, George Benson, George Merritt, George Woodbridge, Paul Cole
screenplay by Jimmy Sangster, based on the novel by Bram Stoker, music by James Bernard, conducted by John Hollingsworth

Dracula, Hammer's Dracula, Dracula (Christopher Lee), Van Helsing, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing)

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) travels to Dracula's (Christopher Lee) castle, supposedly to become the Count's new librarian, but actually he's a vampire hunter in disguise ...but in a moment of carelessness he is attacked by Dracula & his vampire bride (Valerie Gaunt) & incarcerated as blood donor. Of course he eventually manages to escape & finds Dracula & his bride resting in their vault ... but after hav ing killed the woman he notices the sun has already gone down, & Dracula seems to like an early start ...

Days later, Harker's friend & partner in crime (vampire hunting), Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) arrives at castle Dracula to find the count already gone, only Jonathan is left behind ... already turned into a vampire, which forces Van Helsing to stake him ...

Again days later, Van Helsing arrives at Holmwood manor to bring Harker's fiancée Lucy (Carol Marsh) the bad news, but finds out he is not quite as welcomed as he thought, as Lucy's brother Arthur (Michael Gough) thinks he has something to do with Jonathan's death & shields his sister - who has somehow taken ill - from Van Helsing ...

Lucy suffers - as Van Helsing has to learn from Arthur's more appreciative wife Mina (Melissa Stribling) from severe & sudden bloodloss ... the signs of a vampire attack of course, & Van Helsing goes out of his way to save her from being fully vampirized, with means of garlic & cruzifixes ... but to no avail, when Lucy sees through all this & orders servant Gerda (Olga Dickie) to remove the stuff ... & the next day, she's dead.

Arthur Holmwood reacts - understandably - more reserved than ever towards Van Helsing ... Until he hears of Gerda's little daughter Tanya (Janina Faye) regularly taking nightly walks with aunt Lucy, & when he goes to personally check the family crypt, he finds Lucy is indeed gone ... & worse yet, he actually sees her walking around, even attacking him, & only Van Helsing manages to save him now ... Eventually, Arthur even agrees to letting Van Helsing stake Lucy.

Van Helsing & Arthur now take it upon themselves to track down & destroy the vampire, but by & by see all the clues to Dracula's resting place disappear ... Dracula meanwhile hasn't been idle, lured Mina into a trap  & is now using her as a blood donor, with the plans of eventually turning her into his new companion.

Of course, Van Helsing & Arthur eventually learn about this & go out of their way to guard the house (from the outside), but little do they know the vampire has taken residence in the manor's own cellar & has thus direct access to Mina's bedroom ... & when Van Helsing at long last does find out, Dracula kidnaps Mina & dashes back to his castle (which is not all that far away).

Arthur & Van Helsing arrive at castle Dracula just in time to prevent Dracula from burying Mina alive, & ultimately, Van Helsing manages to kill Dracula by exposing him to the rays of the morning sun ...

 

After the unexpected runaway success of Hammer's first gothic Curse of Frankenstein a follow up - using largely the same cast & crew - was only logical ... & could there be a more logical choice than an adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula ? I think not.

But even if this sounds now as if Dracula was nothing more than a quick cash-in on Curse of Frankenstein, this does the movie little justice, it is in fact another triumph of economic storytelling (several of the more boring passages of Stoker's novel are delightfully stressed & unnecessary characters omitted from the book), of stylish colour direction, and of great acting (Christopher Lee's portrayal of Dracula would soon rival that of Bela Lugosi in popularity, & Peter Cushing brings a restlessness & ruthlessness to his character that make him the perfect Van Helsing [or Sherlock Holmes, for that matter]).

As a matter of fact, Dracula did become an even bigger success than Curse of Frankenstein, & Hammer did eventually follow up that movie with 8 sequels in the next 15 years, with not all of them starring both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing (but at least one of them). Christopher Lee did also do 2 Dracula movies away from Hammer, Jess Franco's El Conde Dracula in 1969, and Edouard Molinaro's comedy Dracula Père et Fils in 1976.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD