Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Hammer Times - The Horror Of Dracula!
1958's Horror of Dracula is one of my favorite Hammer films. This is the one which gave us the great Christopher Lee as Bram Stoker's immortal Count. The movie got the green light after the success of The Curse of Frankenstein the previous year, though the path to the theaters for this classic remake was a twisting one indeed. Along with Lee, we have Peter Cushing as Professor Van Helsing and the whole shebang is directed by Terence Fisher using a script by Jimmy Sangster.
The story is at once familiar but different enough to hold the interest throughout. I've always been particularly taken by the first half hour which focuses on Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) as he visits the castle of Dracula posing as a librarian. It's in these scenes only that Dracula (Christopher Lee) ever speaks and we are allowed to see the polished nobleman who contrasts with the bloodthirsty fiend of the rest of the flick. The story is wise to shift as it does to Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) as he follows up on Harker who had been working in league with him. I prefer a Harker who knows what he's getting into, it worked well. Now the balance of the movie shifts to the home of Arthur and Mina Holmwood (Peter Gough and Melissa Stribling) and we see the corruption of Harker's love Lucy Holmwood (Carol Marsh). The story is nicely compact and has a great pace.
Lee's Dracula is laced with a casual brutality that can still be shocking even today. The way he casually tosses a body into a grave, the manner in which he coldly looms over his prey are pretty chilling. In contrast Cushing gives us a Van Helsing with some decent characteristics, he's polite but determined. The finale is a pretty good one.