Tuesday, October 26, 2010

#81. Horror of Dracula (1958) - Hammer Horror Movies

Directed By: Terence Fisher

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough

Tag line: "Who Will Be His Bride Tonight?"

Trivia:  Christopher Lee has only thirteen lines in this film

Horror of Dracula was Hammer Studio’s take on the world’s most famous creature of the night, Count Dracula. The title of this film was changed in the United States (in its native England, it was simply Dracula) to avoid confusion with Universal's classic 1931 Bela Lugosi film, which was still playing theatrically in select areas across the country. 

But after watching Hammer's take on the story, I admit that I don't quite get it. I mean, I understand Universal's trademark concerns, but the fact remains that any confusion between the two movies would have been unlikely. The regulations governing film production at the time prevented 1931’s Dracula from spilling a single drop of blood on-screen. In Horror of Dracula, the red stuff spatters all over the place in the opening credits!

Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) travels to a remote region of Eastern Europe to do battle with the evil Count Dracula (Christopher Lee). But he never returns. 

Back in London, Harker’s good friend Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) informs Arthur Holmwood (Michael Gough), the brother of Harker’s fiancé Lucy (Carol Marsh), that Harker has died abroad, and will not be returning to marry his sister. 

Yet the story doesn't end there. When Lucy falls seriously ill, suffering from a strange case of anemia, all signs point to the fact that Count Dracula has made his way to London. Will the Count continue to build his army of the undead in England, or can Van Helsing end Dracula’s reign of terror once and for all?

Lee, like Lugosi before him, was born to play the infamous Count, successfully conveying Dracula’s sophistication as well as his savagery. We see both in the film's opening sequence, when Harker arrives at Dracula’s castle. During this initial meeting, the Count is ever so polite, and acts more like a butler than the Lord of the Undead. He even carries Harker’s luggage to his room. 

The next time we see Dracula, however, will be under more intense circumstances. That first night, after being lured out of his room by one of the Count’s wives (Valerie Gaunt), Harker finds himself cornered, and seconds away from receiving a bite on the neck. Suddenly, Dracula bursts into the room. With blood dripping from his teeth and wild, bloodshot eyes, The Count battles his deranged wife, quickly subduing her and carrying her off to another part of the castle.

Only two scenes in, and Horror of Dracula has set everything in motion, including Christopher Lee's performance - one for the ages - as Count Dracula.


Anonymous said...

Dracula (1958) was re-released in UK cinemas a couple of years ago with a new remastered print, but I think part of the degeneration of Dracula scene at the end of the film was missing.

- WaveCrest.

DVD Infatuation said...

WaveCrest: Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment.

I would have jumped at a chance to see this film on the big screen, remastered or not, though I'm sure it looked good (a shame about that scene, though).

Take care, and thanks again.