Saturday, June 14, 2014

#1,398. The Brides of Dracula (1960)

Directed By: Terence Fisher

Starring: Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, Yvonne Monlaur

Tag line: "He Turned Innocent Beauty Into Unspeakable Horror"

Trivia: Christopher Lee was approached to reprise his role as Dracula for this film, but turned it down. As a result, the script had to be reshaped

Hammer’s follow-up to their 1958 hit Horror of Dracula, The Brides of Dracula introduces us to a completely different vampire: Baron Meinster (David Peel), a Transylvanian aristocrat who, at the start of the movie, is being held against his will, chained to the wall in a back room of his palace by his mother, the Baroness (Martita Hunt). Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur), a pretty French teacher who was invited by the Baroness to spend the night, takes pity on the Baron and helps him escape. Soon after, Marianne flees the castle and passes out in the surrounding woods, where she’s spotted by Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). Having come to Transylvania at the request of the local priest (Fred Johnson), who has his suspicions about the Baron and Baroness, Van Helsing soon realizes he’s dealing with another undead monster. Still unaware that the Baron is a vampire, Marianne falls in love with the Baron, and eventually accepts his marriage proposal. Can Van Helsing defeat Baron Meinster in time, or will Marianne become another victim, forced to spend an eternity as one of the vampire’s brides?

While Christopher Lee, so effectively creepy as the title character in Horror of Dracula, is nowhere to be found, Hammer’s other stalwart, Peter Cushing, reprises the role of Van Helsing, giving The Brides of Dracula a link to the previous movie while turning in yet another of his many solid performances (he plays the character as if he were a 19th century super hero). The film’s later scenes, where Van Helsing faces off against the Baron, are easily the best, culminating in a showdown that features plenty of interesting twists. Fans of fast-paced horror will likely enjoy the second half of The Brides of Dracula, but odds are their attention will wander a few times during the film’s first half, which is long on dialogue and short on action. As for David Peel, he does a fine job as the sophisticated Baron, yet isn’t a very convincing vampire (Lee’s menacing stare in Horror of Dracula could send a shiver up your spine, whereas Peel is far too charming to give anyone the creeps).

Still, with its gothic atmosphere and impressive sets, coupled with Cushing’s performance, The Brides of Dracula proves to be a decent entry in Hammer’s Dracula series, and a good example of what put the studio on the map in the first place.

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