Friday, October 15, 2010

Horror of Dracula (1958)

From the DVD box: “Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, Britain’s Premier masters of the macabre, bring the Horror of Dracula to vivid, full-colour death in this retelling of Bram Stoker’s spellbinding vampire tale. Dracula (Lee), a centuries-old nobleman damned to an eternal half-life, travels from his native Transylvania to London. In the lurid nightlife of his adopted city, he finds new victims. He also finds Dr. Van Helsing (Cushing), a scientist who becomes the Count’s implacable foe in a deadly game of bat-and-mouse.”

This is the first of Hammer’s successful Dracula movies, teaming Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as Dracula and Van Helsing respectively. Batman fans will also recognize Michael Gough (Alfred in WB’s 1989 to 1997 Batman films) as the brother of vampire victim Lucy. Christopher Lee starts out charming when he welcomes Jonathan Harker into his castle, but pours on the menace when he is revealed to be the vampire scourge Count Dracula. I love when Dracula is choking Van Helsing toward the end of the movie and a vague smile begins to slowly creep across the Count’s face when he realizes he’s winning the fight. Cushing is terrific as Van Helsing. He has a cool, calm demeanor compared to the panicked victims around him since the character has studied vampirism all his life and is intimately familiar with the creatures to the point of clinical coldness.

Dracula looks his best when ample amounts of blood are dipping from his mouth, complete with bloodshot eyes. It’s a classic look and is best done with Christopher Lee. Dracula’s defeat in the end is spectacular and very graphic. Note that I said “defeat” as, even though it looks like a death, we all know there are eight (count ‘em – EIGHT!!) Hammer Dracula films after this one.

Zippy pacing, great gory effects, terrific cinematography, and cool characters (like Van Helsing and Gogh’s character Arthur that you want to root for, and Dracula who is undeniably evil and terrifying) make Horror of Dracula a real treat.

4 out of 5.


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