Horror Of Dracula

Today, we move to my home country for the next stage of our Horror journey, Britain. Hammer Films were the kings of horror in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s before they too developed into silly sequels that needn’t have ever been made…however, in their early years, they racked up some greats and I’m going to be focussing on my favourite of theirs in this post…Terence Fisher’s, Horror Of Dracula!!

I don’t know what it is about the story of Dracula or Dracula films but I just have a huge fondness for them. Like the classic Universal Dracula with Bela Lugosi before it, Hammer’s ‘Horror of Dracula’ is a film I love…despite its radically different style than that of the 1930’s classic. It’s style is one that came to be typical in the vast majority of British horrors of the time…the bright, garish colour and the ‘over the top’ visual style is an aesthetic delight in the film and the gothic elements of Dracula’s castle are stunning.

But you know how much I love the Gothic style of films.

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If this shot from the famous opening doesn’t give you an indication of the tone of the film, nothing will

Where this film really shines is with its performances from two of the three masters of horror at the time. The recently passed Christopher Lee as Count Dracula is, quite differently to Lugosi, less of an aristocratic prescence as he is an intimidating and powerful prescence…definitely the most powerful Dracula ever on film and one who seemed the most difficult to destroy. Lee performs in this incredible way throughout the entire film and his occasional raise to an ‘over the top’ performance perfectly fits in with the tone of the film…in none more so than the legendary climax where Van Helsing creates a crucifix out of candlesticks and forces Dracula into the sunlight to essentially disintegrate.

That’s no spoiler…I’m sure we’re all aware of the story of Dracula.

Speaking of Van Helsing, he is played terrifically by the second master, Peter Cushing and his entrance into the film is directed perfectly…you are waiting for the reveal of Cushing’s face and you are perfectly aware that it is him but you’re waiting and waiting and then when he is revealed, it’s so beautifully downplayed you can’t help but admire director Terence Fisher for it.

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‘Master’ Cushing as Van Helsing

Fisher, in my opinion is an excellent director of the genre, not that I agree with any of his messages in this film, such as his incredibly misogyny or his strong religious views…this is proof that ‘Horror of Dracula’ and all Hammer and Fisher films for that matter are products of their time but that does not mean they cannot be admired and loved today…if you look past the ‘in your face’ religious ideologies and even if you accept that they’re there, you have a great film that knows what it’s saying and says it well whilst also bringing back one of art’s most incredible characters in a fantastic fashion.

Horror of Dracula is probably a more fun, easier to watch version of the Dracula tale and I’m not going to say which version is better because they are so radically different…to have them both in your horror collection is key.

There are many more important Hammer films when talking about British Horror at this time…as well as films from Amicus Productions…but some will come up further along in the journey. Some other key British Horrors from this time include, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), The Mummy (1959), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), The Gorgon (1964), The Devil Rides Out (1968) plus others…

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‘Master’ Lee in his coffin as the Count

I have to give this film credit for introducing me to Lee and Cushing in horror films and for that, I am forever thankful…not many things at all make me say this…but British Horror makes me proud to be British.

Tomorrow we go back over the pond and talk about our first film featuring the 3rd and final master of horror…you know who it is…the man with the great voice…the legend himself and a real personal favourite actor of mine (all three of them are in truth). We’re going to talk about the film that introduced me to this great man, a film from 1959 with an excellent ‘Haunted House’ plot….I’ll leave it to you to figure it out.

Let me know your thoughts on this film in the comments and contact me at morgan@thepurpledon.com if you have any inquiries or suggestions for improvements to posts!

The Journey Continues Tomorrow

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