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Monday, September 19, 2011

Horror of Dracula

        London's Hammer Studios had just scored a smash hit with  "The Curse Of Frankenstein"in 1957, and had successfully put a new spin on Mary Shelley's classic tale.  So it only made sense to follow that one up with the studio's own re-telling of the immortal Count Dracula. "Horror Of Dracula", released in 1958, would be the first of Hammer's wonderfully atmospheric Dracula series.

     "Horror of Dracula" is another lush, Technicolor take on Stoker's novel that became the first vampire movie to incorporate blood, red eyes, and fangs, actually.  There is an unsettling, eerie vibe in pretty much all of the Hammer productions, especially the Dracula series.  Take for instance Dracula's castle- it's nightmarish, creepy, and just plain weird looking.  It's like something hallucinated in a fever dream.  The sunlight also works well in these movies.  Those sun-dappled woods for some reason really gets to me. I can't quite put my finger on what exactly it is, but something about these movies creep me out.

     Director Terence Fisher got rid of the cobwebs, howling wolves, and other Gothic trappings of  Browning's "Dracula", and completely retold the classic story. Christoper Lee makes a fantastic Dracula- with his bloodshot eyes and fangs dripping blood, he is truly startling and eerie.  I would have to say Christopher Lee's Dracula is one of the most frightening of them all- there is just something about Lee and that damn creepy castle that's downright chilling. He inherits the role from Lugosi and completely makes it his own.  And of course Peter Cushing brings to life in my opinion the most iconic Van Helsing of any Dracula film.  He simply is the character.  Critics were shocked and outraged over the explicit bloodletting and Technicolor gore, but the movie is quite tame compared with movies of today.

     Although based on Stoker's famous novel, they don't even bother staying true to it.  Director Terence Howard and writer Jimmy Sangster simply take the characters and make up their own rules along the way.  And it actually works quite well.  Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee successfully re-invented the classic monsters from Universal, and although it makes several deviations from the original novel by Bram Stoker and the Bela Lugosi film version, there is something truly riveting about this re-telling.  It's a gorgeously eerie film that looks sensational.

         "Horror of Dracula" is considered by many horror fans to be one of the greatest vampire films ever made- and it certainly is one of the most gorgeous to look at.  It's truly a lavish production.  These films are marvelous, even the bad ones- and they are strangely addictive as well.  When the mood for Hammer hits, it hits hard.  And these films are perfect to watch in October.  Or any time of the year, for that matter.  Good stuff.  Good stuff, indeed.


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