“There is an old neglected graveyard about three miles from here.”

Hammer’s second colour horror entry features Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing again, in a film crafted by the same writer and director as The Curse of Frankenstein. This adaptation of Stoker’s novel emphasizes its sexual themes and forever changed the nature of onscreen vamps.

Horror of Dracula

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Terence Fisher

Written by Jimmy Sangster from the novel by Bram Stoker

Cast

Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing
Christopher Lee as Count Dracula
Michael Gough as Arthur
John Van Eyssen as Jonathan Harker
Carol Marsh as Lucy
Melissa Stribling as Mina
Valerie Gaunt as Vampire
Charles Lloyd Pack as Doctor Seward
Janina Faye as Tania
Miles Malleson as the undertaker

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb

Available on DVD and Video on Demand

Premise:

Van Helsing and his vampire-slaying operatives stalk an ancient Transylvanian vampire—and in doing so, unleash on the broader world the forces they seek to destroy.

High Points:

Lee gives a memorable performance, but the vampire women often draw out the viewer’s attention. Valerie Gaunt’s brief role as Dracula’s bride proves memorable. The scene between Lucy and Tania, developed from the novel’s “Bloofer Lady” incidents (oft-overlooked in the cinematic adaptations)—plays as very creepy indeed.

Low Points:

Too much has been overdone. In addition to the occasionally tortuous dialogue and often stagy performances, the film features seriously overwrought orchestration. Indeed, the soundtrack often brings to mind the old Warner Brothers cartoons. Even in this stylized Gothic world, less can be more.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6. Dracula was already well-staked territory by the time this film came out, but Sangster’s frequent deviations from the original novel (and its subsequent adaptations) allow for surprises and plot twists.

Effects: 5/6. We get the standard-issue graveyard w/ drifting fog. Vampires cannot transform into animals—that would be expensive and, with the effects of the time, probably tacky. However, Dracula’s bride gets a transformation of sorts that has been handled effectively. The studio’s fondness for blood and fangs becomes evident, even early in their horror-history.

Story: 4/6. The film gets to the spooky action faster than its predecessor, and the story departs from its source in occasionally interesting ways.

Acting: 4/6. Lee plays a more physical, animalistic Count, in comparison with Lugosi’s elegant monster. The actors occasionally have difficulty with an overwrought, dialogue-heavy script, which contributes to some unconvincing staginess. Michael Gough as Arthur is at best adequate. Miles Malleson puts in an amusing appearance as an undertaker.

Production: 5/6. This Dracula uses effective sets and impressive period costumes (heavy on the décolletage), elements that would become Hammer trademarks.

Emotional Response: 4/6

Overall: 5/6. The second entry into the Hammer Horror Cycle represents something more than a Universal knock-off. Horror of Dracula holds up better than many Hammer films, and deserves recognition for its place in and influence on horror-movie history. Modern vampires owe much to Hammer and Lee.

In total, Horror of Dracula receives 30/42.

Halloween Countdown 2009

October 3: The Last House on the Left (1972),
The Last House on the Left (2009)
October 10: Zombieland
October 17: Creep
October 24: The Curse of Frankenstein,
Horror of Dracula
October 31: Into the Mouth of Madness,
Paranormal Activity