Saturday, October 19, 2013

Night of Terror #18: 'The Brides of Dracula'

One aspect of the Dracula story that I feel gets overlooked in the popular consciousness is Dracula's harem of undead harpies (Stan Lee here, excelsior, I'm old, etc.) who do his bidding and generally act like sexy mini-Draculas. I've always been intrigued by them though, and it's cool to see they got their own movie in 1960 thanks to Hammer Studios.

After I got home late last night I jotted some thoughts on this movie down on Letterboxd, in which I say it's "funnier, bloodier, sexier, more action-packed (or at least action-peppered), and more colorful than almost any other Dracula movie." I still stand by that (except for the subconscious Waffle House reference, which I deeply regret), even as the rapturous post-viewing of this movie fades. I can't overstate the beauty of the color cinematography in this movie - Hammer is famous for their vivid colors, and gushing red blood, deep purple sunsets, and shining white fangs in this movie are all second-to-none.

The movie's one big flaw is embodied by the character of Baron Meinster. When Christopher Lee declined to reprise his role as Dracula for this movie, the filmmakers let him stay dead and replaced him with Meinster, a kind of Dracula sub-boss. The problem is that Meinster is played by David Peel - a fine enough actor I'm sure, but much too whitebread to play the Count (or a Dracula surrogate), and he just doesn't hold his own against the legendary Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.

Speaking of Cushing as Van Helsing - wowwwww. He's great! He exudes quiet confidence and calm in almost every scene, and manages to fight against the movie's giant rubber bats without looking ridiculous. His best scene for me is when he cures a vampire bite by cauterizing the wound with a branding iron - it's an unusually raw sequence for a period horror movie, and completely convincing due to Cushing's performance.

Last thing I'll mention about The Brides of Dracula is the climax, which I won't spoil except to say that Van Helsing's solution for finally defeating Baron Meinster is right out of a pulp novel and I love it. When you work in a field like genre fiction, you end up telling a lot of the same stories over and over, so the real inspiration shines through in details like this one.

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