A young teacher on her way to a position in Transylvania helps a young man escape the shackles his mother has put on him. In so doing she innocently unleashes the horrors of the undead once again on the populace, including those at her school for ladies. Luckily for some, Dr. Van Helsing is already on his way.
Only then will this bondage of hell be lifted from the world.
The Brides of Dracula is directed by Terence Fisher and collectively written by Peter Bryan, Edward Percy, Jimmy Sangster and Anthony Hinds. It stars Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, Yvonne Monlaur and David Peel. Music is by Malcolm Williamson and cinematography by Jack Asher.
"Transylvania, land of dark forests, dread mountains and black unfathomed lakes, still the home of magic and devilry as the nineteenth century draws to its close. Count Dracula, monarch of all vampires is dead, but his disciples live on to spread the cult and corrupt the world"
The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula had given Hammer Film Productions enormous success in 1957 and 1958 respectively, it was success that transformed the British film industry's fortunes and put British horror on the map from there on in. The Brides of Dracula is the first of what would eventually be 8 sequels to Dracula, but before it could flourish it had to overcome a major obstacle. Christopher Lee, who had made such an impact as the blood sucking count in the first film, would not return. It's believed a combination of two things prevented Lee's return, firstly he was wary of typecasting and wanted to nail down some other acting roles first, and secondly Hammer didn't want to pay an inflated fee for his services now that he was a name actor.
Is Lee's absence felt? Yes it is. For although in the main, with some nifty writing and a solid plot - with the makers managing to swerve not having Dracula the character in their movie - David Peel's performance as Baron Meinster is a little weak. Which is a shame because all else around him is gloriously lush. There's a little contrivance dropped in, and a logic plot hole the size of a coffin that involves the Baron being chained up by the ankle (erm, he can turn into a bat can't he?!), but yes, this is a top production that pulses with Gothic atmosphere and features some excellent and memorable scenes. With Fisher's direction full of classy shots and Asher's Technicolor photography deliciously ornate, it's one of Hammer's best vampire based movies.
Cushing again is the star, and tantalisingly we are made to wait here for the appearance of his vampire slaying Van Helsing. When we used to watch Hammer films as kids we were always reassured once Cushing showed up, the actor had a class and elegance about him that made us feel safe when the horror began to unfold! Hunt is twitchy and regal in equal measure as Baroness Meinster, Monlaur is pretty and adds some continental flavour to the stew and Freda Jackson is just scary! Were it not for Peel's foppish and fey approach to villainy, it would be well cast across the board. Bernard Robinson's production design is one of Hammer's best (Castle Meinster, The Running Boar Inn, The Windmill) and Williamson's music is in turns ominous and evocative.
From the eye scorching blood red opening titles, to the stunning and ingenious finale (the final shot is a doozy), The Brides of Dracula is a damn enjoyable Hammer Horror picture that's very much the equal of the first film. 8/10
Hotspur Film Productions Ltd., Hammer Film Productions by Terence Fisher, Jimmy Sangster, Peter Bryan, Edward Percy, Anthony Hinds.
Stars: Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, Yvonne Monlaur, Freda Jackson.
Keywords: parent child relationship castle vampire boarding school gothic horror cult film school teacher hammer horror van helsing vampire slayer vampirism 19th century
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