Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Brides of Dracula, The (1960)


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...
Opening narration to The Brides of Dracula

Towards the end of the last century, somewhere in Eastern Europe, young and beautiful Paris schoolteacher Marianne Danielle is on her way by coach to take up a post at the Badstein Girls' Academy.

The evil Baron Meinster
Her journey is strangely interrupted... and she is persuaded to spend the night at the bleak, dilapidated chateau of Baroness Meinster, once the leading noble woman of the district, but now a strange, embittered semi-recluse. Marianne is attended by an eerie woman servant named Greta. That night she sees in another wing of the chateau the lone figure of a man, who turns out to be the Baroness' son. She inquires why the Baroness had not mentioned him and is told that he is ill - mentally ill.

The girl's pity is aroused when she finds that the handsome young Baron is kept prisoner on a long silver chain. He seems sane and persuades her to steal the key from the Baroness' room and give it to him...

The evil Baron MeinsterLater Greta shows Marianne the old Baroness lying dead in an armchair, her throat dripping with blood. Behind a curtain stands an empty coffin, still bearing the imprint of a man's body.Marianne flees in terror from the mansion...

Van Helsing expunges the vampire taint
Dr. Van Helsing, a young medico-scientist steeped in the lore of the supernatural - who has arrived in the district at the request of the local priest to investigate vampirism in the district - finds her unconscious in the woods.

He takes Marianne safely to the academy, then begins his mission - to free the district from the undead.

Van Helsing knows that he faces many vampires, for the Baron's victims must join him in his damnation. The girls he bites are lured from their graves and brought to him by the demented Greta.

Van Helsing goes out alone to drive stakes through the hearts of the undead to bring peace to their tormented souls. In his absence, the Baron visits Marianne. He proposes marriage and, fascinated by him, she accepts.

Van Helsing confronts the Baroness
In a deserted windmill Van Helsing finds finally corners the Baron, and in the struggle is bitten by him. The triumphant Baron escapes, but Van Helsing burns the vampire's mark out of his flesh by searing it with a white-hot metal bar.

When the Baron returns with Marianne, a duel of wills starts between the men for possession of the girl's soul.As Marianne struggles against the master vampire-man, Van Helsing throws Holy Water in his face. In blind agony, the Baron kicks out at a lighted brazier, overturning the live coals.

As the floor of the mill roars in a sea of flame, cutting them off from the door, Van Helsing drags Marianne to safety up the wooden stairway leading to the grain loft.

Looking down, they see the Baron escape into the mill yard. As the Baron staggers across the yard looking for an exit, Van Helsing leaps on to one of the sails of the mill. He hangs there until, gradually, the sail begins to move. The moon illuminates the sails, which turn to form the shape of a cross, whose shadow is thrown across the moonlit yard.

The Baron screams as he realises he is caught up in the shadow. He twists and turns wildly from side to side, attempting to escape its magnetic clutches before dropping dead.

As Van Helsing and Marianne look down at the Baron's dead body, the whole mill bursts into flames.

With the burning sails of the mill forming a fiery cross in the sky, Van Helsing takes Marianne to safety.

Plot summary from The Brides of Dracula press book, 1960.

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