Saturday, June 18, 2011

Brides of Dracula (1960)

Synopsis


The Brides of Dracula is a 1960 British Hammer Horror film directed by Terence Fisher. It is a sequel to Hammer's original Dracula (USA: Horror of Dracula) (1958). Alternative working titles were Dracula 2 and Disciple Of Dracula. Dracula does not appear in the film (Christopher Lee would reprise his role in the 1966 Dracula: Prince of Darkness) and is mentioned only twice, once in the prologue, once by Van Helsing.



Also Known As
  • Les Maitresses De Dracula (France)
  • Las Novias De Dracula (Spain)
  • Le Spose De Dracula (Italy)
  • Dracula: Blodtörstig Vampyr (Sweden)
  • Dracula Und Seine Bräute (Germany)
  • O Exorkistis Tou Drakoula (Greece)
  • As Noivas de Drácula (Brazil)

Taglines

  • He turned innocent beauty into unspeakable horror!
  • The most evil Dracula of all!

Main Details

  • Released in 1960
  • Color
  • Running Time: 85 Min.
  • Production Co: Hammer Films
  • Distribution Co: Universal Pictures

Cast and Crew

  • Directed by Terence Fisher
  • Written by Jimmy Sangster, Peter Bryan & Edward Percy
  • Starring Peter Cushing, Freda Jackson, Martita Hunt, Yvonne Monlaur, Miles Malleson, Henry Oscar, David Peel, Victor Brooks, Mona Washbourne, Michael Ripper, Andree Melly
  • Produced by Anthony Hinds & Anthony Nelson-Keys
  • Original Music by Malcolm Williamson
  • Cinematography by Jack Asher
  • Film Editing by Alfred Cox & James Needs

Production

  • Most of the interior shots were done at Bray Studios. The exterior shooting locations were in nearby Black Park and Oakley Court.
  • The ending was to have originally had the vampires destroyed by a swarm of bats. This ending was rejected by Peter Cushing as being too magical for the Van Helsing character. The concept of this ending was used three years later for the climax of Hammer's Kiss of the Vampire.

Film Review


Despite Christopher Lee’s refusal to reprise his role as the caped Count Hammer studios proceeded with a follow up to their 1958 box office hit Dracula without him and the result is one of the company’s most exciting, suspenseful and visually enchanting productions. A voiceover narration informs us that although the lord of the undead Count Dracula has been destroyed his vampire spawn are still at large.
Stranded on route to an appointment at a girl’s school in the Transylvanian town of Badstein (as if the name weren’t warning enough!) French teacher Marianne Danielle accepts an invitation from the Baroness Meinster (that’s German for ‘monster’ I believe) unaware that their meeting is far from accidental.
The Baroness has a foppish son who she keeps chained up in his room and who is apparently afflicted by a mysterious illness. Taking pity on the handsome young man Marianne is coerced into setting him free and he wastes no time in exacting a terrible revenge upon his mother for holding him prisoner. The Baron is in fact a vampire and his so-called ‘illness’ is an undying hunger for human blood!
Having fled the nightmare castle Marianne is rescued by famous vampire hunter, and all-round scholar of the weird, Dr Van Helsing who is intrigued by her story. Having delivered Marianne safely to her new place of employment he visits the grave of a recently murdered village girl only to find Gita, the Baron’s nurse maid, whispering encouragement into the dirt like some ghoulish demented mid-wife. While he watches in stunned silence a new vampire is born, clawing it’s way out of the soil.
An attack by a giant red-eyed bat leads the Doc to Castle Meinster and he discovers the Baroness too is now one of the undead, her son’s incestuous ‘kiss’ having passed on the vampire’s curse. Van Helsing must act quick to stop the plague from spreading and with the Baron eyeing the girl’s school like it’s a well-stocked fridge full of fresh meat there may soon be a whole harem’s worth of brides for Dracula.
Jimmy Sangster’s initial script had been called ‘Disciple Of Dracula’ and did not feature Van Helsing but with Peter Cushing set to star and Christopher Lee out of the picture re-writes were a necessity.
Cushing is, as always, superb as the determined and scholarly vampire slayer. Never simply just delivering his lines and hitting his mark every gesture, every turn of phrase is embellished with carefully observed details designed to lend the character gravitas and authority even when expounding the most outlandish supernatural mumbo-jumbo. Also notable is Cushing’s athleticism. Only once is a stunt man’s contribution apparent, otherwise Cushing leaps, bounds and buckles his swash in true Errol Flynn style emphasising that Van Helsing is a man of prowess both physical and intellectual.
Special mention should also go to Martita Hunt as Baroness Meinster who brilliantly portrays the guilt, shame, loneliness and grief of a mother who has lost a son but continues to find victims to feed the beast he has become. Although David Peel’s Baron lacks the predatory sexual menace of Christopher Lee’s Count he’s none the less a charmingly perverse libertine mummy’s boy.
The gorgeous Yvonne Monlaur makes a charming and vivacious heroine. I would have paid a lot more attention during French lessons if she had been my teacher. You can see more of her in other British thrillers: ‘Circus of Horrors’ and ‘The Terror of The Tongs’.
‘Brides of Dracula’ is full of stunning set pieces and Terence Fisher’s direction confidently builds the suspense and drives the action. Highlights include: the graveyard birth of the vampire girl; Van Helsing purging himself of a vampire bite with a hot branding iron and a splash of holy water; and the climatic use of a windmill’s sails to cast a shadow over the blood-sucking Baron. Bernard Robinson’s extraordinarily detailed set designs even manage to surpass those of the previous film. The windmill set especially is an abundantly cobwebbed work of art. Director of photography Jack Asher’s use of candy coloured spotlights in certain key scenes adds to the fairy tale ambience in a way that would later become a trademark of Mario Bava’s gothic fever dreams. Costumes, make-up and music are all sublime and for many of Hammer’s skilled technicians this film may well contain their best work.
Christopher Lee would return for the next instalment in Hammer’s Dracula series 1966’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness but Peter Cushing wouldn’t appear again until Dracula A.D. 1972.
Reviewed by Narcan – 24 OCT 2010

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