The Brides of Dracula (1960)

Director: Terence Fisher

So, obviously it’s October, which means it’s horror time, and that in turn will likely mean a certain amount of Hammer making an appearance here. As such, I thought we may as well kick off with this example of same… which was supposed to be a proper “Dracula” film until Christopher Lee turned up his nose at it, whereupon it was retooled somewhat. Clearly that retooling didn’t extend to the title, which is misleading at best (and the “brides” don’t exactly do much of anything)… Still, we may not have Dracula per se, but we do at least have Peter Cushing as Van Helsing to provide at least some continuity and a substantial part of the reason to watch the film. The story of which goes like this: nice young woman travelling through Transylvania encounters the Baroness Meinster en route to a new place of employment, consequently learns about her “mad” son, the Baron, who she keeps locked up for the good of one and all; foolish girl then sets him free, but because the title of the film features the name “Dracula” we know there’s something other than mere madness going on here. It’s up to Van Helsing to wipe out the vampiric threat and keep the nice young girl safe from the Baron’s affections… David Peel, alas, was not Christopher Lee (he seems to have left acting behind entirely not long after this), and the Baron doesn’t have quite the same bite (sorry) that the Count does, nor the same sort of menace. On the other hand, he does have a couple of interesting moments; for one thing, he turns his own mother into a vampire—what a shame Freud never lived to see this film—and near the end of things he takes a bite out of Van Helsing too. That was kind of unexpected, and actually raised the stakes (sorry again) a bit near the end, cos, you know, he can’t become a vampire, can he? Indeed, he effects a somewhat painful self-cure that’s one of the more startling things in the film. Second-tier Hammer, then, but even second-tier Hammer can have its pleasures, and for all its faults Brides of Meinster still has those; Cushing’s always watchable, Hammer’s cheap and cheerful production values still come through, and the graveyard scene in which Meinster’s servant encourages one of his brides to pull herself out of her grave is weirdly unnerving in its own way…

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