Dracula (1958) [31 Days of Hammer Horror Review]

With Halloween looming large at the end of the month, and Hammer Horror recently making its return to the world of comics courtesy of the fine folks at Titan Comics, we figured now was the perfect time to take a look some of the fantastic Hammer back catalogue.

So this month, Jules is planning to watch every single Hammer Horror movie and share his thoughts with you fine, horror loving people.

You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of Hammer” by CLICKING HERE.

Released: 1958
Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee
Director: Terence Fisher

With their adaptation of Frankenstein being such a huge international success, bringing the team back together for that other A-list horror character must have been the easiest decision Hammer ever had to make.

Universal’s lawyers were still keeping a watchful eye on proceedings, forcing writer Jimmy Sangster to play fast and loose with Stoker’s original plot, compressing events and locations until all that was left was the very essence of the story. In lesser hands, we would have been left with a rushed, bullet-point overview, but it’s to his eternal credit that not only is his version of Dracula utterly enthralling, it’s relentless pace is actually one of its greatest strengths.

We’re thrust right into the action almost instantly, with Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) only pretending to be there as a librarian – he’s a vampire hunter and has Dracula in his sights. Unfortunately for him, he only manages to destroy the Count’s bride (Valerie Gaunt) before succumbing to the vampire plague himself.

From there, Dracula takes it upon himself to replace his woman, firstly with Harker’s finance Lucy Holmwood (Carol Marsh), then her sister-in-Law Mina (Melissa Stribling), with only the knowledge and bravery of Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) standing in his way.

On the surface, it’s a simple plot, but it’s how it’s brought to life that makes this incarnation of Dracula so essential.

Peter Cushing brings another of his iconic roles to life, ensuring his Van Helsing is all steely determination and calm, measured strategy while never veering close to the driven mania that other actors might have been tempted to ladle into the part.

Considering his fairly limited screen time, Christopher Lee is a revelation here. A towering, intense presence every time he appears on the screen, he’s every bit the aloof aristocrat, coupled with a feral, animalistic nature bubbling under the surface. When he speaks it’s quick, courteous but efficient, like someone who knows that everyone he meets is below him. When he moves, for all his looming height, it’s like a big cat- the ultimate predator amongst his prey.

Sure, they worked well on The Curse Of Frankenstein, but here, we properly get to see the real dynamic of the Cushing/Lee team and it’s a real joy to behold.

Add in a tight script, some truly stunning set design and the most dramatic of scores and you have not only one of Hammer’s finest moments, but one of the finest moments of the horror genre itself. Magnificent.

Rating: 5/5.

JULESAV The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

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