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.
Starring: Peter Cushing, Yvonne Monlaur, David Peel
Director: Terence Fisher
Hammer had already broken the obvious sequel mode with the Monster-free Revenge Of Frankenstein, but having a film called Brides Of Dracula and not actually having the Prince Of Darkness himself in it? Now that’s brave.
As if turned out, not only would it be arguably their finest vampire film, it would be one of the finest Gothic horrors the studio would ever make.
Bolstered by the validating presence of Peter Cushing, back as the heroic Professor Van Helsing, Brides Of Dracula has a wonderfully nightmarish feeling to it and stands alone in the Hammer catalogue, for as much as what it does have going for it as for what (or who) it is missing.
Dracula is dead, but his disciples live on to spread the cult of the vampire and corrupt the world…
Marianne Danielle (Yvonne Monlaur), a young schoolteacher en route to a new appointment, ends up spending the night at Castle Meinster, as a guest of the local Baroness. She discovers her son (David Peel) in chains and is tricked into releasing him, little suspecting he is a vampire who had been turned years ago and imprisoned by his mother who did did not have the heart to stake him.
After escaping the castle with only a touch of amnesia, Marianne is found by Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), who escorts her to her new school.
Unfortunately the Baron had already been there, killing one young woman already and had his sights on adding some more victims to his retinue, including Marianne.
Considering the lack of Christopher Lee’s iconic vampire, Brides Of Dracula is arguably Hammer’s finest sequel to the 1958 classic.
By this point they had settled into a groove and knew exactly what worked and what didn’t. The set design and colour palette on show is glorious, taking full advantage of what was available to them.
Cushing has rarely been more heroic as he is here. From swinging on a rope in his best Errol Flynn style and a ragged battle with Peel’s vampire Baron to burning the vampire infection out of himself with fire and his final desperate attempt to finish him off by pulling the blades of a windmill into a cross, Cushing’s Van Helsing is an action hero, albeit a slightly older and very academic one. He knows his stuff, but can take care of business too. Saying that, he’s not all business, showing a lovely turn of empathy to the Baroness on discovering her son has turned her. In other hands it would have been a simple staking, but Cushing as ever, pitches it with the humanity that always makes him so appealing as an actor.
In taking the lead vampire role, David Peel is no Christopher Lee, but he gives an interesting angle all the same. This is a film about how there are different kinds of vampires, so a more restrained and sly take makes a change from Lee’s powerful and animalistic predator. More content to let his minions do his dirty work for him, the Baron is subtle enough that he can still strut about the village as if he was just an average nobleman, down to woo the lovely Marianne to be his actual bride.
Speaking of his minions, a real highlight is the foul hag Greta, (Freda Jackson) who’s scene cackling with glee as a newborn vampire girl claws her way up from the grave is one of the darkest and most brilliantly unsettling Hammer would ever come up with.
Much like Revenge Of Frankenstein proved a Monster wasn’t essential, Brides is evidence that Dracula isn’t a deal breaker for a vampire film. All you need is Peter Cushing and a good script and you have another classic on your hands.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy