Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hammer Dracula: The Brides Of Dracula (1960)

The Brides Of Dracula
Director: Terence Fisher
Starring: Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, Yvonne Monlaur, David Peel, Freda Jackson, Andree Melley, Henry Oscar, Mona Washbourne
Rated;  Unrated

Please be kind to me.  Say that you forgive me for letting him love me.

Despite being a part of the title, Dracula is nowhere to be found in this film.  However, it is indeed a sequel to Horror Of Dracula as Dr. Van Helsing returns chasing down Dracula's disciples he's left behind.  Christopher Lee apparently was approached to be in this film as Count Dracula, but seemed to want to move on from the role and see what he could land with his new found fame.  In his absence is a still a pretty enjoyable film that sort of feels a bit more unpredictable and slightly unfamiliar with the titular character gone.
Having for some reason never seen this film, I found myself really drawn in with the fairly long opening act.  There was a sense of familiarity with the tavern, but something was different about it.  The carriage rides also proved a little haunting.  And I think some things were changed during the production as there seems to be a notable character here that hops aboard the carriage, then creeps everyone out entering the tavern, hops on the carriage once again and then disappears for the remainder of the film never to appear again.  Oh well, I kind of forgot about him til later on when I was doing some research.  Interesting too, is the Marianne's staying at the manor and her discovery of Baron Meinster.  Its sort of a table turning event as you think his mother is sinister, when really, he's the big bad of this film.  There are a lot of great cinematic moments and camera angles incorporated in Marianne's introduction to him and her freeing of the vampire.
Once again we have a short film, so nothing really feels long, but this one is much lighter on the action.  However, it does dwell on some terrific creepy and taboo (for the time) moments.  I absolutely found a great joy in watching Greta plead for the deceased village girl to rise from her grave.  Terence Fisher apparently wanted it to be like a midwife coaching a woman through childbirth and that's pretty much how it plays.  Fisher however gets some great coverage and this scene is pretty damn creepy to see play out.  Another moment, oddly another vampire rising, is the provocative moment in which Gina rises and attempts to seduce Marianne.  To an audience now, this is nothing and you might not even grab onto it, but it was a massive bit of subtlety back then.  This is almost a start to where Hammer would travel with lesbianism in some of its vampire films later on.  I guess Terence Fisher had a way with vampires rising from the grave in this one.
Peter Cushing is back and ever so awesome once again.  Like the last film, he doesn't show up until the start of the second act (this time clocking in at about the 31 minute mark).  I couldn't help but notice how much his face reminded me of Steven Weber.  Anyway, while he's back, things are sort of different with the vampires and we really get no assessment from Van Helsing other than some contradictory information.  For instance, it was laughed up that Dracula could transform into animals, bats whatnot, but here the Baron wanders around as a big bat on strings.  Yes, its silly, but doesn't hamper the film much.  There are some other little things that sort of bend the rules, but that's the most notable of them.  Back to Van Helsing, he's also such a badass in this movie that he can defeat vampirism.  
Once again, Hammer excels in the sets and costuming department.  Everything is rich and looks very much lived in and natural.  I don't think anything was reused from the previous film.  Even the tavern looks a little different (smaller) this time around.  Aside from one brief staking and the disfiguring of the Baron's face in the climax, its a rather bloodless affair, which is a bummer for Hammer blood-paint aficionados.  The film's climax also seems to borrow form another famous monster in that it resembles the end of Frankenstein.  The burning windmill is where this story comes to its conclusion and you can't help but think of that.  However silly it may be, I do find the windmill shadow of the cross to be sort of epic and cool in the campiest of ways.
For not having Dracula, this movie was pretty entertaining.  I really enjoyed the first act quite a bit, and I never really missed Christopher Lee all too much as I was kinda digging learning and meeting new people and vampires.  This franchise did something very different with a similar concept and introduced and hinted at a couple new directions here.  The Brides Of Dracula may be "skippable" to some because there's no Count Dracula in the thing, but its actually a very worthy followup and good vampire movie in its own right. 

NEXT TIME:  Dracula is an honest to god Prince

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