Transylvania, land of dark forests, dread mountains and black unfathomable lakes. Still the home of magic and devilry as the nineteenth century draws to its close. Count Dracula, monarch of all vampires is dead. But his disciples live on to spread the cult and corrupt the world…
Notable for being Hammer Studio’s second vampire film, The Brides of Dracula (1960) set the tone for its progeny; that is:
- Heaving bosoms of about-to-be-bitten Victorian-era-dressed young women
- Rattling stage coaches attempting to outrun some kind of evil – obviously shot during the day with a night filter
- A fairly well-kept castle/lair at the crest of a small mountain, replete with a kind of a Naugahyde ambience
- Cowardly, ill-dressed townspeople who want nothing to do with potential vampire victims
- A vampire boss who doesn’t seem to have enough to do with his time
- A beautiful, leading actress who really doesn’t seem to have enough to do with her time
OK, enough. Add to the trope.
The film is notable for an odd Oedipal implication – with Baron Meinster, the chief fang man, draining off his mother, the Baroness. There’s no need for this matricide – except it does deepen the often-monochromatic character of vampire villains.
Ah, the villain: what to make of David Peel, with his surfer-blonde coif? This seems a warmup for a more broad-based role, perhaps the love interest in a Charlotte Brontë-based film. He is without Christopher Lee’s menace or Gary Oldman’s pathos. His performance suggests a vampire battling chronic health issues.
Peter Cushing, a Hammer Studio stalwart, drops in as the fiend-fighting Dr. Van Helsing. It’s to Cushing’s credit that he can take such a thin role and raise it from the grave.
Brigitte Bardot lookalike Yvonne Monlaur engenders a certain je ne sais quoi – but her character is so aggressively brainless that any empathy we may feel derives from pity, not protection.
Anyway, the women aren’t really Dracula’s brides, unless Transylvania had some bizarre co-habitation legalities – which is entirely possible because, I mean, it did/does have a lot of vampires walking around.
The Brides of Dracula helped Hammer Studios establish a stylistic framework for a successful run of horror films throughout the 1960s – and for that alone, its worth 85 minutes in a B-movie crypt.
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