Horror Of Dracula (UK 1958)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/1/09
Producer: Michael Carreras
Director: Terence Fisher
Cast: Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, Christopher Lee

After the success of "The Curse Of Frankenstein" (1957), Hammer Studios secured the rights to all of Universal's classic monsters and tackled Bram Stoker's "Dracula" next. A breakout role for Christopher Lee, he would play the iconic Count Dracula in several more films before Hammer's demise in the mid 70's. Considered the best of Hammer's "Dracula" films, "Horror Of Dracula" attempts to stick to the source material as closely as possible. A scholar named Jonathon Harker arrives at Dracula's castle under the guise of a librarian, with a hidden agenda to destroy the undead Count. Unfortunately, the vampire king proves to be too much for him and Harker's colleague Doctor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is forced to pick up where he left off. The majority of the film plays out as a mystery thriller with Van Helsing desperately trying to track down the mysterious Count, while Dracula is busy snacking on a variety of lovely ladies.

From the first few seconds of the film you know you're in for a treat, and Hammer's signature look of rich textures and vivid Technicolor is delightful. The film was considered quite scandalous when it first came out, due to its colorful and lingering depiction of blood. Of course, by today's standards it would probably pass as kids fare. Regardless, the production values are superb and the teaming up of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee lends an air of class, dignity, and authority to the proceedings. Lee's Dracula is cool, suave, and sophisticated, but tainted with a sense of rage and self loathing. Cushing's Van Helsing has the cool level-headed logic of a doctor and scientist, but his obsession with the undead could easily push him to madness. Definitely an enjoyable ride for both vampire fans and Hammer fans.