Horror of Dracula (1958) Review
Written by: TerrorCorner
1931 saw the release of Universal Studio's "Dracula" starring Bela Lugosi- an iconic film in its own right when it comes to the horror genre. After the success of the British film company, Hammer Films' movie "Curse of Frankenstein", Universal granted Hammer Films the right to remake many of their classic horror movies. "Dracula" was one of these, which was released in the United States in 1958 as "Horror of Dracula".
Jonathan Harker, a vampire killer, has been invited to serve as librarian for Count Dracula. After he's turned into one of the undead, it's left to his friend Dr. Van Helsing to continue the mission of destroying the foul Count Dracula before he claims more victims...
The Hammer Horror films are part of the reason I became a fan of horror movies- the Dracula series in particular. Because of their impact on me as a kid, I have a big soft spot for them in my heart.
Well, in a word, they're fun to watch. As a kid growing up in the 1970's, they were vibrant, dark, scary fun movies. Even now, as an older person, they're still vibrant, dark (though not necessarily scary) fun movies.
The sets were large, theatrical, and alive with texture and colour- as were the costumes. The technicolour film exaggerated the colours, making them like moving comic books. The acting was also large and theatrical- Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing filled the screen with they actions and voices. The whole movie was large and theatrical- and to a young boy, thrilling and exciting.
I mentioned that this movie was like a moving comic book- and it is. The colours remind me of the bright illustrations in classic horror comics like EC's "Tales From the Crypt". The redness of the blood stands out vividly against the pale colour of a victim's neck- riveting your eyes on it. The sets seem almost illustrated in their grandness.
And the acting- oh, the acting! The pairing of Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, and Christopher Lee as Dracula is one of those teamings that has righfully earned a place in the pantheon of icons. Christopher Lee's cold, penetrating gaze and smooth voice rolled across the screen with menace and death. As a kid, I would quake at the close-ups of those eyes, fearing that I'd feel the bite of his fangs if I blinked.
And Peter Cushing, Van Helsing radiated safety, courage and determination. You knew that he wouldn't let the evil take another pretty woman (and honestly, who can forget the beautiful, buxom women that Dracula got to nibble on, eh?). The boy I used to be used to sigh with relief when he'd show up and battle the Count. He had a strong, scholary look that made you believe that HE knew what he was doing.
Let's not forget the women. Melissa Stribling as Mina, Carol Marsh as Lucy, Valerie Guant as the Vampire Woman. Stunning women all of them- enough to make any sane man want to bite them. But besides their beauty, they were great actresses in their roles too.
The camerawork was simple- theatrical almost, but quite effective in projecting the grandness of the settings. The use of the widescreen format was excellent. The shot of Jonathan Harker examining his neck is amazing, with the combination of the widescreen and the technicolour.
Back when it was released, the blood was almost scandalous. Today, it would be considered tame. Personally, I LIKED how it wasn't just splashed all over the place- it was discreet and almost theatrical in nature. As a kid, the sight of the thin, bright red trails of blood travelling down the necks of the victims, and Dracula's chin was enough to stick in my mind and keep me huddled under the blankets for a week afterwards.
Sad to say, this movie probably wouldn't be enjoyed as much by most "modern" horror fans... but for those of us that grew up on these types of films, they'd probably still be as fun and entertaining because of the fond memories of our youthful viewings. For me, I will always have a special place on my DVD rack for the Hammer Horror films- especially this one.