• Horror Of Dracula (1958) – Serviceable and fascinating vampire procedural, 6/10.
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~~ Script ~~
Straightforward and competent. Produced on small budget of only £81,000, this Terence Fisher horror film was released in May of 1958. Unsurprisingly, this updated remake was an international hit – and helped Hammer Films secure the rights to Universal’s entire library of horror classics. The first entry in a nine-picture series, the short 82-minute feature wastes no time getting right to the blood-sucking action; which is on display in vibrant Technicolor. After vampire hunter John Van Eyssen going missing after accepting a job at the Count’s lavish castle, Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing begins an investigation to find him.
Although top-billed, the sharply-dressed Cushing doesn’t appear until a third of the way into the 82-minute picture – but his commanding presence and authorities intellect make him a worthy hero. There have been dozens of interpretations of the Van Helsing character over the years, but Cushing’s steadfast turn is definitely my favorite.
Opposite him as the titular vampire is English legend Sir Christopher Lee. His menacing performance is outstanding and occasionally scary, but he’s regretfully absent for most of the middle hour. Beneath his welcoming facade is a layer of contempt and lust, as he almost mockingly wishes his guest goodnight with a dismissive, “Sleep well, Mr. Harker.” – one of only thirteen lines for him in the entire film. The two future Star Wars villains make for an excellent pairing – especially during their intense final showdown, capped off with some marvelous special effects work.
Elsewhere is Michael Gough – whom you likely know as “Alfred” in the Michael Keaton Batman films – as the husband of Dracula’s victim. His partnership with Cushing borders on a full-on bromance, but their analytic approach to the mysterious forces at work is reasonably interesting.
There’s nothing particularly showy or even memorable in this picture – but its even-keeled approach means there’s not many mistakes either. “Horror Of Dracula” is a serviceable and fascinating vampire procedural – and a GOOD film.