Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

HORROR OF DRACULA


HORROR OF DRACULA (1958). Director: Terence Fisher.

Peter Cushing (the sole name above the title) is Van Helsing and Christopher Lee appears for the first time as Count Dracula in this creditable version of the venerable old story. Jimmy Sangster's screenplay is an intelligent reworking of the basic storyline with an occasional flash of black humor. A big difference between this Hammer version and the Universal version with Lugosi, is that Dracula has hardly any dialogue and is nearly a mute role (Lee only gets a few lines when he first appears to Jonathan Harker -- John Van Eyssen -- in his castle). There are no parlor scenes with Dracula interacting with or talking to any of the other characters -- he is only seen skulking about or preying on them. The movie is fast-paced and occasionally scary and some key scenes, such as the climax and the killing of undead Lucy (Carol Marsh) in the crypt, are well-staged. One minus: Harker arrives at Castle Dracula in bright sunlight, and some of the sets, especially crypts, are over-lit. The cast is uniformly good, however, and Lee makes a ghoulish and powerful -- if not very sinister -- Dracula. Michael Gough is as delightfully intense as ever as Lucy's brother, Arthur, and Melissa Stribling is fine as his wife, Mina. James Bernard's music is a big help as well.

Verdict: Quite good in fact. ***.

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