The Horror of Dracula (1958)

Horror of Dracula, 1958; Directed by Terence Fisher; Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing

After a whole week of horror, we’ve finally made it to a Dracula.  Horror of Dracula to be specific. Just as Universal Studios’s 1931 film gave us our iconic Frankenstein in Boris Karloff, with this film Britain’s Hammer Studios gave us the iconic Dracula we all know.  With apologies to Bela Legosi, the bloodthirsty Count completed his transformation from the ghastly, horrifying creature from Nosferatu to the tall, dark and sinisterly handsome gothic Christopher Lee Dracula in this movie.

A sensation when released this film’s technicolor images were the first time we really saw the vivid red blood on the Count’s teeth and his victims.   For some it was almost shocking (blood – BLOOD!!!). And the victorian sets make this, at times,  resemble a costume drama. Sharp eyed movie buffs may recognize Michael Gough – Alfred from the Tim Burton Batman movies – as Arthur.

But it’s how Peter Cushing (perhaps best known to American audiences as the man who signed Princess Leia’s termination order in Star Wars) and Christopher Lee really sink their teeth into their roles as Van Helsing and the Count respectively that truly make this a classic. It also cemented their status as British Stars throughout the world. Lee with his tall, regal physique and booming baritone voice, appeared in many movies familiar with American audiences over the years – including the Lord of the Rings movies as Saruman the white and the Star Wars prequels as Count Dooku. He even recorded a heavy metal record a few years before he passed away in 2015 at the tender age of 93.

After years of making adventure, thriller, and sci fi films, Hammer Studios found it’s niche as a horror studio with 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein and this one ab0ut the bloodsucker.   Soon after, Hammer Horror became it’s own sub genre. When the studio finally closed in the mid 70s, they’d made over 40 horror films, including no less than 8 Dracula sequels. They introduced more blood and sex as the 60s met the 70s, extending into lesbian vampire films.  Though their quality and budgets dropped noticeably by the early 70s (the even made a co-production with the famed Shaw Brothers, who made Hong Kong Kung Fu movies, which is apparently as ridiculous and terrible as one would think).

But in 1958 with Horror of Dracula, Hammer was on top of their game.

Dr. Vorhees