October 05, 2013

Horror of Dracula

I love Peter Cushing. It seems a shame to me that most of my generation only knows him as one of the bad guys in the first Star Wars movie (he was Tarkin). Cushing is one of the reigning icons of the horror genre. He epitomizes the Professor Van Helsing role that has become a staple of modern horror films. (The old-timer who saves the clueless young people from the evil they would never have believed could exist.) Horror of Dracula (1958) was the first of the Hammer Horror Productions' Dracula films. It's a very loose adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel, but it's known more for its casting than its reverence for accuracy. Thanks to Cushing as the fearless Van Helsing and Christopher Lee as the sexy but fearsome Count, this admittedly dated chiller is still worth seeing. The ending is still a wonderful show-stopper, and you can certainly see how many other vampire movies have paid tribute to this one (including Francis Ford Coppola with his 1992 Dracula film, which perfectly imitates the scene where Lucy is branded by the cross). This modestly produced chiller (with blood that looks more like paint --oh how nostalgic it makes me!) was financially successful enough to warrant five sequels, starting with The Brides of Dracula in 1960. Directed by Terence Fisher. With Michael Gough (you may remember him as the crusty old butler in the 1989 Batman) as Arthur Holmwood; Melissa Stribling, Carol Marsh, and John Van Eyssen. ½

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