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October 30, 2006

The Vampire Blog-a-thon: Brides of Dracula

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Terence Fisher - 1960
Universal Studios Region 1 DVD

There are no brides. There is no Dracula. Looking past the misleading title, this is one of my favorite Hammer films. As I understand it, Christopher Lee decided he didn't want to be typecast as everyone's favorite vampire, forcing the film to be re-written. Not everything in the script was revised as a film titled The Vampire's Fiancee would have little marquee value.

Brides remained vivid in my memory as a film I had to see following a preview at a "kiddies' matinee" back in 1962, in Hackensack, New Jersey. Preceding the double feature of Roger Corman's Attack of the Crab Monsters and Herod the Great, I saw the previews of several horror movies. Dr. Blood's Coffin and The Leach Woman looked pretty thrilling, but nothing hooked me like the glimpse of those buxom Hammer girls. For a ten year old boy, this was about as hot as possible. As I had moved from New Jersey just a week or so later, I never was able to go to that theater, instead waiting over thirty years, when Brides of Dracula was available on videotape.

Screenwriter Jimmy Sangster and company fudge things a bit by having the chief vampire named Meinster. I guess the name was chosen since it sounds like monster, and muenster would have been, well, too cheesy. I also have always wondered if this film inspired Roman Polanski's Fearless Vampire Killers. David Peel's Baron Meinster is an effete dandy compared to the towering malevolence of Christopher Lee. While Baron Meinster is resolutely heterosexual in his choice of victims, his refined appearance suggests the movies' first metrosexual vampire.

While Meinster's victims provide the eye candy, the best performances belong to Martita Hunt as the Baron's mother, and the hilarious Mona Washbourne as the clueless head of a girls' boarding school. One may think of the derogatory term, usually directed at older women, "You old bat".

I don't know whether credit goes to Terence Fisher or to Production Designer Bernard Robinson, but Brides of Dracula is worth noting for its use of color. Between the sets, costumes and use of colored gels, the film is awash in reds, blues and purples. The story arc is somewhat routine because we all know that Peter Cushing's Van Helsing will vanquish the vampires at the very end. Having the shadow of a windmill become a crucifix is a neat trick. But overlooking any deficiencies in the narrative, Terence Fisher would never be quite as stylish a filmmaker as he was with Brides of Dracula.

For more "Children of the Night", click on The Film Experience link.

Posted by peter at October 30, 2006 12:02 AM

Comments

This sounds like an interesting film, in spite of its deficiencies.

Posted by: Tuwa at October 30, 2006 01:14 PM