THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960) – The Dungeon Review!
Terence Fisher directed several films for Hammer Film Productions. Most of the titles Fisher directed were during Hammer’s heyday in the 1950’s and 1960’s and are some of the studio’s best. Among his outstanding entries are The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Mummy, The Curse of the Werewolf, The Gorgon and The Devil Rides Out. The Devil Rides Out is without a doubt, one of my favourite Hammer films of all time. I contributed a review for The Devil Rides Out to friend of the dungeon Basement Scream’s feature “Six Weeks of Satan” (to read the review click here). Terence Fisher directs The Brides of Dracula with stylish flare and a touch of sexy and the result is positively captivating!
Marianne Danielle has travelled a long distance by carriage to take a position as a teacher in an all girl’s boarding school. Along her travels the carriage driver stops at an inn and leaves Marianne to fend for herself. She is befriended by the Baroness Meinster who invites her to stay at the family estate. The Baroness’ it turns out has a son who she is keeping hidden from the townsfolk. The Baroness does not divulge to Marianne why she is imprisoning her own son only that there is a very good reason for doing so. When Marianne meets the Baron he appears to be ready to jump from the balcony to his death. She comes running to him only to discover he is in chains. The charming and handsome Baron paints a very different picture for Marianne of the reasons he is imprisoned in his own home. Falling for him instantly Marianne rushes to find the key that will unlock his chains. Marianne has no idea the evil she has unleashed, but she soon will.
Despite the lack of Dracula himself, The Brides of Dracula is a sequel of sorts. While Christopher Lee is absent the always excellent Peter Cushing is back as Dr J. Van Helsing. The performances are perfect by the entire cast. Our lovely Teacher Marianne is played by Yvonne Monlaur who is downright adorable. It is she who unleashes the naughty Baron Meinster played with devilish mischief by David Peel. Under the guise of a romantic gesture the Baron lures himself females to grow his vampire army. One of my favourite characters is Greta. Greta was charged to care for the Baron by his mother insuring he stay hidden, tethered and fed. Greta cackles madly at the discovery the Baron has been freed, and fulfills her duties as his human servant. Greta aids with such grim tasks as helping new vamps claw their way out of their coffins! Freda Jackson is fantastic as Greta creating a character that is both amusing and spooky. The icy Baroness Meinster is conflicted and realizes her decision to keep her son alive is a dangerous and foolish one. Marita Hunt plays the Baroness with sophistication and confidence and an air of self importance. There is no mistaking that she is indeed “the Baroness”. Last and certainly not least is the wonderful Peter Cushing. The serious and efficient Mr. Van Helsing can also show sensitivity and concern when necessary. Peter Cushing brings the perfect balance to the role creating a Van Helsing that is both very likable and credible. Cushing would reprise his role as Van Helsing for Hammer several more times after this.
Like most Hammer Films The Brides of Dracula is a high achiever when it comes to its visuals. The sets are just fantastic. The colors and lighting is extremely easy on the eyes and the always lingering red color scheme gives the film a blood soaked vibe. Much of the film takes place in the home of the Baroness and Baron Meinster. The property appears to be absolutely massive and the home and its interiors are divine. The scenes filmed from Marianne’s bedroom balcony are particularly impressive in displaying the enormity of the property. There isn’t much here for effects however and just a glimpse of blood; but The Brides of Dracula is certainly none the lesser for it.
Those crazy nightgowns women wore during the Victorian period were not the gear for running in. Of course all that flowing fabric makes for some pretty pictures. I wonder if any women broke bones falling down those Hammer stairway sets in that Victorian garb? In any case, the costumes are all lovely and impressive; they just are not very practical when you need to run for your life! The story is simple but engrossing and they even add a couple special touches that make this particular vampire tale unique. A steady pace and a thrilling finale seal the deal. Certainly these older Hammer films seem quite subdued and bloodless in comparison to the films that came after. Keeping in mind that color was still a relatively new concept in film; a beautiful gothic horror tale like The Brides of Dracula must have been that much more impressive to audiences.
I have seen The Brides of Dracula probably a half dozen times over the years and I never get tired of it. It is charming, beautifully shot, well acted and chocked full o’mood and atmosphere. An entertaining and well made gothic horror and one of Hammer Studio’s best in my opinion. Highly recommended!
Dungeon Rating: 4/5
Directed By: Terence Fisher
Starring: Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, Yvonne Monlaur, Freda Jackson, David Peel, Miles Malleson, Henry Oscar, Mona Washbourne, Andree Melly