Tuesday, June 7, 2011
BRIDES OF DRACULA
Terrence Fisher, 1960
Starring: Peter Cushing, Yvonne Monlaur, Freda Jackson, David Peel
What does Dracula have to do with Brides of Dracula? Absolutely nothing. Aside from a few references to the old boy (in the narrated opening it is made clear that Dracula is dead, but his disciples remain), he, and his brides, are absent from this film. I have no idea why this is called Brides of Dracula, other than an attempt to connect it to Hammer's first, successful Dracula film. Despite that, this is one of the greatest in the Hammer Horror canon. The scenery is beautiful, the well-constructed plot has globs of Gothic perversity, the ladies are as lovely as ever, and Peter Cushing is at the top of his game.
Though it is technically the sequel to Dracula, the only unifying force is Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing. He has taken up a life of solitary wandering to stamp out any evidence of the “cult of the undead” began by Dracula. He arrives on the scene -- again, Germany -- just in time to save the beautiful Marianne. She is traveling alone from France through the countryside to an academy for young girls where she has an appointment to teach. On the way, she stumbles into a perverse and complicated situation where the local Baroness Meinster pays the populace to ignore the fact that she procures young girls for her vampiric son, who is chained up in the castle to prevent him from spreading further evil. Marianne is intended to be one of these girls, but the young Baron Meinster convinces her he is being unjustly imprisoned and she steals the key to free him. In a weirdly incestuous scene, he sinks fang into Mommy dearest, giving Marianne has a chance to run away, hysterical and unsure of what she has seen.
Van Helsing arrives in time to save her and figure out why young girls in the village are dying. By the time he links the deaths to the Baron Meinster, the Baron has several undead brides and has proposed to the still living Marianne. Van Helsing must convince Marianne of the true nature of her gentlemen love before it is too late. On the way, he kicks some serious ass and somehow remains 100% immune to any kind of feminine wiles.
Brides of Dracula is only available in the pseudo-box set The Hammer Horror Series, which contains eight films on, yes, you guessed it, two double-sided discs. I hate double-sided discs. They conserve shelf space, but are unforgivably cheap. Also included in the series are Curse of the Werewolf, Phantom of the Opera, Paranoiac, Kiss of the Vampire, Nightmare, Nightmare Creatures aka Captain Clegg, and Evil of Frankenstein. The set is pretty much worth it just for Brides of Dracula and Captain Clegg, despite the fact that we're stuck with double-sided discs and no special features. Way to be cheap, Universal.