|ILLUSTRATION BY KRISTIAN RODRIGUEZ|
I first saw this film when I was about 10 years old when the BBC were doing late night showings of all the classic Hammer Horror movies.
I have always been big into horror movies for my whole life, so when I was introduced to the world of Hammer it was a great part of my childhood. I would set the VCR to record these films shown way past my bed time and I would watch them the next day. I would watch them over and over again for many years to come.
This is the first outing for Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Dr Van Helsing. This on screen rivalry/partnership would go on for decades to come and even crossed over into other films time went on.
The movie is based on the Bram Stoker book and tries to keep on that path. However due to there already being a Dracula movie from 1931 starring Bella Lugosi from Universal pictures they had to re-title this one to the Horror of Dracula instead of just Dracula in the US. This film also swaps around some of the characters and situations from the book as well.
No one can get mad about this one playing around with the details from the book, as not ONE Dracula movie EVER made has stayed true to the actual book by Bram Stoker.
If you know the story of Dracula then you know the story of this movie.. well in a way. The movie is about a young English man who goes to work as librarian for Count Dracula in his castle in Transylvania. While there, the man is bitten by a lady vampire who has been kept a prisoner for god knows how many years. The man (Johnathan Harker) knows that they are vampires and decides he is going to put a stop to this and drives a stake through the lady vampires chest. He has no such luck with Count Dracula and dies for his efforts.
The count then packs his coffin for London and this is where the real fun starts. He starts feeding on Johnathan Harker's fiancee (Lucy) and then starts terrorizing everyone apart from one man.. our fearless vampire hunter Dr Van Helsing played by Peter Cushing. The rest of the movie is about stopping count Dracula and lifting his evil vampire curse he is spreading.
This movie is a timeless classic and my favorite Dracula movie of all time. This movie takes us where the 1931 masterpiece simply wasn't allowed to. This movie gave us color and plenty of, it as well as lots of blood which was very evidently missing in Universal picture. The casting of Lee as count Dracula is maybe one of the greatest casting decisions ever in movie history.
Lee had the best on screen presence as Count Dracula. Standing in at 6"5 Christopher dwarfed other cast members which made him being able to carry away women with ease much more believable. Not just the size but the fact he is a great actor and the fact he has the perfect look makes him the measuring stick (in my opinion) when it comes to playing count Dracula on the big screen. Sorry Bella Lugosi! You were great as Dracula but Christopher Lee perfected the role.
Peter Cushing is the best (and only real person to nail the role) actor to ever play Dr Van Helsing the arch nemesis of Count Dracula. The partnership and chemistry between Cushing and Lee is something magic and something we may never see again in horror or cinema in general. Cushing had a great warmth to him, the kind of person who makes you feel safe and someone you can believe in. Many leading men have tried to slay the monsters and baddies of the years but most of the time the monster is more remembered than the leading guy who slayed him. With Peter Cushing you knew some how some way this bloke was going to get shit done and in glorious fashion. Cushing would later play villains here and there but he will be best remembered for being the guy who can put the boots to Count Dracula.
The Horror of Dracula really is a fun film to watch and considering today's standards the blood and guts are very tame. At the time however it was deemed too much and a lot was cut out of this movie. I recently heard a film institute in Japan found a few reels with over 36 minutes of cut footage of this movie. This has been added on blu ray as well I have been told. Dracula is the most portrayed character in cinema history and there are literally thousands of Dracula movies to choose from. If you are going to choose one then please choose this one. You won't regret it.