creature feature: the brides of dracula (terence fisher, 1960)
Sunday, September 06, 2020
An early horror effort from Hammer, and a sequel to their very popular Dracula (Horror of Dracula in the States). While the Brides are a staple of Dracula movies, Dracula himself does not appear in this one, despite the title. Explanations vary, but the most common one is that Christopher Lee, who made such a great Dracula in the first film, didn't want to be typecast. (He later changed his mind, and eventually played Dracula another six times.) So Hammer trotted out Peter Cushing to repeat his role as Van Helsing, and hired David Peel to play Baron Meinster, who was the primary vampire in the film. There are various Brides, with the female lead played by French actress Yvonne Monlaur.
The nice things about Hammer in those days was that their movies generally didn't suck. Fairly low standards, sure, but compared to some of the schlock coming out of America in the 50s, Hammer were welcome, especially on TV Creature Feature shows ... the Hammer films were a step above the usual for those shows. As if to illustrate this, when The Brides of Dracula was released in the U.S., it was on a double-bill with The Leech Woman, which later became an episode of Mystery Science Theater.
The Brides of Dracula is sluggish at times, but it was nice to look at. The print we saw had been restored, and the difference was noticeable. Cushing is properly serious throughout. There is a special-effects bat that looks crappy ... the IMDB tells us "The prop department put a lot of effort into making a realistic model bat. It got lost and had to be replaced on short notice. This explains the rather unconvincing look of the model that got actually used in the movie." (We also learn that "The ending was to have originally had the vampires destroyed by a swarm of bats. This ending proved too expensive to stage and shoot." Hammer did well with their low budgets, but some things were just beyond their resources.)
I can't remember when we got our first color TV, so I'm not sure if the first times I saw The Brides of Dracula it was in black-and-white. Also, since our local Creature Feature show was on late on Saturday nights, I often fell asleep halfway through the movie. The Brides of Dracula isn't a great movie by any means, but watching it now was a more enjoyable experience than whatever I put it through when I was a kid.