Horror of Dracula (1958)

“It only remains for me now to await the daylight hours, where I will with God’s help forever end this man’s reign of terror!”

Horror of Dracula Poster

Synopsis:
A vampire hunter (John Van Eyssen) posing as a librarian arrives at the castle of Count Dracula (Christopher Lee), where he puts one of Dracula’s victims (Valerie Gaunt) out of her misery, but is bitten himself before he can kill Dracula. When Dracula invades the household of Van Eyssen’s girlfriend Lucy (Carol Marsh) and Lucy’s brother (Michael Gough) and sister-in-law (Melissa Stribling), Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) arrives to help.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that while “Hammer Studios’ follow-up to The Curse of Frankenstein is a much better and more influential horror film”, it “isn’t the definitive adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel or much more than an introduction to the bloody-red and sexually oriented style of future Hammer vampire films”. He complains the “film is so rushed that we have a hard time realizing that major parts of Stoker’s story are being either distorted or eliminated“, that “all the performances” (other than the two leads) “are forgettable”, and that Cushing is “a little too humorless, as if his blood had already been drained”. In favor of the film, Peary writes that the “graphic violence… fits the subject rather than being exploitative”, that the production in general is “well-mounted”, and that “Lee’s madly inspired vampire is terrific: cruel, energetic, intelligent, tall and imposing”.

Peary also points out how the film differs from “Universal’s 1931 Dracula chiefly in that it conveys the sexual nature of vampirism: not only does the vampire become excited when he bites into a victim’s jugular but his victims also relish the experience”. Indeed, according to DVD Savant, this film “made much more explicit the seduction-rape fantasy that underlies vampire mythology.” Savant is much more a diehard fan of this film, referring to it as “the Singin’ in the Rain of horror films — a show that transcends its genre and sums up what’s great about screen terror.” His praise feels hyperbolic to me, but provides evidence of the film’s cult following. Personally, my opinion lies closer to Peary’s: this remains a reasonably enjoyable, historically significant genre flick, but not must-see viewing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Christopher Lee as Dracula — only on the screen for 7 minutes, but a menacing presence
    Horror of Dracula Lee
  • Jack Asher’s atmospheric cinematography
    Horror of Dracula Cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly worth a look for its historical importance.

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