Dracula film+tv adaptations.# The end of the Hammer era.

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Dracula film+tv adaptations.# The end of the Hammer era.

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Nosferatu (1922)

Despite the change in title, character's names, & location/setting, F.W. Murnau's: 'Nosferatu', is clearly based on Bram Stoker's 'Dracula', so much so that his widow sued for copyright infringement, which eventually resulted in the existing prints of the film being destroyed, But fortunately, not before a print of the film was sold overseas, which is why it is still with us today. The story is set in Bremmen, & instead of Count Dracula, we have Count Orlok. In place of Harker we have Hutter, Ellen instead of Mina, Professor Bulwer instead of Van Helsing, & Knock instead of Renfield.
I first saw Nosferatu when the BFI dvd release came out a few years ago. I'd been put off seeing it for a long time, thinking that i wouldn't enjoy a silent movie, but in actual fact i warmed to it quite quickly, so watching it again tonight was certainly no chore. Positively the most striking thing about this film, aside from the gothic architecture, is Nosferatu/Count Orlok himself, & yet one of the first people we see in the film, the character of 'Knock', is also a very strange, odd looking bloke!

The film begins to really get moving about 20mins in, when we get our first tantalizing glimpse of Orlok driving the coach & horses, & then shortly afterwards when he arrives with Hutter at the castle. Murnau cleverly keeps Max Shrek's full make-up hidden underneath a hat for the first few scenes at the castle, but it's clear that he's not your ordinary looking fellow! At the dining table with Hutter, we are again treated to a few more glimpses of a rather astonishing looking man with deep sunken eyes, & huge bushy eyebrows. When Hutter accidently cuts himself, you can really notice just how big Orlok's hands are, with their long fingers tapering away to long pointed nails..... And the actor Max Shrek himself, really does have very demonic looking eyes!
The full effect is acheived a few minutes later when Hutter is exploring the castle, & we see Orlok, first in a distant shot, & then closer, without his hat & collar hiding his face. In a splendid scene which is highlighted brilliantly by James Bernard's score, Hutter wrenches open a door, & we see the almost bat-like head & face of Orlok, complete with pointed ears. I really do think the next moment is truly eerie, as we see Orlok slowly advance through the door, with his hands straight down by his sides...... It just looks so damn freaky! As the Count leaves the room, we see for the first time, the mis-shapen skull, & the 2 long pointed teeth as we get our first real close up shot of Orlok. We can see now just how inhuman he actually looks, & the effect is doubled in the next scene when Hutter finds the vampire in his coffin, & we realize that this truly is a 'creature', rather than a 'man'. As effective as Orlok is, he is quite different from the vampire depicted by Bram Stoker. Orlok has an almost skeletal appearance, & resembles a corpse, rather than the demonic, but well groomed Count Dracula.

Some of most unnerving scenes of this film, take place on the ship, as the Count is being transported to Bremmen. Possibly my favourite moment of the whole movie, is the scene below decks where Orlok rises from his coffin from horizontal to vertical in one long languid movement. The extraordinarily large hands still fixed firmly down by his sides, & the wide eyes staring fixedly ahead. I can't recall seeing it done quite so effectively in any Dracula movie since. Even the smooth & aristocratic Dracula portrayed by Christopher Lee is seen to be clambering out of his coffin in a rather ungainly fashion on at least one occasion. But yes, the scene of Orlok walking across the ship, in that perculiar animated fasion of his, & the deserted ship then arriving in Bremmen on the river, are very effective scenes.
As you can probably tell, Max Shrek/Count Orlok totally dominates this film for me. As the film reaches it's climax, the most striking images of the Count are used to great effect; I love the bit where he's staring through the window of the house with his hands splayed in a strange upwards clawing gesture, & then of course there's the famous scene which everyone remembers where we see the Shadow of the vampire scuttling up the stairs, through to the final scenes where we see him crouched at Ellen's beside, sucking from her throat in the darkened room, just before he fades away leaving a wisp of smoke as he is destroyed by the dawning sun. Brilliant stuff!

The other characters don't get that much of a look-in. Apart from Hutter of course who has quite a big role in the story, & to a lesser extent, Ellen. But after Orlok, the most memorable performance for me is that of 'Knock', who is Renfield's counterpart in this version. Also, unlike Stoker's book, & all the other subsequent Dracula movies, one of the most important characters, that of Van Helsing, (or Professor Bulwer as the character is called here) is barely featured in this film at all. He has nothing to do with Orlok's destruction, which has all been worked out by Ellen, who tricks Orlok into losing all sense of time when she offers her blood to him freely.
Also totally omitted from Stoker's novel are the 3 vampire brides that try to seduce Harker at castle Dracula. In fact, all of the overtones of the Count as a sensual, (or even sexual?) being which are strongly hinted at in Stoker's descriptions are totally absent from this film, & would only appear in future films. Perhaps it was just a 'no no'in Germany in 1922, to portay the Count or his female victims as deriving any sensual pleasure from their activities.
Nevertheless, 'Nosferatu' is a very expressionistic film of it's time, & i think it's a powerful & effective work. Though for me, it's largely because of Max Shrek's unique representation of Count Orlok. I find 'Nosferatu'an enjoyable experience, & strangely enough, even though it's a silent movie, In many ways i find it considerably less dated than the next Dracula movie from Universal studio's, which would not appear for another 9 years after 'Nosferatu'.
All things considered, i would give the 1922 'Nosferatu' a rating of 7.5/10, based on overall enjoyability factor. This version gaining an extra half point for James Bernard's superb music, alone.

https://player.bfi.org.uk/rentals/film/ ... 922-online
Last edited by Ludders on Wed Aug 05, 2020 7:17 pm, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: Dracula film+tv adaptations. #1 Nosferatu. (1922)

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Great review, Ludders. I've got the version with the excellent James Bernard score too and agree that it suits the film exceptionally well.

I prefer Nosferatu to the Lugosi version of Dracula myself. Some of the best bits in the 1931 versions (I'm including the Spanish language version as well) work because they riff on some of the atmospheric touches introduced so effectively in Nosferatu. Will be interested to hear your take on the Herzog remake which I also love...
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Re: Dracula film+tv adaptations. #1 Nosferatu. (1922)

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BillPatJonTom wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 3:12 pm
Great review, Ludders. I've got the version with the excellent James Bernard score too and agree that it suits the film exceptionally well.

I prefer Nosferatu to the Lugosi version of Dracula myself. Some of the best bits in the 1931 versions (I'm including the Spanish language version as well) work because they riff on some of the atmospheric touches introduced so effectively in Nosferatu. Will be interested to hear your take on the Herzog remake which I also love...
Thanks. :)
Yes, I definitely prefer this to the Lugosi version as well.
'Nosferatu' set the pattern for the vast majority of vampire movies to come with the very first vampire death by sunlight, became part of vampire lore for the next 80yrs.
And yet in Stoker's novel, Although his powers were weakened during the daylight hours, Dracula could actually move around during the daytime. I think the Coppola film 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' was the first film to put this right according to Stoker's concept. (although i've not seen the Franco or Curtis did that too. I know Coppola's film was heavily based on the Dan Curtis film.)
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Re: Dracula film+tv adaptations. #2 Dracula. (1931)

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Dracula (1931)

Having watched a lot of the old Universal horror classics recently, i considered myself suitably prepared for this outing. Especially having enjoyed even more so than i thought i would, particular films like 'Frankenstein' (1931), 'The Bride of Frankenstein' (1935), & 'The Mummy' (1932), i was fully expecting to get on fine with this movie. But to be honest, i was a bit disappointed. Strange as it may sound, this 1931 'talkie' came across to me as far more 'dated' than 'Nosferatu', despite being a silent movie made 9 years earlier!
A lot of this is down to the fact that most of the performances come over as very theatrical, & to be honest i didn't really warm to to the way Bela Lugosi in particular plays the role. I've only seen his Dracula once, & it was a long, long time ago, & i was hoping that he wouldn't appear so hammy as i remembered, but i just find him a bit unconvincing. As a Hungarian actor Lugosi had the genuine accent for the role, but it's odd because he seems to deliver some lines in the fairly typical melodramatic fashion that you would expect from movies of this era, & yet other lines seemed to be delivered in a rather wooden, flat, stoccato style. Such lines as: "I have chartered a ship to take us to England. We will be leaving....... tomorrow....... evening" are heavy with melodramatic pauses, & yet spoken almost monotone. It's a strange combination, & to me it just comes across a bit wooden.

To be fair to Lugosi, He's not all bad. He does have a certain screen presence, & does manage to give the Count a certain distinctive, insiduous appeal, but whilst he succeeds in that one dimension, the character of Dracula as Stoker had written him, wasn't so one-dimensional. For some unfathomable reason, this version uses the character of Renfield instead of Harker, who first arrives at the castle, & in the novel Harker is put at ease by Dracula, as described in the book: "The light & warmth of the Count's courteous welcome seemed to have dissiapted all my fears". Lugosi doesn't quite capture these elements, even though some aspects of the Count's friendliness are scripted in the scenes where Renfield arrives at the castle, Lugosi still comes over as a bit of a cardboard villian that lacks the character's depth. Perhaps i'm being a bit harsh on Lugosi in drawing comparisons to the novel. Anyone who's read any Stephen King will know how difficult it is for film & tv/adapations to live up to a lengthy, in-depth novel. Perhaps Lugosi was trying to show the malevolence of the character that lurks underneath, but there's a striking difference in the way that Lee's Dracula is later portrayed in these scenes. (But i musn't get ahead of myself) ;)

Anyway, there are other factors that i like about the initial scenes at the castle Dracula. Visually, i think it works rather well. I like the dark & dank look of the place, complete with sprawling cobwebs everywhere, adding to the real decrepit feel of the place, which fits with the way it's put across in the book, as opposed to the colourful, well kept, almost lavish furnishings of the Hammmer version. Also, Dracula's 3 brides make their first screen appearance, but unfortunately they're not used to great effect, They're just a bit of window dressing really. The confrontation between Dracula & the brides who have gone after Harker is totally omitted, & toned down to Dracula merely waving them away as they approach. Also notable is Dwight Frye, who, taking into account the style of this era does rather well as Renfield, i think. I find his character quite realistic & convincing.

In spite of the criticisms i've made so far, the first 20mins are some of the best scenes in the film IMO, whereas in 'Nosferatu', i felt that things didn't really get going for about 20mins. Unfortunately, i feel that the reverse is also true. For me, this movie started to feel a bit slow after the first 20mins. Granted, Dracula's first victim after he arrives in England is done quite well, with the nice lighting effect shining onto Lugosi's eyes adding to the sense of malevolence, but much of the scenes at the Sanatourium i rather struggled through them. I thought it fell a bit on the dull side until the next notable scene for me, where Dracula finally meets up with Van Helsing, who tricks Dracula into opening the mirror box. I have to admit that i also find Edward Van Sloan's portrayal of Van Helsing a bit hammy, compared to many of the later portrayals, but it has to be remembered that most of these guys were stage actors, so it's bound to come through in the very early 'talkies' that were starting to be made in this period. However, i do quite like the stand-off between Dracula & Van Helsing where Dracula fails to hypnotize him, & Van Helsing pulls the cross out on him. But i can't ignore the fact that although there are a few likeable bits interspersed throughout, this movie just seems to plod along & doesn't have much flair to it at all after the scenes at the castle, & the ending (or lack of one) feels like a real let down.

One thing that seriously hinders this movie altogether is the total lack of music. There are many scenes that fall flat which a bit of dramatic or atmospheric music would've livened up. Even the good bits which i like, would've sounded so much better with some incidental music to underscore the mood. Ironically, the box set contains a disc with a score added by composer Philip Glass set to the film. I watched some of the scenes on that version to see how it comes across, but in my personal opinion, i don't think the music was that great, & it was hampered further by the relatively poor quality of the original soundtrack which meant that in parts you couldn't hear the dialogue as clearly as you should've been able to.

All in all , i think this is a relatively poor outing for Universal. Considering that 'Frankenstein' was made in the same year, & 'The Mummy' only a year later, These are much better films than Universal's 'Dracula', if you ask me. They don't feel half as slow as this film, & for my money, Karloff could act Lugosi off the screen. Coming after 'Nosferatu', this movie is a bit of a damp squib, IMO. I much prefer Murnau's silent movie over this! It does have a few redeeming qualities, but taking into consideration everything i've mentioned, & the overall enjoyability factor, I can only give this movie a score of 5/10.

ALS0:

Although technically not a sequel, the Spanish version of Dracula was produced at the same time Browning's 1931 movie. You can learn more about this version in the bonus extras on your Dracula 1931 disc. It seems widely regarded as better than Browning's in terms of it's direction. I think this is most evident once again in the earlier scenes, which are visually even better than Browning's version. But to detract from any improvement from the directors chair, i feel that the performances are quite inferior to Lugosi & co. On balance i still prefer the Lugosi/Browning version, despite my feelings about it's flaws. 4.5/10
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Re: Dracula film+tv adaptations. #2 Dracula. (1931)

Post by Ludders »

The sequels produced by Universal:


Dracula's Daughter (1936)

An informal sequel to 'Dracula', which sees Edward Van Sloan return as Van Helsing to encounter Dracula's daughter, (played by Gloria Holden) who goes by the name of Countess Marya Zaleska.
In this film the Countess treats her vamprisim as a hereditary disease, she spends most the movie seeking to get rid of the family curse, - from turning up to claim her father's body, which she ritually burns, through to even seeking medical help in an effort to cure her lust for blood.
Gloria Holden is quite good in the part. She brings a certain hypnotic, on-screen presence to the role, & successfully manages to maintain a slightly sinister undertone, despite the film's overall leaning towards ambiguity. The film seems intent on reminding the viewer that there's no concrete evidence for her vampirism, & implying that she's simply a troubled, (& possibly mad) woman. Whilst this gives the film a certain air of mystery, it does rather dampen down the 'horror' film effect. It does make up for this somewhat with a few very evocative scenes where the Countess shows her mesmeric powers to great effect, & also a return to Castle Dracula towards the end of the film, where the Countess is seen rising from her coffin.
It's not the best of vampire movies, & it's probably a tad on the slow side. But nevertheless, it's still deeply atmospheric, & i it found even more watchable than the 1931 film which spawned it, which was helped by this film actually having a half decent score, & generally, slightly better performances, IMO. I'd give this one 6/10.

Son of Dracula (1943)

Although the Universal star Lon Chaney is most associated with his role as the 'Wolfman', he did infact play the Mummy several times, & also Frankenstein's monster in 'Ghost of Frankenstein', before appearing here as a version of Dracula. Unlike the previous film, no attempt is made to establish a link to the actual Dracula that appears in Universal's 1931 classic, except via a very loose mention in passing. I don't know quite why this film is called 'Son of Dracula'. Perhaps Universal didn't want to bother thinking up a way of ressurecting the original Count, or perhaps they felt that Lugosi being the only person to play Dracula up to this point, was too closely identified with the character by audiences to accept a portrayal by a different actor.
Anyway, although the film does score points on a number of other levels, it's my opinion that Chaney wasn't anything other than average as an actor, & i think his performance here reflects that.
In this film, Dracula, who is travelling 'incognito' as Count Alacard, (an idea later re-used in Hammer's: 'Dracula AD 1972') turns up in America on a southern plantation, & subsequently ends up in cohorts with a young hieress called Katherine Caldwell, who has a rather dark fascination with supernatural & occult matters.
The interesting slant with this movie is that Katherine isn't mesmerized by Dracula at all in the way that most of his female victims are. In fact, she has a plan to gain eternal life through being vampirised by Dracula, & for her fiancee to then destroy Dracula, leaving her to pass on the gift of immortality to him, so that they can spend eternity together.
It's a quite a busy little movie that sets into motion a fairly complex chain of events involving the various characters, which include a 'Professor Laslo', who is a 'Van Helsing' by proxy, who's very knowledgeable about Dracula & vampires in general, played by J.Edward Bromberg, who IMO, gives a much more effective portrayal than his predecessor Edward Van Sloan did as Van Helsing. Robert Paige gives a largely convincing performance as Katherine's fiancee, & Louise Allbritton further augments the generally good performances in this film with an evocative performance as Katherine.
The movie also benefits from some nice visual set pieces, such as the highly eerie scene where Dracula first materializes from his coffin at in the swamp, & floats across the water to make his first contact with Katherine. The film utilizes several times the idea of Dracula transforming into & from a misty vapour, something which the later Hammer films would use to great effect.
In fact to be honest, there's not too much to fault this movie on, aside from Chaney's Dracula, who for me is the weakest link. The large framed Chaney looks like an older, slightly overweight Vincent Price, & although he looks visually imposing in at least one scene, where he throws Katherine's fiancee through a door, in a display of inhuman strength, He generally doesn't exude the malevolent demeanour that comes through in the best Dracula portrayals at certain times. His voice doesn't sound right somehow, & his acting unfortunately errs towards the side of wooden, for the most part.
As a film it has quite a lot going for it, & i'd probably give it a 7/10 were it not for the fact that the most important character of the film is overshadowed by the rest of the cast. So Chaney loses this production half a point, bring in a final score of 6.5/10.

House of Dracula (1945)

A year after 'Son of Dracula', Universal made the first of it's 'monster fests' in 1943, with 'Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman'. Their classic period was coming to an end, & they follwed up in 1944 with 'House of Frankenstein', which incorporated not only Frankenstein & the Wolfman, but also Count Dracula, played by John Carradine.
Carradine's Dracula returned one more time along with Frankenstein & the Wolfman' in 1945's 'House of Dracula', which is the final film included on the Universal box set of Dracula movies.
Personally, i don't really class this as a proper Dracula movie, any more than 'House of Frankenstein'. It's merely a vehicle for Universal to bring their classic monsters together (with the conspicuoius exception of 'The Mummy') in one last outing before they're consigned to the humiliating fate of meeting with Abbot & Costello a couple of years later. (Poor Bela Lugosi!)
As a Dracula movie it's by far the poorest outing on this thread, but as a mildly entertaining, no-brainer romp, it's ok for a lazy Sunday afternoon's viewing, but it adds nothing to the Dracula mythos. John Carradine's performances as Dracula probably round out as slightly inferior to even Chaney's. The voice & overall acting is a bit better, but unfortunately Carridine's wildly staring eyes, which are supposed to be hypnotic, are pure comedy gold that will have you rolling in your seat. Carradine's Dracula exudes no real menace, & even wooden Lon Chaney managed a bit of that. So, with Abbot & Costello waiting just around the corner, Universal's conception of Dracula finished up on a sadly farcical note, that i'm sure Bram Stoker wouldnt've appreciated. Hard to rate this movie in context, but even viewing it as the Universal monster runaround that it is, It's only worth 5/10.
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Re: Dracula film+tv adaptations. #3 Dracula. (1958)

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Dracula (1958)

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From the start, the film makes some narrative changes from Stoker's original novel by cutting straight to Jonathan Harker's arrival at Castle Dracula; with a bit of background given via narration from Harker's journal, immediately giving away the fact that he is there for a specific purpose, with unspoken implications posed by it's grave & determined tone. All this is implicitly totally different from the character in the novel within the opening few minutes.
As Harker enters the castle, we see a domain depicted differently again. This is not a dark, dank, & decrepit place, full of cobwebs and rats, but a rather medievalesque, but well kept looking castle, boasting ornate carvings & furniture, with a huge, sturdy oak table, & a big open fire in front of which lies a big furry bear rug.
Then there enters not three, but a single 'bride of Dracula' who rather mysteriously implores Harker for help, at which point he establishes a major diversion from the novel, - He is not here to help Dracula purchase a property in England or indeed Bremmen as in 'Nosferatu', or anywhere else. Instead he's here as a librarian, employed by the Count to catalogue his library. Despite these divergences, these first few minutes are deeply atmospheric, & helped by a suitably sinister score by James Bernard, a strong sense of foreboding is established before the appearance of Dracula himself.

Dracula's entrance is one of my favourite scenes, largely because Christopher Lee gets to use that wonderfully sonorous voice of his, as he actually gets a fair bit of dialogue, rather than the just the hissing & snarling that he was usually reduced to later. I also like it because the viewer is kept guessing slightly. We see Harker's fearful face as the camera pans round until we see a tall shadowy figure at the top of the stairs. As the figure still in the shadows, descends the staircase, seemingly threateningly, to a full close up of Lee, it seems like the prelude to an attack. But instead, the Count merely offers the crisp greeting of a cordial aristocrat. There's almost a lightness of tone here which to my mind, fits perfectly with the sentence from Stoker's novel which i quoted as a comparison to Lugosi's introductory scene. This gives the character of Dracula a much more ambiguous slant like Stoker's novel portrays, leaving the audience uncertain how to react, which IMO is much more effective than Lugosi's rather one dimensional villian. To my mind, though there are significant differences to the novel, everything about the film so far, has an all important flavour of 'English gothic', which captures the feel, of Stoker's work, in spite of the divergence in the details of the novel.

After Dracula has shown Harker to his room, there are yet more differences to the novel. We discover that Harker appears to be some sort of vampire slayer who's real purpose is to destroy Dracula, & his fiancee is not Mina, but Lucy. We later learn that it's not Lucy Westonrau, but Lucy Holmwood, & that Arthur Holmwood is not her suitor or husband, but her brother, who is married to Mina! I'm not really sure why Hammer felt it neccesary to change all these details of these various characters, except perhaps to make it more economic, but it still manages to maintain the correct feel to the film, which is perhaps more important. This is illustrated to great effect in Dracula's next appearance, as his 'bride' is about to bite Harker. Gone is the courtly, aristocratic Count of earlier, to be replaced by a snarling, red eyed vampire. Completely at odds with the first gentlemanly appearance of the Count, we have now seen the two sides to Dracula. Whereas Lugosi merely waves away the 'bride', the monstrous Lee throws the bride across the room in a fit of hissing rage, then half strangles Harker. The look on the Count's face as he does so, is one of sheer malevolence that totally eclipses Lugosi's portrayal, & in the first 15 minutes of the film, he is replaced by Christopher Lee in the popular imagination of Dracula for the next several decades.

When Harker awakens, he finds that he has been bitten, & resolves to destroy Dracula. Although it does seem slightly contrived that he just happens to awaken so close to the sunset. He's find the lair of Dracula & his bride, who are lying in their respective coffins, & perhaps foolisly stakes the bride first. (Why not Dracula?) Then of course the sun just happens to go down in the space of a few seconds, which always makes me grin when you think how gradual a sunset is. But i can forgive it for the sake of cinematic drama, & also because i love the scene! As we see light disappear through the tinted glass, James Bernard's music is stridently emphasising the danger, & whilst Harker's back is turned, Dracula, after we see him deliver the slightest of grins, makes his escape, only to appear at the top of the stairs to confront the terrified Harker......

From this point on, the Hammer Dracula takes on another variant. Dracula does not travel to England, & this is a pity because i would like to've seen what Hammer would've done with the scenes aboard Dracula's 'ship of death'. Instead, the Lucy, Mina, Holmwood, etc... are living in the north east European town of Klausenberg, which not too far from the vincinity of Dracula's castle. Most of the Hammer Dracula's have a similar setting, & in a 19th Century period, which once again gives the productions that distinctly 'English Gothic' feel, that comes across as almost an allegory for Victorian England, despite the european locale. It's here that we meet the film's other principal character, Dr.Van Helsing, superbly played by the legendary Peter Cushing.
Cushing's Van Helsing is far more dynamic than any of his predecessors, or their allegorical counterparts. Like Van Helsing in the novel, he places equal importance in both the mystical, and in the scientific. Whilst he's dishing out the garlic on one hand, he's using a contemporary dictaphone for recording his notes, which is carried over from the novel.
In another deviation from the novel, Van Helsing stakes Harker, & makes his way to his home to deliver the news to his family. It's here that we meet Arthur Holmwood, who becomes Van Helsing's somewhat unwilling assistant. Here his sister Lucy has been receiving nightly visits from Dracula, & eventually Van Helsing is called in to help, but alas he is too late to save Lucy, who convinces Gerda the housekeeper to remove the garlic that Van Helsing gave instructions to be used to protect her, But it's only after Holmwood reads Harker's diary, given to him by Van Helsing, that he starts to become convinced of his sister's fate.

This is followed by another favourite scene of mine, where the little girl Tania meets her Aunt Lucy, who is now a full vampire. This scene is a deliciously creepy night time scene, which has an undertone of grave danger for the child, because the implication is that 'Aunt Lucy' would quite happily vampirize her own young neice. This is something that Ann Rice's work touches on even more strongly. In 'Interview With A Vampire', Kirsten Dunst plays a vampirized child, & the message is that nothing is sacred to the vampire......
Luckily for young Tania, Lucy is spotted by Holmwood, who can't believe that he's seeing his sister, & she quickly tries to turn this to her advantage, but Van Helsing intercedes holding out a cross & burning her forehead with it. Not only does Carol Marsh make an excellent job of playing the vampirized Lucy, but Cushing's look of grim determination as he advances on Lucy & eventually goes on to stake her, makes his Van Helsing wholly convincing. Only Michael Gough lets the side down slightly IMO, with his static & rather hammy portrayal of Holmwood.
Meanwhile, whilst Van Helsing & Holmwood begin to make efforts to track down Dracula, they soon discover that the cunning Count has made Mina his next intended victim.

Up to now we've seen hints of the Count's sensuality in Lee's performance, but nothing explicit. Dracula as written by Stoker did indeed have a sensual & possibly even sexual side to his nature, but as i remember, he was always portrayed as slightly abhorrent at the same time. Beguiling, but never really 'attractive'. Some people dislike the fact that Hammer went against this factor, & gave Christopher Lee's Dracula a certain sexual attraction. Lee has the combination of being quite good looking, but in a slightly demonic way, & Hammer definitely used this appeal.
When we see Dracula make his moves on Mina, this is the first time the Count is seen with these distinctly sensual/sexual overtones. Melissa Stribling who plays Mina, whilst successfully getting across Mina's fear of Dracula as he approaches her, also manages to give off a marvellously subtle sense of anticipation in her facial expressions. Lee for his part, is both malevolent & dominating, but before the Count goes for the neck, he tantalisingly plays about Mina's face. Almost, but not quite kissing her, seemingly sniffing at her skin. It's all marvellously seductive & yet at the same time, it never lose the sense of danger. I think it's a combination that works really well, even if it was never quite like that in the novel.

Mina is saved only when Van Helsing performs a blood transfusion from Holmwood, & after Van Helsing discovers Dracula's coffin in the cellar, Dracula abducts Mina & makes off back for the castle, before dawn breaks. After a frantic coach & horses chase, there's a final confrontation between Dracula & Van Helsing in the castle. Dracula of course has great strength, but the wiley Van Helsing feigns unconsciousness, & so catches Dracula off guard. In a fantastic, edge of the seat climax to the film, which in striking contrast to the feeble, anti-climatic ending to the Universal production, Van Helsing launches himself across the top of the huge oak table, & as if egged on by James Bernard's dramatic music, lunges at the great curtains, tearing them down with his body weight.
As i noted in my 'Nosferatu' review, sunlight did not destroy Dracula in Stoker's novel, he was only weakened by it, but perhaps Hammer took their cue from Murnau in making sunlight deadly to Dracula. It has certainly become an ingrained part of the vampire mythos in films.
As the shaft of sunlight penetrates the room, Dracula's foot is caught, & Van Helsing forces the disabled Dracula fully into the sunlight by advancing on him with two candlesticks held together in the shape of a cross. Dracula's body collapses like a deflating balloon, & disintegrates to a fine ash in what i think is a brilliant ending to this pacy, gutsy adaptation.

Hammer would eventually follow up with several sequels, which i'll touch at some point over the next week. Whilst some of the latter sequels were getting rather poor, particularly IMO, when they tried to move Dracula out of the gothic setting & into the contemporary era, they a created a Dracula in Christopher Lee that was to become totally iconic, & is still arguably the most popular & memorable portrayal to date. Despite the fact that technically, this first film is probably the most unfaithful of all the adapatations of Stoker's novel, It still remains my personal favourite, & there wouldn't be a contender to it's crown until another certain adaption which i adore, was made many years later. The Hammer era for me is the equivalent of the Pertwee era in terms of personal nostalgia, & you all know how much i love that! So for me, this film gets 9.5/10 based on pure enjoyability factor. 8-)

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Re: Dracula film+tv adaptations. #3.1 Brides of Dracula. (1960)

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Brides of Dracula (1960)

Like Universal studios before them, Hammer films followed up their 1958 Dracula adaptation in 1960, with a film that didn't actually feature the Count himself, So the title was a rather misleading: Brides of Dracula, which was really a sequel for Van Helsing, rather than Dracula.
Van Helsing returns in splendid form, palyed once again by Cushing , who encounters a rather feeble David Peel, probably cast for his looks, who plays a significantly less effective sub Dracula type figure called Baron Meister, a vampire who's own mother keeps him alive, but chained up at the decadent family castle, until a well meaning visitor; Marianne, played by the beautiful Bardot-esque: Yvonne Monlaur, sets him free.
Unfortunately, Peel/Meister is nowhere near as good as Lee, but luckily the film makes up for this is most other areas. It's a very atmospheric movie with definite sinister undertones, & even a hint of an incestuous/Oedipus thing going on between the Baron & his mother, who even becomes one of his victims. Coupled with some great visual photography, & Hammer's usual attention to detail in their stunning set designs, this movie still has plenty going for it.
The major bonus of course is the return of Cushing as Van Helsing. This is by no means a slow paced movie, & Van Helsing, played with possibly even more gusto than the previous outing, has his work cut out for him. He even gets bitten by the Baron, but in a suberb scene, Van Helsing exhibits a moment of great, almost masochistic strength, when he cauterizes the bite wound with a red hot iron.
Enventually, Van Helsing, by now displaying a keen intelligence that we've come to expect from the character, utilizes the blades of a windmill to cast the moonlight shadow of a cross, which destroys Baron Meister in an excellent finale.
Yes, Lee's prescence is sorely missed, but in every other area, this is a fine movie of the genre, & though underated by some, it's a very individual one the stands up in it's own right. Even without the proper Dracula, IMO it has enough going for it to merit a score of 7/10.
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Re: Dracula film+tv adaptations. #3.2 Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

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Dracula: Prince of Darkness. (1966)


Hammer Films continued to establish themselves as the leading lights of british horror during the early 60's with various movies, including another foray in vampire terrain in 1964, with 'Kiss of the Vampire', It would be 6yrs after 'Brides', & a full 8yrs after Lee made his mark as Dracula, before this first true sequel appeared in 1966.
IMO, this is the best of the sequels, despite the only real drawbacks of the Peter Cushing not returning as Van Helsing, & Christopher Lee having absolutely no dialogue in the film, whatsoever. Those who thought it was sparse in his previous appearance will not be pleased to note that he doesn't utter a single word! And yet such is the power of Lee's on-screen presence, that his outing as Dracula in this movie is still extremely effective!
Fortunately, a pretty decent replacement for Cushing was cast, in Andrew Kier, who gives a robust performance as Father Sandor, & is further augmented by a strong cast of unwitting visitors to Castle Dracula, via a carriage pulled by horses that refuse to go anywhere else, & promptly disappear after depositing the carriages occupants at the castle!
After this point, the film really starts to come into it's element. Once again, Hammer's lush set design is on display as the visitors look for someone within the castle, whilst James Bernard's music once again adds to the sense of foreboding, which suddenly builds to a fearful pitch as a tall, dark shadow suddenly looms in a doorway.......
Enter Dracula's manservant; Klove, superbly played by Philip Latham, who in his own way could almost upstage his master for his cold, unsettling prescence. The spooky factor is magnified much more after the vistors bed down for the night, with the music accentuating Terence Fisher's camera as it almost prowls around the castle. The tension starts to rack up even further after one of the guests go to investigate some bumping noises, & from the bedroom door he spies Klove dragging some sort of heavy trunk in the darkness. Mystified, he is lured out of his room to investigate, & follows Klove down the staircase to a basement, into candlelit chamber containing various relics of Dracula, & also his tomb....... And then curiosity kills the cat.......
Or rather Klove does. Stringing the body up hanging upside down above Dracula's tomb, He then brings a box of ashes & sprinkles them into Dracula's empty tomb, & slitting the throat of his victim over the ashes, to perform one of the most famous scenes in the history of Hammer - the ressurection of Dracula! As the blood flows over the ashes, a mist forms, through we can gradually see a skeleton form, which slowly grows muscle tissue, & eventually as the mist billows & thickens, a hand & arm is seen reaching out of the tomb...... This is an absolutely fantastic scene, which totally mesmerizes the viewer, & is brought to a climax by James Bernard's slowly building score, as a thunderstorm begins. Next, the wicked Klove tricks his victim's wife, Helen into the cellar, & we finally see the fully re-animated Dracula claim his first blood, & i must say that Barbara Shelley makes an extremely beguilng & rather sexy vampire. She'd have me in a second!
In a confrontation at the castle, Francis Matthews' character; Charles gamely tries to confront Dracula with a sword, but the vampire with his super strength simply snaps the sword & grasps Charles around the neck & begins to choke him until Charles' wife accidently discovers the power of the crucifix, & they manage to make their escape. Even though the Count is reduced to only hissing & snarling, the dominating presence of Lee is still very effective in these scenes, & it's interesting that Dracula has no interest in his recently vampirised bride. In a reflection from the original story, he stops her from biting Charles, & flings her away when she goes to him. The Count it seems, is only interested in fresh victims!
Meanwhile, Charles & his wife (somewhat ironically called Diana) encounter Father Sandor again, (not to mention a character called Ludwig, who's clearly based on Renfield from the original story) & he proceeds to share his knowledge of Dracula & vampirism, warning Charles that Dracula will be after Diana. Eventually, after a failed attempt to get at Diana, Sandor's monks capture Helen, & he stakes her, in a scene played very effectively by Barabara Shelley, after which, in a reflection of a similar scene from the first movie, we see Helen serenely 'at peace'.
But helped by Ludwig, Dracula does manage to get to Diana, & as Lee dons his now famous red contact lenses, we see the Count's mesmeric powers as he prevents Diana from screaming. This is immediately followed by another nod to Stoker's original novel, directly transposed from a scene with Mina, where Dracula makes her (Diana in this case) drink his blood from a self inflicted wound on his chest, after which she faints, & Dracula makes off with her. This scene is another step forward in establishing Lee's Dracula as having a sexual/sensual element, that's touched on in the original film.
Again in a similar vein to the first film, there's a frantic horse & carriage chase back to the castle, with Diana & Dracula, aided once again by Klove, are pursued by Charles & Father Sandor, leading to the film's finale where Dracula is trapped on the ice, & is eventually engulfed by the running water underneath, after Sandor's gunshots break up the ice.
IMO, Dracula: Prince of Darkness is the most successful & most dramatic of Hammer's Dracula sequels. It successfully recreates the gothic atmosphere once again, & an excellent cast go a long way to making up for the lack Cushing/Van Helsing. Even so, it would've been nice if they'd given Chris Lee even a few lines! For me, the mute Dracula does detract slightly from Lee's excellent characterization in the first Hammer film, but even so, there's such a high overall enjoyment factor for this sequel, that i can't give it any less than 9/10.
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Re: Dracula film+tv adaptations. #3.3 Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968)

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Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968)

Still continuing their gothic setting, this film is characteristicly big on atmosphere, & is beautifully shot, containing some of my favourite cinematography of the entire franchise. Sadly, there's still no sign of Cushing's return as Van Helsing, & instead we have another strong religious figure in the form of Rupert Davies, who gives a fairly strong portrayal of Monsignor Mueller. Ironically, Dracula's 'servant' in this film is a cowardly priest played by Ewan Hooper.
Set approximately a year after the events of the previous film, the movie starts very strongly with the corpse of girl found hanging inside the church bell, dead from a large, ugly vampire bite to the neck. One weak point of the film is the fact it never establishes who was responsible for the girl's death, since Dracula has not yet been ressurected at this point. However, the locals are in fear, & they still feel the evil in the air despite the assurances of the Monsignor that Dracula is destoyed & the evil curse has gone. So, in attempt to ease the collective unrest of the parish, he & the priest set off up the mountain to 'exorcise' the castle, in the same way as a priest exorcises a building to free it of evil spirits, after which he seals the gates of the castle with a large cross. These scenes look really good, as the mist is billowing around whilst they make their way up the mountain, & then the thunderstorm starts as the Monsignor begins the exorcism.
However, almost as if darker forces are working against them, the feeble priest falls behind on the climb & injurs himself, landing on the frozen ice where Dracula is entombed, & his blood trickles through the cracked ice, & brings Dracula back to life, & the Count immediately exerts a powerful mesmeric control over the fearful, weak minded priest.
With the priest in tow, Dracula makes his way back up to the castle only to find his entrance barred by the large cross. Finally, Lee gets to speak when Dracula demands of the priest: 'Who has done this thing!?', played to demonic perfection by Lee has he hisses out the lines, with a look of fury upon his face!
The film then goes on to focus on Dracula taking his revenge on the Monsignor. We meet the Mosignor's family, including his daughter Maria, played by Veronica Carlson, & her young suitor Paul, played by Barry Andrews, who rubs the Monsignor up the wrong way when he admits that he's an athiest. Yet it would be this young athiest who works with the Monsignor to defeat Dracula.
The village scenes are of particular splendour in the this film. It's so beautifully shot. I love the rooftop scenes, where you look down on the village & can see the smoke swirling from the chimney's etc... Lovely cinematography the gives the film a lot of english gothic atmosphere. This is further augmented by the scenes at the local Inn, which again come across as an allegory for 19th century England, although the setting is clearly north eastern Europe.
Dracula's first victim is the barmaid Zena, & again there is a look of anticipation in her eyes that mirrors the Count's mesmeric influence over Lucy from the first film. By now, more evidence of sexuality is creeping into things. Zena is wandering around in stockings & suspenders, & there's overt sexual jealousy on display when the Dracula demands that she bring the Monsignor's daughter to him. Once again Lee is totally commanding in these scenes, the Count harshly slapping Zena to the floor for her impertinance. After Zena delivers Maria to her master, the Count's expression is very hard as he begins to exert his mesmeric influence over her, but the beginnings of a knowing smile plays upon his lips as he advances towards her, before he is interupted by Paul, after which Dracula does the same thing in reverse to Zena when he places the blame upon her. This scene is particularly effective for using close up shot of the Count's bloodshot eyes which furrow together as Dracula is about the exact his harsh punishment upon Zena, who's body is callously burnt by Dracula's servant priest in the ovens of the bakery.
When Dracula does find Maria in her bedroom shortly after, Dracula's sexual/sensual frisson is repeated with even more vigour. Once again his lips brush about her face before going for the neck bite, but whereas there was the subtle hint of anticipation in the 1958 film, 10yrs later, Maria's reaction to Dracula is more akin to that of a woman exhibiting a distinct sexual passion. No wonder Christopher Lee was such a hit with the ladies.
The other theme which this movie uses is that of the strength of belief. In many other 'good vs evil' horror films, including demonic possession movies which would later appear in the 1970's with 'The Exorcist', it is the strength of the faith of the priests which is tested by Satan or his demons. Although it does make something of a mockery of Bram Stoker's original 'rules', this idea is brought into play here in this film. We first see Dracula rip the cross from Zena's neck, with no detrimental effect on the Count. Later, after the Monsignor is injured & can't complete his function in the role of Dracula's nemesis, it's left to the athiest Paul to complete the destuction of the vampire, & he does indeed manage to stake the Count in his coffin. However, in a particularly bloody struggle, Dracula manages to remove the stake. The idea being that it wasn't delivered with the proper religious conviction. This idea is reinforced, by the fact that the priest is imploring Paul to pray, saying: 'He isn't going to die! You must pray!'. But Paul is an unbeliever, & can't bring himself to do this, & so Dracula escapes with Maria still under his spell, who's seen to be kissing the Count's coffin as they travels back to the castle during the daylight hours. Darkness has fallen again by the time they reach the castle, & Dracula has Maria remove the cross from the door, which she throws over the mountainside where it sticks in the ground. Meanwhile, Paul who given chase with the priest, arrives at the castle & engages the Count in a struggle in which they both fall over the ledge. Dracula is impaled through the heart on the cross, & the priest completes his redemption by praying to assure the destruction of Dracula, of whom only his cloak remains as the end credits begin to roll.
I have mixed feelings about the ending. Dramatically, i do think it works well, although it does seem a bit contrived. And although the idea of needing strong religious faith & convinction fits with many established elements like the power of the crucifix etc.., Christopher Lee himself is on record saying how much he protested against some of the elements that go against what Stoker established in the original novel. He was particularly against the filming of the scene where Dracula removes the stake. Judging the film in relation to Stoker's work, perhaps he's right, But judging the film in it's own right, i personally don't really have a problem with it. IMO, 'Dracula Has Risen From the Grave' is another great movie overall from the Hammer franchise. For me, it's not quite as strong as the first sequel, but it's still a strong film with many plus points, not least the fact that Chris gets some lines! Overall, i enjoy this one very much, so i give it 8/10.
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Re: Dracula film+tv adaptations. #3.4 Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)

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Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)

With the substantial success of the previous 2 sequels, Hammer began filming Taste the Blood of Dracula in 1969. Released early in 1970, this film, perhaps partially drawing on Hammer's earlier success with Christopher Lee in the film 'The Devil Rides Out', (1968) would deepen the connection between Dracula & Satanism still further. But how would Hammer resurrect the Count yet again? This was achieved in a flashback to the end of 'Dracula Has Risen From The Grave', in which we see that Dracula's destruction whilst impaled on the cross had been witnessed from the opposite angle by a traveller played by Roy Kinnear, who had been thrown from his carriage. This traveller called Weller, scooped up some of Dracula's blood, which has disintegrated to a red (as opposed to the grey of the first 2 movies) powder, along with Dracula's cloak & clasp & ring etc... before eventually returning to his native London. This was finally a way of getting Dracula at large in Victorian London, which had been completely omitted by Hammer in their original movie.
The London setting gives Hammer an opportunity to go to town on their set design once again. The film is as visually sumptuous as any costume drama, & is absolutely awash with Victorian richness & english gothic beauty. It's in this setting that we meet 3 rich Victorian 'gentlemen' who meet secretly to seek out forbidden thrills to enhance their staid, borgoueis lives. On the pretence of doing charity work, they visit brothels, whilst compounding their hypocrasy further by limiting the natural desires of their young adult children who live under the rule of patriachal tyranny.
Aspiring to go further in their thrill seeking, led by William Hargood, they meet with a young decadent upstart called Lord Courtly, who is played with great relish by the suberb & underated Ralph Bates. Courtly persuades these rich fathers to part with some of their brass in order to buy the remnants of Dracula from Weller, so that the power seeking Lord Courtly can ressurect Dracula by performing a Satanistic ritual, in which he mixes his own blood with the powdered remains of Dracula, & encourages his charges to drink red frothing mixture. But the rich thrill seekers have clearly bitten off more than they can chew, & they can't bring themselves to go through with it. So Courtly drinks the foul brew, & after he promptly falls ill, the cowardly bunch help Courtly to his death by beating him with their sticks. But after they've left Courtly for dead after imbibing Dracula's blood, he is transformed & ressurected into Dracula, & Lee, in virtually his only line of the movie, gravely intones: 'They have destroyed my servant...they will be destroyed!' - Upon which the Count begins to wreak a revenge upon 3 men, via their children.
Hargood & his companions begin to fall apart in their fear, & Dracula soon moves in on Hargood's beautiful daughter Alice, played by the gorgeous Linda Hayden, to be his first victim. Once again there's a magnified sense of anticipation when Alice is under Dracula's hypnotic influence, that goes beyond the previous sexual hints & almost borders on the semi-orgasmic. Linda Hayden achieves possibly the best portrayal since the first movie of a woman under completely under Dracula's spell. At the Count's instruction, Alice kills her despotic father with great relish by forcefully clobbering him with a spade, bringing Geoffrey Keen's splendid performance as Hargood to an abrupt end. I love the look that she gives Dracula as she turns to seek his approval with a satisfied smile on her face!
Alice then lures her friend Lucy Paxton to Dracula's lair, where she initially proves to be somewhat resistant to his mesmerism, but she succumbs after Alice forces her to face the Count, & her reaction to the vampire bite is again reminiscent of sexual ecstasy, whilst Alice wishfully looks on. Meanwhile, the two rich fathers who remain alive, Paxton & Secker, find the vampirized Lucy at the deconsecrated church, & when Secker tries to stake Lucy, the deranged Paxton shoots him, & after a time decides he must do the job himself. But he is shocked when her eyes snap open, & suddenly Dracula & Alice emerge from the shadows, & Paxton finds himself cornered by the 3 vampires, & at Dracula's bidding, he is staked by his own daughter, helped by Alice. Lee's Dracula has a literally commanding presence in these scenes as he orchestrates his revenge, which is extracted by the 2 female vampires with smiles of great relish as they kill Paxton!
Next, Lucy seeks out & vampirizes Secker's son Jeremy, (played by a young Martin Jarvis), who in turn kills his father to complete Dracula's revenge on the 3 toffs. Not satisfied with this however, Dracula turns on Lucy after she grovels after him, showing that he can use the vampire bite either to bring about ecstacy, or to kill....
Alice is spared this fate by the onset of the dawn, & whilst Dracula is at rest in his tomb, she lays on top to be close to her master whilst he sleeps. In the meantime, her suitor, Paul, following instructions laid out in a letter which Secker managed to write before he died, is seeking to destroy Dracula & rescue his beloved Alice. On the way to Dracula's lair he finds the now dead Lucy's body, left to drown in the river, before engaging Dracula in a final confrontation, at the old church.
It's at this point that the film lets itself down slightly with a relatively poorly conceived ending, IMO. It's not made explicit in the film, but it appears that Paul resanctifies the church in some way. He places a cross at the door, & relights new candles at the altar, where he also places crosses. In the struggle with Dracula he is betrayed by Alice, who wrestles the golden cross which he is using against Dracula, away from him. Alice is desperate to please her master, but after Dracula rejects her, she throws the cross in his path, trapping him between that one & the other large cross which Paul lodged in the door. Inexplicably, the Count escapes up into the balcony where he hurls various objects at Paul & Alice before he's seemingly overcome by the religious ornamentation of the stained glass windows which depict images of Christ & the crucifix etc... Then he simply weakens plummets from the high window, falling to his destruction on the church altar, where his body dissolves to powder once again.
Compared to the previous films, i find this a bit of a feeble & somewhat vague demise for the Count, but in all other respects 'Taste the Blood of Dracula' remains one of my favourite sequels. It's a very dark toned film, quite violent & gory for it's time, & it's steeped in a gothic atmosphere that showcases some excellent performances from likes of John Carson, Peter Sallis, Isla Blair, & particularly from the aforementioned Geoffrey Keen, Linda Hayden, & of course Lee. Special mention again to Ralph Bates who steals the show in the first half of the film as Lord Courtley. With such a superb cast, it never occurs to me whilst i'm watching it, to even notice or feel the lack of Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. Were it not for the poorer ending, this film would get 9/10, on a par with 'Dracula: Prince of Darkness', but the ending, whilst not terrible loses the film half a point for me, So: 8.5/10.
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