Thursday, October 7, 2010

October Movie Reviews: Dracula 1958

Next for my October Reviews I am moving on to what is the first of a dynasty of movies.
The Dracula from 1958 would have not been a remarkable movie. Really. The pacing is slow, the script takes a number of liberties with the Stoker tale and the play as well for that matter. But it gave us Christopher Lee as the Count and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, and it was the first of many Hammer Horror films.  Hammer almost created it's own mythology of vampires and other creatures that nearly challenges the original tales.  Hammer surpass even the Universal Horror monsters in the minds of many fans, myself included.  It has been years since I have seen Dracula.  It was great to see it again with new eyes.

Dracula (1958)
Also sometimes called the "Horror of Dracula".  This is the first of many Hammer films on Dracula and starring Christopher Lee as the Count and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.  Lee might be the quintessential Dracula, equal amounts of sinister monster and suave seducer.  He might not look like his counterpart from the book, but certainly he can pull off the menace very well.  Of the actors that have portrayed Dracula he might also be one of the best.   This movie though is also one of the greater departures from both the book and the play.  Harker is a vampire hunter working with Van Helsing.  Arthur Holmwood is here and works with Van Helsing later in the tale when his daughter, Harker's fiancée, Lucy is killed and his wife Mina is attacked.
Cushing's Van Helsing is younger than most portrayals, and more "English" but he displays such a calm resolve.  He is, if the comparison can be made, more like the Doctor.  He knows all and anticipates the Count's moves.  They are more evenly matched here than in previous films.
Christopher Lee brings a presence to the role of Dracula that was different than that of Lugosi.  Where Lugosi was a suave monster, Christopher Lee's Dracula is a barely contained beast.  Dressed in the veneer of a man, you know he is but one bad moment away from ripping your throat out.

This version of Dracula comes back from the dead more often than any other Dracula; which is good, cause Dracula in this movies goes down rather easily.  Van Helsing uses two candle sticks to form a cross and that keeps the count at bay.

Despite all of that, there is something here.  Something that shows the promise of the future Hammer films, not just the Dracula ones.

1 comment:

Doug Wall said...

I think I recall Peter Cushing playing the Doctor in an old movie version.

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