Time has passed since Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) destroyed Count Dracula. He now finds himself facing one of the vampire cult's disciples, one Baron Meinster (David Peel), who has been kept chained up by his mother (Martita Hunt) in an effort to curb his nocturnal activities. When an unsuspecting visitor (thinking him a cruelly treated victim) releases him, he is on the loose. It's up to Van Helsing once again to take care of matters...
Some of Hammer's greatest individual moments appear in The Brides Of Dracula. The sequence in which Van Helsing deals with the possibility of becoming one of the undead himself remains one of the most powerful in the English Gothic cinema, and the fiery climax is a visual feast. The final denouement is ingenious and still looks superb. There is also (intentionally or otherwise) a subtle sexual/freudian/oedipal undercurrent to proceedings. However, I would suggest that more has been made of this in the passing years than director Terence Fisher ever intended. I would also suggest it isn't overt enough to justify placing it in the Gay/Lesbian film category that my online rental service chose to...
All the ingredients which make a great Hammer horror are here. Superstitious villagers, the village inn, comic turn from a peripheral character (in this case Miles Malleson as the local doctor), ghostly vampire brides clawing their way out of their graves, an appearance from Michael Ripper... Whilst I wouldn't go quite as far as some in declaring it their greatest effort (there's some serious plot holes resulting from a series of rewrites for one thing, and the bat still looks a bit ropey), it's still top tier stuff.
Blu-Ray Notes: The high-def transfer in the Final Cut release looks very good if not the most striking HD presentation I've seen. The original film grain is intact, if occasionally overpowering. I don't think we're dealing with a first generation source here - Universal's master was apparently lost in a fire, so this is probably as good as it's gonna get for now. As has now become de rigeur for any Hammer BD release, the aspect ratio used will be sparking debate all over the internet. The ratio used here is probably correct for the film's original US outing, but not for its European release. Some picture information has been lost from the lower portion of the screen. Whilst the option to see a European ratio version would have been nice, this edition does look pretty damn good all in all. Extras are a trailer, photo gallery and a very good making-of documentary.
PURPLE RATING: 9/10
UK 1960 - Hammer/Universal
Certificate - X (following cuts, original UK release); 12 (uncut, for this release!)
Blu-Ray: Final Cut Entertainment (UK) (previous DVD from Showbox Entertainment)
Original Theatrical Trailer
An aside: A favourite anecdote of mine relates to The Brides Of Dracula. Film writer and critic Alan Frank (who I must credit with getting me interested in vintage horror movies on an academic level) was standing by Terence Fisher during a conversation with some Belgian film journalists where they were discussing the film. The interviewers were very excited by one scene in the film and the camera angles used. Alan said, “Terry says you could only put the camera in one position. When they built the set, it was the only place left for the camera! It was easy for the critic to see something that was never intended.”
Thanks to SpookyIsles.com for this story - you can read their interview with Alan Frank here