THE CLEAR HORROR OF DRACULA


As a long time classic horror buff l was overjoyed to read the News that HAMMER FILMS would be releasing the 1958 production of DRACULA or as it was known in North America HORROR OF DRACULA to Blu ray format. I have had the pleasure of viewing a copy recently and can safely say without a doubt it is stunning.
I will not go into the plot but will say that it stars Christopher Lee an Peter Cushing in one if not there best screen teamings. Often overlooked in the horror film in general are the supporting roles and in this they are brilliant. The villagers to the slightly dark funeral home director all give the story color even with brief screen time. The screenplay by Jimmy Sangster put the right amount of dread and humour together in a smart mix of story that moves at a brisk pace.The pictures were usually part of ‘double bills” for one price hence the economical running times Nothing is wasted in a HAMMER STUDIOS production either on screen or in the script. I have the shooting script for the 1966 sequel to this film called DRACULA.. PRINCE OF DARKNESS and can attest to that if its on the page its on the screen as written.

If you look at when this picture was made in 1958 you find a very different climate of horror films. The technology has changed and some say for the worse plus the audience. DRACULA was the first film to show the vampire as a sensual object capable of great evil for his own purpose. More of the vampire types in a later discussion. The only Dracula at the time was the Lugosi version of the character. Television was still in its infancy. The TV show “Shock theatre’ in which Universal studio packaged up its back catalogue of classic horror films to be shown late night had not happened yet. The Monster boom of the 60′s was still on the horizon. Into this time thundered this crashing with blood, color version on screen big as life or undead of DRACULA.

The actual film is wonderfully rendered with a pounding James Bernard music score. There are also restored scenes of the end moments at the castle that were removed by censors that the time. I can say that they do add to the story quite well especially the added shots of Dracula’s visitation with Mina in her room.
Jonathan Harker makes a remark in the opening voice over that ‘When I crossed the wooden bridge and entered the gateway it suddenly became much colder.” A detail that I caught from this version is in a scene between Dracula and Jonathan Harker in Harker’s castle room you can actually see their breath when they speak which is a nice touch. This moment to my knowledge does not appear in the other DVD versions. The film is also full screen 16.9 format as well adding to wonderful effect.

If you look at when this picture was made in 1958 you find a very different climate of horror films. The technology has changed and some say for the worse plus the audience. DRACULA was the first film to show the vampire as a sensual object capable of great evil for his own purpose. More of the vampire types in a later discussion. The only Dracula at the time was the Lugosi version of the character. Television was still in its infancy. The TV show “Shock theatre’ in which Universal studio packaged up its back catalogue of classic horror films to be shown late night had not happened yet. The Monster boom of the 60’s was still on the horizon. Into this time thundered this crashing with blood, color version on screen big as life or undead of DRACULA.
The actual film is wonderfully rendered with a pounding James Bernard music score. There are also restored scenes of the end moments at the castle that were removed by censors that the time. I can say that they do add to the story quite well especially the added shots of Dracula’s visitation with Mina in her room.
Jonathan Harker makes a remark in the opening voice over that ‘When I crossed the wooden bridge and entered the gateway it suddenly became much colder.” A detail that I caught from this version is in a scene between Dracula and Jonathan Harker in Harker’s castle room you can actually see their breath when they speak which is a nice touch. This moment to my knowledge does not appear in the other DVD versions. The film is also full screen 16.9 format as well adding to wonderful effect.

There have been debates among very serious film horror fan that the color palate used for the picture restoration as not the original one used at the time. To my own eye or eyes as I have two the only difference is in some of the restored scenes as they seem to have not been preserved well through the years

This is a DRACULA to be seen by the people who seem to think vampires are nice high school types or simply killing machine in countless (No pun) other films of today. HAMMER FILMS 1958 version of DRACULA is a gothic film which many studio have difficultly doing. See it if you can and as the advertisement of the time said ‘WHO WILL BE HIS BRIDE TONIGHT”… it could and should be you.

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