BRIDES OF DRACULA, THE (director/writer: Terence Fisher; screenwriters: Jimmy Sangster/Peter Bryan/Edward Percy; cinematographer: Jack Asher; editor: Alfred Cox; music: Malcolm Williamson; cast: Peter Cushing (Dr. Van Helsing), David Peel (Baron Meinster), Martita Hunt (Baroness Meinster), Yvonne Monlaur (Marianne Danielle), Miles Malleson (Dr. Tobler), Henry Oscar (Otto Lang, School Principal), Mona Washbourne (Frau Lang), Freda Jackson (Greta, the Baroness’ Servant), Andree Melly(Gina), Norman Pierce (Johann, Running Boar Landlord), Fred Johnson (Priest); Runtime: 85; Hammer Film; 1960-UK)
“One of the better horror films put out by the schlock Hammer studio.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
One of the better horror films put out by the schlock Hammer studio. It’s a fun follow-up to the other Dracula films it produced, but in their last Dracula film the vampire was killed off and the star, Christopher Lee, who played Dracula didn’t want to make another. He was replaced by the very capable David Peel. Also, Peter Cushing was not satisfied with his part as Dr. Van Helsing and in order not to lose another big star, the studio rewrote his part more to his liking. Hammer bites hard into this film by having its ace director Terence Fisher create a flashy but uneven stylized cult work of horror schlock.
The film is set towards the end of the 19th century in Transylvania. A voiceover mentions that Count Dracula is dead, but his disciples live on to corrupt the world.
Marianne Danielle (Monlaur) is coming from Paris by stagecoach to be a student teacher at the all-girl’s Lang Academy, but her stagecoach driver is bribed by a mysterious gentleman to leave her stranded at the Running Boar Inn. The landlord warns her to leave the inn before nightfall, but the naive young lady doesn’t get it that she should be worried. Obviously she never heard of vampires.
When Baroness Meinster (Hunt) arrives in the inn, she befriends Marianne over some red wine and takes her as an overnight guest in her splendid but creepy castle. There the attractive teacher meets the crazed servant Greta (Jackson) and the baroness’s son, the Baron Meinster (Peel–the first blond Dracula). Marianne can’t help noticing that the handsome young man, whom the locals believe is dead, is shackled in a leg iron to the wall. Upon his request, she gets the key to free him. This turns out to be a big mistake, which she will learn only through experience by the film’s end. You see, the baron is a vampire whose mother keeps him alive by bringing him girls to suck on their blood. But Marianne doesn’t know this, she’s just scared to be in the castle alone at night with the cackling servant and the now dead baroness. It’s later learned that the baroness is really not dead, but she was turned into a vampire by her son. Poor Marianne swallowed the baron’s tale of woe that the castle was his inheritance stolen by his mother stole, and that his mother kept him as a captive to prevent him from owning the property. The couple announces their marriage, as they almost kiss for the first time. I think Marianne wants a title, riches, and hopefully a stud to keep her warm at night. I would say one of her flaws is that she’s a poor judge of character.
Warning: spoiler to follow in the next two paragraphs.
Running away in the woods after freeing the baron Marianne is found unconscious by one of Europe’s most prominent doctors, the learned Dr. Van Helsing. He revives her and drops her off at the Lang Academy. But before you can say ‘hokum’ three times, there are three young women killed with vampire bites on their neck. What’s even worst they will now turn into vampires or brides of Dracula, and can’t be buried in the hallow ground of the church.
Van Helsing is only here because the local priest sent for him, and they are now certain that the baron is a vampire and must be wood staked in the heart to death or burned. Since vampires are against Christianity, they can be warded off by the cross. Vampires also must find a dark retreat in a casket during daylight, and therefore need the help of someone on the outside to keep this secret.
The actors with their false plastic fangs ham it up, and the B-film does what’s expected. This completes Hammer’s vampire cycle started with Dracula’s Daughter (36) and this atmospheric horror tale is probably the best one Hammer made, though some might prefer Horror of Dracula (58).
REVIEWED ON 5/30/2002 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ