Director: Terence Fisher
Stars: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling, Carol Marsh, John Van Eyssen, Valerie Gaunt
In this classic tale, Jonathon Harker (Van Eyssen) infiltrates Dracula’s (Lee) castle under the pretence of being a librarian. However, when he doesn’t return his friend and colleague, Van Helsing (Cushing) is afraid that Dracula is striking. In a nearby city he plans to bring down the vampire once and for all, all while trying to protect Harker’s fiancee and her family.
There have been so many versions of Dracula and vampires in general that it’s often fun to go back to older films and see how much things have changed. Although Dracula is the titular character we don’t really get any time with him, and aside from the first part of the film where he welcomes Harker into his castle he’s mostly in his snarling vampiric mode. As such, most of what we know of his motivation comes from Harker and Van Helsing. I thought the exposition was handled quite well in this film, either as part of Van Helsing’s diary or with Van Helsing’s tape recordings. I liked Cushing as Van Helsing as well, certainly a far cry from Hugh Jackman’s portrayal. He reminded me of Sherlock Holmes somewhat, very methodical and calculating.
With it being a horror there were a lot of tense moments but I didn’t find it too scary. I feel that there should have been more of Dracula to give an unsettling atmosphere to the film. There wasn’t too much gore or blood, which I liked as it made it all the more horrible when we saw Dracula’s face stained with blood. One aspect that I thought this film did better than most is that it gave a sense of real effort to stake a vampire through the heart. For example, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel the characters can just poke gently and boom the vamps are dust, whereas here it takes a few minutes of hammering away while the vampires are asleep in the coffin.
All in all it’s a pretty good film. I think we’ve been spoiled with vampire things in recent years but this showcases Dracula as the terrible, merciless creature that he is. I think for any vampire aficionado this is going to be a must-watch. It’s an entertaining, fun film with some tension thrown in. I didn’t find it super scary but I liked the way Van Helsing’s investigation unfolded and it held my interest throughout, and even thought the runtime of the film is short it doesn’t feel rushed (although as I mentioned before, I would have liked a little more exploration of Dracula). I wouldn’t say it’s fangtastic, but it’s definitely worth checking out.