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BRIDES OF DRACULA

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TIP JAR
Brides of DraculaBRIDES OF DRACULA - 1960
USA Release: Sept. 5, 1960
Hammer Films / Warner Bros.
Rating: USA: G

A young and very beautiful woman is having a rough ride in a horse drawn carriage. She leans out and asks the driver to slow down, but we see that the Coachman (Michael Ripper: QUATERMASS 2, THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA [1962], DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA) appears terrified.

Then he has to stop because a log is in the middle of the road. Talking loud and calm to himself, and apparently to comfort himself as well as the horses, he moves the log and hurries on his way. Unbeknownst to the driver or his passenger, a furtive hitchhiker has jumped on the back.

The carriage makes its way to a village and the driver helps the young woman out. She enters the nearby Inn to wait for her bags, but the hitchhiker pays the driver to move on and the woman is left adrift in circumstances (Zounds! Is there calumny afoot?).

The Innkeeper Johann (Norman Pierce: SEXTON BLAKE AND THE HOODED TERROR, DOCTOR DRACULA) and his wife (Vera Cook: KISS OF THE VAMPIRE) are sympathetic though, and try to help the woman as best they can.

Then a stately old woman enters the Inn and all of the customers clear out. The old woman talks kindly to the young woman, asking her to be so kind as to offer only her company, as the old woman lives all alone on the hill. During their conversation, we find that the young woman is called Marriane Danielle (Yvonne Monlaur: CIRCUS OF HORRORS, THE TERROR OF THE TONGS) and the old woman is Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt: BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING). The Baroness is seemingly kind to sympathetic Marriane, but the young woman doesn't see the frightened concern on the faces of the Innkeeper and his wife.

This story takes place in 19th century Germany in the old days before people had plumbing and electrical wiring. If you were a commoner like the Innkeepers, you never tried to block a member of royalty from doing whatever they pleased. So Marriane accompanies the Baroness to her humongous castle up the mountain. Once there, Marriane is shown a room where she can change and wash up for dinner. Stepping out on the balcony, she sees a young man standing on his own balcony across the courtyard from her. The old Baroness isn't as lonely as she pretended to be.

At dinner, though the Baroness takes none for herself, Marriane speaks of the young man, and hears the Baroness confess to a lie. The young man is her son and he's quite mad. So much so that he is not allowed to leave the castle. The villagers haven't seen him in so long that they've presumed him dead, and the Baroness let's them think that.

Marriane is visibly disturbed by the Baroness's tale, but it doesn't do for a commoner such as herself to show disdain or abruptly leave the house (and so insult the host's hospitality). But when Marriane returns to her room, she sees the young man standing at the very edge of his balcony rail. Alarmed that he might fall, she calls out to him and runs out of her room, making her way through the castle to the other side.

She meets the young Baron, (David Peel: THE HANDS OF ORLAC), who tells a slightly different version of his Mother's story. Yes, he cannot leave the Castle, but that is because he's been changed to his room. His mother lets everyone think he's dead so she can use his inheritance: the castle, money, and all the land that rightfully belongs to him. The young Baron is handsome and also sympathetic, and Marriane, charmed by it all, believes his story over that of his Mother and agrees to help him. This she does by finding the key in the room of the young Baron's Mother. Carefully returning to her room, she tosses the key across the courtyard to the young Baron.

The Brides of Dracula
WELL YOU'RE NOT SO SCARY. AND YOU'RE NOT SO TOUGH. AND YOU'RE NAME ISN'T EVEN DRACULA, IT'S - OW! DAMMIT! THAT HURT!

That's when the Merry Mishaps occur you see. As you might have guessed, both mother and son were lying for their own separate agendas. To the Baronesses' horror, her son has won this round, and things are a-gonna to be different round h'yar!

Enter a third party that neither son or Mother expected, and that's the arrival of Dr. Victor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing: THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE HOUND OF BASKERVILLES, THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS, THE GORGON, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, DRACULA A.D. 1972, ASYLUM, DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN, THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, SHOCKWAVES). Something really twisted has been going on in and near the village for quite some time and local Catholic Priest, Father Stepnik (Fred Johnson: THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE CITY OF THE DEAD, THE TASTE OF FEAR), secretly called in Dr. Van Helsing to come investigate. Apparently Van Helsing has had some success in ridding places of vampires and before we go any farther...

THERE IS NO DRACULA IN THE BRIDES OF DRACULA!

Why the ruse? Hammer wanted to make more vampire movies than Christopher Lee could star in. Plus, you didn't want to go to the well too many times with Chris in the role of Dracula. Especially since Hammer had him doing triple-time as the Frankenstein Creature and Mummy to boot! So they made their vampire movie and David Peel played the young Baron. He did a damn good job of it too. But at some point, someone must have said, "THE BRIDES OF BARON MEINSTER, isn't doing it for me." And of course, they were right. THE BRIDES OF DRACULA it is and you'll just have to accept Hammer's bait and switch from 1960 as a fait accompli.

When Peter Cushing's Dr. Van Helsing comes on the scene, the skinny twerp immediately sets about restoring order. Only unlike Bram Stoker's original creation of Dr. Van Helsing, this guy isn't a man of science, but of superstition. In fact, he mocks science in a few scenes with Dr. Tobler (Miles Malleson: THE HORROR OF DRACULA, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA [1962]): a booze swilling, pill popping hypochondriac adrift among the villagers and their medical problems and only concerned about getting his fee for house calls. Tobler looks down his shiny red nose at superstitious nonsense while Father Stepnik and Dr. Van Helsing knowingly smirk in silence.

Without a stunt double, Peter Cushing goes leaping about in great feats of derring do as he tries to thwart the village vampire. Baron Meinster is a Stoker old school vampire. He doesn't have super strength and can be easily overcome in a fight by a man his own size. What he does have is the ability to change into a bat and he can use his eyes to hypnotize his victims. He doesn't need to fight you if he can just look into your eyes.

The writing by Jimmy Sangster (THE HORROR OF DRACULA, THE CRAWLING EYE, PARANOIAC, NIGHTMARE, WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO?), Edward Percy, Peter Bryan (THE HOUNDS OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR) and Anthony Hinds (THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA [1962], THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, also producer on this) gives remarkably decent dialogue and motives for all of the characters. Especially considering that Hammer was all about low budget and churning their horror movies out like assembly line work.

Director Terence Fisher (THE HORROR OF DRACULA, THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY [1959], THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA [1962], THE GORGON, ISLAND OF TERROR, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT) kept a creative eye for direction and made excellent use of space and fight choreography. Cinematographer, Jack Asher, was renown during his life as an expert in early color film making and his excellence shows here in every frame.

THE BRIDES OF DRACULA is played for the tragedy of a village population living under the oppression of an evil from which they cannot escape: bound by both social standing and fear. Prior to Willhelm uniting the various baron states in the late 1800s, the people were basically the property of the ruling royalty of their land. And Baroness Meinster makes sure that no one forgets it.

While tame for today's audiences, BRIDES OF DRACULA still gets 3 Shriekgirls.

Shriek GirlShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2010 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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