Every Sunday in October, Old Ass Movies will be teaming with 31 Days of Horror in order to deliver a horror film that was made before you were born and tell you why you should like this.
This week, Old Ass Horror presents the story of Dracula as seen through the beautiful, blood-filled eyes of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and the entire Hammer Family.
Synopsis: Retitled for American consumption as to avoid confusion with Tod Browning’s Dracula, this is a straightforward adaptation of Bram Stoker’s original novel that became the basis for so many movies. Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) is turned into a vampire by the vicious Count Dracula, but when Doctor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) goes to investigate, he finds the fiend has already fled his castle and is headed to inflict more pain on Jonathan’s family by attacking his fiance.
Killer Scene: It might just be the disintegration shot because of how genius the special effects are for the time and the budget, but there’s just something about the opening attack on Jonathan that startles even today. We know that Dracula will attack him after playing with his meal, and we know Jonathan is there to end Dracula’s life, but for some reason we never suspect that the woman begging Harker for help is going to bite straight through into his neck. It changes the game, it’s a great shot, and it creates a harrowing sequence that leaves Jonathan down in a coffin-filled basement in the dark.
Violence: There’s a healthy amount of neck-biting and chest-staking as well as a particularly detailed display of what happens when a vampire hits the sunlight (it’s science).
Sex: Accurate to the history books written about somethingth century Europe, all of the women show a ton of cleavage (it’s fashion).
Scares: There is a general sense of dread throughout the entire flick – probably because Dracula gets the upper hand around every corner. He’s always out there, and he’s coming for you (it’s inevitable).
Final Thoughts: People praised and continue to praise Alfred Hitchcock for killing off a major character in Psycho, but Hammer did it two years earlier. Unfortunately for a modern audience, it’s difficult to dig too far into the cemetery earth on any Dracula movie because of how much we’ve seen of him.
That’s what makes the achievement here something special. Even with the inundation of vampires, this movie still manages to stand out above the rest as a great example of what to do with the character. Plus, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee battling against each other? Priceless. Another horror classic from Hammer.
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