Director: Terence Fisher
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling
Have I Seen it Before: Never. It feels like a glaring omission in my cinematic diet.
Did I Like It: I felt like I was going to like it immensely because, Hammer, and because I tend to like anything more than I would normally, as long as it features Michael Gough.
As I begin to venture through a litany of Dracula films for my duties on Beyond The Cabin in the Woods, I had no idea that I was starting to get cynical, but I most certainly was. I could probably at this point write a pretty passsable Dracula film in my sleep. Harker (or whoever) goes through the Borgo Pass to Castle Dracula. There, he is greeted warmly by the count. From there, spooky happenings transpire. Mina is at the center of things. Rinse. Repeat.
And yet, I’m pleased to report that Horror of Dracula managed to surprise me. I did enjoy the trappings of the Hammer aesthetic, but when it became abundantly clear that Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) has arrived in our story to kill-not assist Dracula—matters are sufficiently flipped upside down that the film never wavered in carrying my attention. While the film doesn’t feel the need to carry on this flipping of the script beyond the first half an hour, it didn’t matter. I was already hooked. Filmed with an almost timeless quality, I often had a hard time beleiving it was filmed in the late 1950s and—sight unseen—I would have placed it in the late 60s or maybe even the early 70s.
Filled with all of the barely-restrained British camp, flowing red paint*, and slyly apt cast you would expect from Hammer, this film—against all of my expectations—has leapfrogged its way into my favorite adaptation of the Stoker novel so far. If you haven’t seen it—as I shamefully hadn’t—take heed of my example and correct your error.
*Including in the first shot, where I almost dared to think it might be too much.