The Brides of Dracula (1960). Such fun last night at the Tates Creek Classic Horror Film Club, which, I think I’ll abbreviate to TCCHFC, for brevity’s sake. Eighteen of us undead Scoobies attended last night, one of us properly attired for the occasion, and looking quite the vampire-about-town in his cape. Right off the bat (get it? Bat? Because it’s vampires, and… yeah, I forgot to do my bad pun alert) a Big Scary Thank You to Heather Prichard at the Tates Creek Library for the refreshments and the decorations.
Brides is one of those late-night horror flicks I remember watching somewhere in the cobwebbed dark regions of my brain, way back when I was a kid or a young teenager. I’d creep out of bed, careful not to wake the folks, making sure to avoid those floorboards that creaked, head downstairs to our den (do people call those rooms ‘dens’ anymore?), turn on the TV, no lights on in the house, and warm myself by the phosphorescent glow as the tube came to life. Had to quickly turn down the volume so’s not to wake Mom and Dad.
Parts of Brides I thought I remembered from other Hammer films from that era, particularly the scene where Prof. Van Helsing (he’s J. Van Helsing in Brides, but just Van Helsing in the first Hammer Drac – wonder what the ‘J’ stands for?) was fanged by Baron Meinster. I still cringe watching him use that red-hot branding iron to cauterize the wound, then sprinkle holy water on it. I mean, that whole sequence looked like the real deal. The rest of the film was a complete first-time experience for me, it’d been so long since I last saw it.
I’m thinking that my first on-screen, either movie or TV, vampiric introduction, was probably Sir Christopher Lee. I so miss him as Drac. I know Sir Christopher is, fortunately for us, still alive and well, but he hasn’t played Drac in a long time. At any rate, I think I saw Dracula (1958) (American title Horror of Dracula) first, then either Brides or Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966). The Hammer Dracs were most certainly where I – bad pun alert – cut my teeth, followed by Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows.
The sets in Brides are lavish, large, with large castle interiors we’ve seen many times before in other movies, from medieval swashbucklers to other horror flicks. The furnishings heavy, large fireplace constantly stoked, except at… key scenes. All the entrances are grand. The exterior shots, particularly of the manor sitting way up high on the hill above the village, are obviously miniatures, but oh, how we love them. They are familiar, like going home to a home we’ve never been in.
Wow! I just realized I’m writing this post with a high sheer randomness factor. Or is it random sheerness? I’m not really sure which. At any rate, this coffee sure is good.
But, that does lead nicely into an important question. If the undead, who are no longer alive, are killed, does that make them alive again, as two negatives make a positive? What we do know at the beginning of Brides is that Drac is dead. But, those that he “brought over” from the first movie are undead and well, especially the eternally youthful and dashing Baron Meinster (David Peel). Fortunately for the villagers, but not for the Baron, mummy dearest, the Baroness Meinster, keeps him chained and shackled in his castle room, with just enough leash to sleep in his coffin come daybreak. He’s kept undead and full of blood by the occasional young female schoolteacher who travels in to work at the all girls’ school.
Enter the young Marianne Danielle (Yvonne Monlaur), the latest new hire and menu item. Cutting to the chase, she feels sorry for the shackled Baron and sets him free. Whoops! As the cemetery fills up, the local Good Father calls on – triumphant sound of trumpets – Dr. Van Helsing (the great Peter Cushing), with his handy-dandy bag o’ stakes and cross. Don’t leave home without ‘em.
Lots of great theatrics and posturing in Brides, and a few good foot chases through and around the castle by the Baron, Doc Van Helsing, and two of the recently-turned vampiresses. Some great hissing, mostly by the two female vampires. I give David Peel’s hiss about a six out of ten. He did well, but he’s no Sir Christopher. Plenty of fangs, though we all noticed that some of the fangs looked a wee bit uneven and could use some sharpening. All of the Classic Horror Club attendees agreed that perhaps a Christmas gift of the Ronco Fang Sharpener (as seen on TV) might be in order.
The best performances were by Mr. Cushing, and a wonderful old character actor, Miles Malleson, as a fellow doctor. Apparently there for comic relief only, his presence was funny, but unexplained, as his character didn’t pop up until about two-thirds into the film, then, suddenly, he’s not gone. Didn’t die or move away, just gone.
One last bit of trivia. Originally, then grand finale would occur when Van Helsing summoned a whole batch of bats straight from Hell. Mr. Cushing didn’t like the scene, insisting that Van Helsing wouldn’t resort to the black arts to destroy vampires. Uh, he’s driving a stake through them, seems dark to me. Anyway, the bat sequence was used, but in 1963′s The Kiss of the Vampire.
This was a fun romp of a movie, full of fangs, bats, and capes, just what was needed for October. So, just remember, folks, keep your anti-vampire gear handy this month. Unless, of course, you want to join us… uh, I mean, them… on the dark side.
Cue sinister laughter.
’til next time… Adios.