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Horror of Dracula

GB 1958, Colour, 81 min

Director Terence Fisher
Screenplay Jimmy Sangster
After a Novel by Bram Stoker
Camera Jack Asher
Music James Bernard
Peter Cushing Van Helsing
Michael Gough Arthur Holmwood
Melissa Striebling Mina Holmwood
Christopher Lee Count Dracula
Carol Marsh Lucy Holmwood
John van Eyssen Jonathan Harker

Movie version of the novel by Bram Stoker with some modifications: Fishers Jonathan Harker is a vampire expert who knows just to well that the count is quite dangerous. As a pretend harmless librarian he plans to make an end to Draculas misdeeds. The count, quite friendly in the beginning, is clever enough to see through this and after Harker has impaled one of the undead's brides, he takes revenge: After Jonathan Harkers death another opponent appears on the scene: the well-known Dr. van Helsing. It's him who has to bring Harkers fiancée, Lucy, the message of his death, but also in this case, the blood-thirsty Nobleman was faster: for Lucy all help comes to late, she becomes a vampire, Van Helsing an impaler.

Now Dracula turns towards Mina, Lucy's sister-in-law. The worst can be hindered by means of a blood transfusion, but the undead managed to kidnap Mina. After a breakneck hunt, van Helsing and Dracula find each other face to face in the Count's Castle. After a final fight van Helsing disintegrates Dracula into dust with the help of the sunlight and a crucifix (well-done for the year 1958) and Mina is saved.

Terence Fischer's interpretation of Stokers novel from 1958 is the first modern movie version, it marks the begin of a new epoch, not only for Vampire movies, but for the horror genre in general, the turn away from the old Universal Movies, where a great part of the Horror only takes place in the spectators heads and towards the era of the Hammer productions, with a completely different approach to visualize the horror.

Being the most legendary movie of the vampire genre it produced the two greatest stars of modern horror movie, which since then have been inevitably linked to this saga: Peter Cushing as Dr. van Helsing and, even more so, Christopher Lee as Count Dracula. Later Dracula-performers, even some brilliant ones like Frank Langella or Gary Oldman, couldn't change this.

Lee interprets the count completely differently to Lugosi. Here, we are dealing with a charming, intelligent and at the same time very cruel seducer who comes up to Stokers model. Furthermore Fisher, was the first to dispose of the technical (and financial) means to translate the highlights of the novel adequately into a movie.

In this movie we also find some significant modifications of the original story: that sunlight can kill vampires is an element that script author Sangster borrowed from Murnaus Nosferatu from 1922. But this wasn't to prevent the good old count (and the Hammer production company as well as Christopher Lee), to rise from his grave again and again in a more or less original way (most of the time in a quite stupid way) in the following 20 years and to die in an original or stupid way at the end of each movie.
Well- the scripts became worse and worse, the movies more and more brutal, none of them being able to reach the quality and the level of the Original.

To sum it up: Lees interpretation of the count could not be surpassed. He was probably the most charismatic Dracula performer ever.

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