HORROR OF DRACULA-United Kingdom-1958
Directed by Terence Fisher
Screenplay by Jimmy Sangster
Based on the novel by Bram Stoker
For my money, Christopher Lee was the greatest Dracula of all time. If you don’t believe me, just watch his performance in Hammer Films re-telling of the classic novel by Bram Stoker. Lee has less than 15 lines and he only speaks to one person throughout the entire film; yet his presence onscreen is so commanding there is no way you can tear your eyes away from him. In several scenes, Lee need merely stand as still as a statue and he still manages to evoke a feeling of dread. With Lee’s portrayal, the greatest literary villain of all time becomes the greatest cinematic villain of all time.
Now of course every great villain must do battle with a great hero; and that is where Peter Cushing as Doctor Van Helsing comes in. Cushing was the perfect foil to Lee’s mesmerizing and terrifying Dracula. As much as Lee commanded a sense of dread in the role of Dracula, thus did Cushing command a sense of decency? Cushing would continue to do battle with the Count in subsequent films in the series; The Brides of Dracula (1960), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and finally 1973’s The Satanic Rites of Dracula.
While Horror of Dracula may not be a faithful adaptation of Stoker’s novel, it is by all accounts an entertaining one. Lee and Cushing bring all of their acting chops to the forefront and you never get the feeling that they are acting in ‘just a horror film’. The film may be over 50 years old, but it was fun to watch as any of the films that are being produced today within the horror genre. Finally, watching Horror of Dracula for the first time in nearly 25 years I found myself reminded of why I love horror films in the first place. It’s not about the gore; it’s all about the frights.
On several occasions, Christopher Lee complained about the contact lenses he had to wear for the shock scenes. Not only they were quite painful, but he could not see a thing. While running towards the vampire woman for instance, he even ran too far past the camera on the first take.
Christopher Lee has only thirteen lines in this film.
The cape worn by Christopher Lee was discovered in 2007 in a London costume shop during its annual inventory-taking. It had been missing for 30 years, and is believed to be worth around $50,000 (US$). Lee was contacted to verify its authenticity.
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