AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Hammer’s Horror of Dracula (1958)
Continuing the final week of AWESOME-tober-fest. This week contains all Dracula movies.
Next up is another very famous version of Dracula. It was by an independent movie production company known for horror movies. That company was Hammer Films.
Hammer Films garnered its first hit in 1955 with an adaptation of an old British television serial called The Quartermass Experiment. During production of a sequel to that movie, Hammer developed a re-imagining of the Frankenstein story. This was released in 1957 as The Curse of Frankenstein with Christopher Lee as the monster and Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein. I reviewed this movie back in 2009 for my Frankenstein AWESOME-tober-fest. Curse became a huge hit which led to Hammer wanting a Frankenstein sequel as well as investigating other horror movie icons that could be given the “Hammer treatment”.
After beginning development on The Revenge of Frankenstein, Hammer decided to remake Dracula. Several scripts were submitted, certain rights agreements had to be signed with Universal Pictures and production began for in 1957 for Hammer’s Dracula. Hammer released Dracula (titled Horror of Dracula in the States) in 1958. It starred Christopher Lee as the titular Count Dracula and Peter Cushing as Dr Van Helsing. The movie would break box office records in the UK and America.
Many changes were made in the Hammer movie that deviated from both the novel and Unviersal version. Jonathan Harker does visit Dracula in the beginning, but he’s there to kill him, not to help him sign some real estate documents. Dracula appears to only have one bride. Dracula only uses two supernatural powers; hypnotism and travel through fog. Other powers like shapeshifting into bats and wolves is never shown. Also, Dracula is killed by sunlight in this movie (like Nosferatu) but in the novel, the sunlight only removes the Count’s powers.
So, anyway, what did I think of Hammer’s Dracula? Honestly, I loved it. I now see why these Hammer movies are so popular. They are truly fun to watch. And the performances are excellent. Again, Peter Cushing brings his A game to the Van Helsing role. He is so great. If you remember, I also loved his performance in Curse of Frankenstein.
And Christopher Lee was great, if understated, as Count Dracula. He really only speaks to Jonathan Harker in the beginning of the movie. After that it’s all grunts and groans. But I liked the little bit Lee got to do with the character. And I love the oversaturated Technicolor palette Hammer went with on this movie. And the set design, wow, was it amazing. I just really enjoyed this movie. I’m looking forward to watching some of the Dracula sequels.
Hammer next re-made Universal’s The Mummy’s Hand. It was released in 1959 as The Mummy and also starred Cushing and Lee. I may have to track that one down and watch it. Plus, I’ve still never seen Curse of the Werewolf with Oliver Reed, so I’ve got some more catching up to do with my Hammer viewing.
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.