FAREWELL AND R.I.P. TO THE LEGENDARY SIR JOHN HURT!

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SIR JOHN HURT 1940-2017

It is with a great sadness that I post the heartbreaking news of the passing of one of the most prolific actors of his generation, Sir John Hurt. An actor for over 50 years. Hurt appeared in many classics and genre films such as Alien, The Elephant Man, the Hellboy films, three of the Harry Potter movies and so many more! He was a wonderful screen presence who elevated any film he was in. He will be missed!

-MonsterZero NJ

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RANDOM NONSENSE: MONSTERZERO NJ FAUX POSTER ART- DRACULA vs. BLACULA!

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When I was a kid in the 70s, this clash of horror movie icons was a film that I wanted to see happen very badly. Obviously as a ten-year-old, I didn’t understand the concept of different studios and all that would need to occur to make such a film a reality, but would loved to have seen such a film actually happen. With revisiting the films of both characters recently, I decided to use my Photoshop skills to do a faux poster rendition, in the 70s style, of what such a film might have been like if Hammer and AIP had collaborated. Enjoy!

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poster art: MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973)

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THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973)

U.S. release title: Count Dracula And His Vampire Bride

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Christopher Lee appeared in one last film in the Hammer Films Dracula series, though, he would play the role one last time in the French film Dracula père et fils in 1976. Sadly, it is the weakest of the films, ending the series on a very mundane note. This film does have sentimental importance to me, as I saw it on a double bill with Amicus’ Vault Of Horror at the Showboat Cinema in Edgewater, N.J. when it was finally released in the U.S. in 1978 as Count Dracula And His Vampire Bride. It is nostalgically the only Hammer Dracula I saw in a theater and my recent revisit gravely disappointed me compared to how I remembered it.

Alan Gibson returned to direct as did Don Houghton return to write and despite only being their second Dracula film, the gas has already run out. They give the story more of a James Bond twist with Dracula disguising himself as a reclusive, millionaire CEO who is plotting a hideous revenge on all mankind using a combination of Satanic ritual and biological warfare…what? Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) and granddaughter Jessica (now Absolutely Fabulous’ Joanna Lumley) return to thwart The Count and save the world from a hideous fate, along with Dracula A.D. 1972‘s Inspector Murray (Michael Coles). Unknown to Van Helsing, though, Dracula still has a jones for his granddaughter. Yup, that’s it.

The script is obviously very weak, turning the fierce Count into a sub-par James Bond villain complete with evil plot to destroy the world, hidden lair and having him gleefully pontificate his plan to Van Helsing, who, obviously, serves in the James Bond role. He even spares Van Helsing’s life so he can watch the plan unfold, which is, of course, his undoing. The thought that Dracula would create a plague to wipe out his food source is ludicrous and Van Helsing’s pondering that it may be a final revenge/act of suicide is not an acceptable explanation. It’s silly. Dracula has had too many opportunities to stay dead, if he wanted to. Despite Dracula A.D. 1972 being somewhat fun and energeticGibson directs with a leaden hand here and the action is quite routine and ho-hum despite the filmmakers saying “PG be damned” and loading up on the blood, gore and nudity. The FX are so-so and even the selection of Hammer hotties is not up to par with the last few flicks, despite that the James Bond-ish angle would require a bevy of beauties to really take it the whole nine yards. The cinematography by Brian Probyn is unremarkable and has a TV movie look and John Cacavas delivers a forgettable score. The effort here is as dead as it’s vampires and one wonders why they bothered at all, as no one seemed to really want to do this. No suspense, no atmosphere, and despite healthy servings of gore and nudity, nothing memorable about the action. Even Dracula and Van Helsing’s final confrontation is half-hearted and unimaginative. It has a very ‘let’s get this over with’ feeling to it.

This is not only the first film with a weak cast, but the first film where Lee really appears to be tired of all this. He isn’t bad and has some fearsome moments, but compared to the rest of the films, he really seems to be just going through the paces. Another testament of his talent that even so, he is still effective. Cushing is the only one to seem to really be giving his all as Van Helsing, but that is why he is the legend he is and he didn’t have to go through this for the last seven years like Lee. Lumley is given little to do and doesn’t have the spunky sex-appeal of Stephanie Beacham’s Jessica from the previous installment. Dracula’s minions and vampire girls are all generic and unremarkable and Coles plays Murray as woodenly as he did last time.

Overall, this is a really weak effort and one wonders if it was just one last cash grab to milk a little more out of the series. It has an odd James Bond style plot…which is ironic, as Lee would become a true James Bond villain the following year in The Man With The Golden Gun and upstage Roger Moore…and yet none of that series’ buoyancy. There is plenty of nudity and gore, but used unimaginatively, the exploitation elements aren’t effective. It’s the first time the impeccable Lee seemed uncomfortable in the role and like he didn’t want to be there…which he didn’t. It’s an unfortunately, sad farewell to a classic series that maintained a certain quality almost to the end.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 fangs and it only gets that for sentimental reasons.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972)

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DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972)

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Hammer Films tried to freshen up the Dracula series and did so by bringing The Count (Christopher Lee) to modern day London and brought back Peter Cushing as Van Helsing! They also brought in a new writer and director and the film appears to have no continuity with the other previous films in the series.

The story opens in 1872 with a stage coach hurtling through the forest with Dracula and Van Helsing battling on and about it. The coach crashes and both the good doctor and the fiendish vampire die in one final battle. A disciple (Christopher Neame) of Dracula’s takes his remains and buries them outside the cemetery that now holds the body of Van Helsing. We cut to 1972 London were a group of thrill seeking, young hipsters, including Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham), are planning a dark ritual at a de-sanctified, abandoned church. Their leader Johnny (also Christopher Neame) is actually a decedent of that Dracula disciple from the prologue and the black mass he holds, raises Count Dracula from his grave to start feeding on the members of the group. Now it’s up to Jessica’s grandfather, Lorrimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), to take up his ancestor’s cause and send Dracula back to Hell where he belongs!

I understand why purists of the series might consider this one a low point for bringing Dracula to the 70s and surrounding him with swinging hipsters and funky music, but I think it’s good fun. Don Houghton wrote the script and while it may not be the strongest of stories, it is refreshing to have a different setting and Cushing back as Dracula’s arch-rival. It also gives a fairly good reason for Dracula’s return as Johnny resurrects him to gain immortality. Alan Gibson directs fairly by-the-numbers, but imbues the film with so much of the 70s youth culture of the time with it’s music and fashions that, if nothing else, it gives the film a heavy 70s nostalgia to make it a treat. Sadly, the film also gives Dracula limited screen time focusing on Van Helsing, but as Cushing has been away from the series since 1960’s Lee-less Brides Of Dracula, we’ll allow it. There is some blood spattered, but after Scars Of Dracula’s R rating caused distribution problems, they went back to PG and it is limited and there is no nudity. The film has a fairly moderate pace, but there is a lot of action and there is some nice cinematography from Dick Bush and a jazzy 70s score by Mike Vickers, who replaced series regular James Bernard. A fun entry with a very 70s vibe and while Dracula’s screen time is limited, there are two nice confrontations with arch-nemesis Van Helsing bookending the film.

A good cast as usual. Again, Lee is in top form giving Dracula a sense of menace despite limited screen time. A testament to his work ethic that he performed so well, a role he came to hate. Cushing is as charming as ever and he provides a welcome boost to the film and gives his performance a nice energy and sincerity as the occult expert and ancestor of the legendary Lawrence Van Helsing. Stephanie Beacham’s Jessica Van Helsing is pretty and a bit more independent than some of the series’ ladies, but ends up being a damsel anyway. Christopher Neame seems to be channeling Malcolm McDowell’s Alex here, to a good degree, but it works in context to the character and setting. Michael Coles is functional but, a bit by-the-numbers as Inspector Murray, a cop investigating the ‘mysterious’ deaths. Last, but not least, we get hot British bird Caroline Munro as an unfortunate member of the hipster group and future Dracula snack.

So, while many feel this was the series’ low point, I respectfully disagree. I really love the 70s vibe and despite a minimal appearance by The Count, it is evened out a bit by the return of Cushing as Van Helsing. The film is loaded with 70s nostalgia, there are some very effective set pieces and is definitely enough fun to make it an entertaining watch. Lee and Cushing would return one more time to battle it out in the follow-up, The Satanic Rites Of Dracula.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs.

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Even surrounded by Dracula A.D. 1972‘s bevy of Hammer beauties, Lee can’t help express how tired he is of all this.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SCARS OF DRACULA (1970)

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SCARS OF DRACULA (1970)

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Scars Of Dracula was released a scant six months after Taste The Blood Of Dracula and returns the action to Dracula’s home turf and presents possibly the most vicious incarnation of Lee’s Count under the direction of Roy Ward Baker, who directed quite a few memorable horrors, including the classic Quatermass And The Pit.

The film wastes no time resurrecting Dracula (Christopher Lee) in the very first scene. A vampire bat dribbles blood over his remains from the previous film, which are now laid out in his castle…possibly brought there by the returning Klove (now Patrick Troughton). Dracula too, wastes no time getting down to bloodsucking business and this earns him the wrath of the villagers, who set fire to his castle. Dracula survives and when the villagers return home, find every woman and child left behind in the local church, slaughtered by Dracula’s personal winged air force…a flock of vampire bats. That’ll learn ’em! Soon after, notorious philanderer Paul (Christopher Matthews) makes the mistake of bedding the Burgomaster’s (Bob Todd) daughter, Alice (Delia Lindsay), who denies her part was consensual upon discovery. Paul flees and winds up hiding out in Dracula’s castle, which, if you haven’t guessed, isn’t the best place to hide. After Paul has a dalliance…the boy never learns!… with Dracula’s mistress, Tania (Anouska Hempel)…his attempt at escape finds him trapped in Dracula’s crypt and…well, you can guess what happens next. Suffice to say Paul’s brother Simon (Dennis Waterman) and his beautiful fiancee, Sarah (Jenny Hanley) come searching for him and a showdown in Dracula’s castle is eminent…though when Klove falls for Sarah, Dracula may have an insurrection to deal with, as well as, the vengeful Simon!

Anthony Hinds writes again for new director Baker and the film is effective and fun and really ups the violence quota, which earned this series it’s first R rating in the U.S. It also shows Hinds running out of ideas as there is no explanation as to Klove’s return after being shot, assumedly to death, in Dracula: Price Of Darkness and no explanation to Dracula’s odd resurrection, other than possible loyalty from his winged comrades. It does give Lee a lot to do and gives the usually dignified Dracula a very nasty mean streak. After taking the action abroad in previous films, we are returned to Dracula’s home and that’s where a good portion of the action takes place. It does limit the scope a bit but, gives Dracula a large amount of screen time and who can argue with that? Baker directs with a more moderate pace and with the action restricted to the halls of Castle Dracula, it is on a smaller and less impressive scale. To balance things out, though, Baker does give the film some nice atmosphere, the sets are as vampire chic as always and the new level of violence adds a little shock element to the proceedings. New cinematographer Moray Grant gives the film a bit of a different look but, true to the gothic tone and James Bernard once again scores atmospherically. There is a little humor spliced here and there, too, which is a first in this series but, Baker contrasts it with some of the most violent scenes in a Hammer Dracula flick, up to this time. Film also has some nice charm and the Hammer ladies have their charms as well.

To say Lee is in top form, despite not wanting to play Dracula anymore, is an understatement. His Count is intimidating, downright nasty at times and still has a little sex appeal left for the ladies. It was cool to see Dracula commanding his legion of bats and climbing castle walls straight out of Stoker’s book…elements this series hadn’t tapped into much, previously. The rest of the cast are all solid in their roles including Troughton taking over the part of Klove, Waterman as our valiant hero, with Hanley, Hempel, Lindsay and Wendy Hamilton as beer wench Julie, all filling their parts and corsets quite effectively.

Another fun entry in a series that, up to this point, has kept a standard of quality even with the formula wearing a bit thin by now and it’s star not being completely committed to the role. It’s one of the nastier entries, though, also the first to have some outright humor in the proceedings. Roy Ward Baker does a solid job directing and creates a moody and sometimes very violent horror and gave us one more quality chapter before the series started to really show signs of running out of gas.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970)

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TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970)

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Dracula returned again, as did Christopher Lee, in his fourth portrayal and while it’s not quite as audacious fun as Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, it is still a bit livelier than Dracula: Prince Of Darkness. This chapter opens with an entrepreneur (Roy Kinnear) being thrown from his coach by some ruffians and finding himself witnessing Dracula’s demise from the last installment. Seeing an opportunity, he gathers Dracula artifacts and a generous amount of his powdered blood. The film then introduces us to three older ‘thrill seekers’ Hargood (Geoffrey Keen), Paxton (Peter Sallis) and Secker (John Carson), village aristocrats who secretly delve into questionable activities at a local brothel. These three are finding little thrills to seek, as of late and turn to younger Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates), a man known to dabble in the black arts. They buy Dracula’s blood and artifacts for a Satanic black mass Courtley plans to hold in his family’s deconsecrated church…a ceremony that involves the drinking of The Count’s blood to ensure their darkest fantasies come true. The three noblemen have second thoughts during the ceremony and after he alone drinks Dracula’s blood, Courtley is slain by the fearful men. As the three men plan alibi’s for their crime, the body of Courtley transforms into Dracula (Christopher Lee) himself . The Count considers the murdered Courtley a servant and thus plans his vengeance on the unsuspecting men…and their innocent offspring.

The film is once again written by Anthony Hinds but, now finds Peter Sasdy in the director’s chair. Sasdy doesn’t quite have Freddie Francis’ flair for the bloody dramatic, pacing, or visual eye, but, he takes the somewhat ludicrous story seriously and still has some fun with it. The film has some actual nudity in it, during the brothel sequence and there is the usual blood spattering. While the three noblemen start out as the main characters, the film switches focus to their adult children once Dracula rises, about halfway through, and begins to stalk them. There is an interesting plot point of Dracula taking a woman, Hargood’s pretty daughter Alice (Linda Hayden), as his servant, to do his bidding and transforming Paxton’s daughter Lucy (Isla Blair) into a vampire. This leaves Paul Paxton (Anthony Corlan), Alice’s boyfriend and Lucy’s brother, to enter the story as our valiant hero and take on the Prince Of Darkness. This also gives us a fun and fairly action-packed last act, after a more moderate beginning and middle, which helps overcome the long wait for Dracula to appear. Bernard once again gives us a fitting score and Arthur Grant returns as cinematographer and gives us the vibrant colors he did in Dracula Has Risen From The Grave. While an entertaining entry, the story does show the idea well is starting to drain a bit in coming up with ways/reasons for Dracula to resurrect.

If these film are consistent about one thing it’s assembling a good cast. Lee is solid, as always, even though it was said, at this point, he was getting tired of the role. Keen, Sallis, and Secker are all good as the village aristocracy who secretly seek the darker pleasures and pay for it dearly. Ralph Bates is over-the-top fun as the disinherited Lord Courtley and it’s actually a shame he didn’t stick around longer. Obviously, they needed the job of Dracula’s servant open for Alice, which as a female familiar was a refreshing twist. The young cast, Hayden, Blair, Corlan and Martin Jarvis as Lucy’s boyfriend Jeremy Secker, all do a perfectly fine job with Hayden making both a pretty heroine and sinister servant and Anthony Corlan a dashing hero. Good casts go a long way in making things work, even if there are creative flaws and this series knows it.

I liked this one, though not as much as Dracula Has Risen From The Grave. It’s not quite as fun but, it still has some blood running in it’s veins and while the story is a bit loopy, there are some nice set pieces…especially the church-set climax…and the film still succeeds in presenting the gothic atmosphere that is a series staple. Sasdy’s direction has a bit more restraint than Freddie Francis but, still far less formal than that of Terrance Fisher. Lee is great and despite a reluctance at this point, would play Dracula for Hammer three more times and would soon reunite with his arch nemesis, Cushing’s Van Helsing.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968)

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DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968)

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Hammer Studios brought ‘new blood’ to their Dracula series with a new director, Hammer and Amicus regular Freddie Francis, armed with a script by Anthony Hinds. The result is one of the best of the sequels and a film where Lee was really given the opportunity to own the character of Dracula.

Story takes place a year after Dracula’s defeat and destruction and the villagers are still fearful of the evil they say remains lurking in his castle. Monsignor Mueller (Rupert Davies) arrives to find a distressing malaise that even keeps people from the church that lies in the castle’s shadow. He commands the local alcoholic priest (Ewan Hooper) to follow him to the castle itself to perform an exorcism. The ritual is successful but, an accident releases Dracula (Christopher Lee) from his icy tomb and now locked out of his house, plans to avenge himself on Mueller…and his beautiful niece, Maria (Hammer hottie Veronica Carlson). With the troubled priest in his thrall, can Dracula and his diabolical plans be stopped?

Former cinematographer Francis brings not only a new vibrant look and sumptuous visuals to the Dracula series but, ups the ante in the sex and blood department. Hinds’ script also gives Lee plenty of time onscreen and plenty of dialogue for the actor to bite into. We get a busty/lusty serving girl (Barabara Ewing) who is quite happy to let Dracula take a nip and is even jealous when he wants to dip his fangs elsewhere. Lee’s Dracula takes his female meals with far more sexual relish than in the previous two flicks and his Count is far more vicious when provoked…which is often. We also have a lively hero in Maria’s boyfriend Paul (Barry Andrews) and there is a lot more action than the moderately paced predecessors. While I would never characterize the last two films as ‘stuffy’ there was a moderation to things that Freddie Francis casts off for a more audacious entry that spatters blood often and gives Lee a chance to really strut his cape. Francis and cinematographer Arthur Grant use a very effective crimson iris filter whenever Lee is onscreen, that really accents that he is bathed in evil and overall, creates a palate of vivid colors that contrast the look of Fisher’s more subtle colored Dracula films. James Bernard returns again to score and it all combines for the bloodiest and sexiest entry in the series so far, cutting loose a bit, yet, without ever straying into camp.

Christopher Lee really locks in the role here, especially since he is given a lot to say and do. He masterfully creates a vicious monster who is equal parts diabolical and sexy and his scenes with his beautiful leading ladies are both eerie and enticing. This may be one of his best performances as the legendary vampire. Davies makes a good foe as Mueller, though his arrogance as a man of the cloth leaves him vulnerable. Ewan Hooper is actually sympathetic as a priest whose has lost his faith and now is the servant of the very evil he once vowed to oppose. Hooper plays the constant inner conflict very well. Andrews makes an interesting hero as the rambunctious student and atheist Paul. He is more impulsive and yet, noble and brave when Maria’ life is threatened and the film doesn’t ignore his having to face an evil he thought didn’t exist. A character that is in contrast to the prim, proper and religious characters of Fisher’s entries. Barbara Ewing is simply hot as serving girl/beer wench Zena and she is a lively and sexy woman, also in contrast to the chaste ladies that served as our female characters in the first two films. Even Carlson’s Maria is adorned with a playful sexiness that the female heroines of the series lacked so far. Still a damsel but, one not afraid to sneak out across the rooftops to visit her boyfriend.

I really enjoyed this sequel. It may be my favorite after the classic Horror Of Dracula, and certainly one of the most fun of the series. The film casts off the more restrained atmosphere of the Terrance Fisher films and gives us some blood and boobs (though still covered somewhat) and lets Lee really cut loose and revel in his Dracula’s bedside manner. The colors are vivid and bright and the characters, lively and more fun. There is plenty of action, bloodshed and best of all, plenty of Dracula! A very entertaining entry and possibly the best of the sequels in this series that maintained a level of quality almost till the final entry.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 fangs.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)

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DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)

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Eight years after Horror of Dracula, Christopher Lee and The Count returned, as did writer Jimmy Sangster, from a story by Anthony Hinds, and director Terence Fisher. Sequel takes place ten years after the previous film’s events with the villages surrounding Dracula’s castle still fearful and superstitious, despite his demise. Two couples are journeying past and are warned not to go to nearby Karlsbad and certainly stay away from the castle. They do not listen and when their driver abandons them on the road, a mysterious carriage picks them up and brings them to the castle. A man named Klove (Philip Latham) claims to be the servant of the long dead Dracula and that his master bid the castle always be prepared to receive guests…I’ll bet! Klove sacrifices one of the guests and pours their blood over Dracula’s ashes and soon The Count (Christopher Lee) rises from the dead and is hungry for the surviving members of the ill-fated party. Will they survive his thirst even with the help of a vampire savvy monk (Andrew Keir)?

Sequel is fun but, is a bit of a letdown when compared to the first film. Fisher does give the film some atmosphere and it can be quite bloody, but, it takes half the running time for Dracula to finally rise and then he doesn’t have all that many scenes. That and he never speaks a world of dialogue, just glares or hisses when angered and robs us of Lee’s intimidating baritone voice and impeccable line delivery. Andrew Keir’s Father Sandor is a fine enough adversary but, he’s no Van Helsing and no Peter Cushing. It’s a mystery why Cushing’s vampire fighter wasn’t brought back till Dracula A.D. 1972. The sets and production design are still a gothic treat and there is some intense action but, it’s too bad the film waits 45 minutes to reintroduce The Count and then never really gives us time to re-establish his threat. The film is technically sound. There is another effective score by the returning James Bernard and Michael Reed matches the muted color scheme of Jack Asher’s cinematography from the first film. A lesser effort but, still has a lot of what we like in these movies.

The cast are all fine. Lee is still intimidating as Dracula despite being given no dialogue and only having maybe ten minutes, or so, of screen time. Andrew Keir is suitable enough as Father Sandor and he is a good character but, Cushing’s Van Helsing is sorely lacking. Renown British actress Barbara Shelley makes for a fine female lead and then vampiress, but, it is Suzan Farmer’s Diane who is the real heroine of the film, though pretty much just a damsel in distress. Francis Matthews is a fine hero as Diane’s husband Charles who confronts Dracula to save his wife. Rounding out, Charles Tingwell is the ill-fated Alan Kent and gives his character some life while he is onscreen and Thorley Walters gives an off-beat performances as the disturbed Ludwig, a Renfield-like character who has encountered Dracula before and may still be in his thrall.

The film may not equal Horror of Dracula but, is still full of charm and fairly entertaining. It does make a bit of a mistake taking so long for Dracula to finally show up and then giving him nothing to say, but, Lee makes him intimidating despite minimal screen time and being reduced to more of a simple monster. It’s not the worst of the series and a lot of these flaws would be fixed in the following entry, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

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HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

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With the passing of screen legend Christopher Lee, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of his greatest horror roles starting with this classic, his first film as Count Dracula for Hammer Studios!

This 1958 flick is written by Jimmy Sangster and directed by Terence Fisher, who both worked on a number of Hammer Studios horrors, and is loosely based on Bram Stoker’s book. This version has Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) being an associate of Dr. Van Helsing’s (Peter Cushing) and infiltrating Dracula’s (Christopher Lee) castle disguised as a librarian, with plans to vanquish the monster. Harker fails to kill Dracula and The Count decides to take revenge by going after Harker’s fiancé Lucy and then her sister Mina. The only thing in the vampire’s way is Dr. Van Helsing who has come to try to save the Holmwood women and put The Count down…for the count! Sangster’s script takes many liberties with Stoker’s story but, what Dracula film hasn’t? The story is quick and to the point and doesn’t waste too much time with melodrama, getting right to the bloody action. Fisher directs the film with a moderate pace and gives it plenty of atmosphere with a gothic visual style that serves this Euro-horror very well. Fisher gives the story a slight sexual element, too, that wasn’t there in previous tellings, with Dracula’s female victims being a bit less resistant to The Count’s unearthly charms than in the past. There is also some fairly generous bloodletting that was also rare in previous vampire films and it gives this a more intense feeling than the tellings that came before it. It’s tame by today’s standards, but, must have been quite shocking to audiences in 1958 seeing blood spurting out of a staked heart in the full color of Jack Asher’s cinematography. The film is also effectively bathed in an equally gothic score by James Bernard, who became Hammer Studios go-to guy for their horror film music. All the elements combine to make a satisfying and very entertaining vampire movie that still works today as does it’s American counterparts of the 30s and 40s.

Another effective part of the film’s success is Fisher’s cast. Cushing is top-billed in this one and his Van Helsing characterization is one of the things this versatile actor is most known for. His Van Helsing is much younger and far more a man of action than the doddering old professors that preceded him and is actually a lot closer to the man in Stoker’s tale who was more of an adventurer. Cushing was also a bit dashing and he has a great rivalry/chemistry with Lee that would rekindle in two more movies as literature and film’s greatest rivals. As for Lee, his first appearance as Dracula is obviously impressive, though, The Count doesn’t have that much screen time in this one, and to be honest, he really doesn’t in the book either. He is more of a presence. When he is on screen, Lee is an imposing figure at six foot four and is a dashing looking man, as well as, intimidating, with his intense stare and smoldering features. He also adds a little sex appeal in with his menace, as he does seem to take pleasure in his blood draining, where previous vampires were simply monsters. Lee would come to own the character over the course of the series and may indeed be the quintessential Dracula to this day. Depends on what one wants in the character, but, I certainly won’t argue that he is. Cast also includes future ‘Alfred’ Michael Gough as Arthur Holmwood and he is perfect as the dapper English sceptic who slowly begins to believe that monsters walk the earth. Eyssen is fine as Harker but, is on screen briefly. Melissa Stribling and Carol Marsh are also charming in the roles of Mina and Lucy perspectively but, aren’t given too much to do other than be damsels in distress but, that is a sign of the times, as this was still the 50s. At least they get to be a bit sexier than the Lugosi film heroines were years earlier.

Obviously this is a classic and even close to sixty years later, is effective and a lot of fun. Real-life best friends Cushing and Lee were in top form and just beginning to create legendary characterizations of two world famous literary figures…performances that would immortalize them alone, despite versatile and expansive resumes. It is quaint and charming by today’s standards and maybe even a bit tame when compared to modern vampire tales, but, still effective a telling nonetheless. It was the first Dracula film to turn up the sexy and crank out the blood and made a legend out of Lee and Cushing, whose body of work as a team and separately is unsurpassed. A classic and rightfully so…and for so many reasons!

-MonsterZero NJ

4 fangs.

horror of dracula rating

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FAREWELL AND R.I.P. TO THE LEGENDARY SIR CHRISTOPHER LEE!

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LONDON - JULY 17:  (UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS OUT) Actor Christopher Lee arrives at the UK Premiere of

SIR CHRISTOPHER LEE 1922-2015

It is with a great sadness that I post the heartbreaking news of the passing of one of the greatest horror…and film in general…icons of all time, Sir Christopher Lee. Lee is better known to today’s film fans as Star Wars‘ Count Dooku and the wizard Saruman from Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. To older generation movie buffs and horror fans, though, Lee’s legacy stretches almost 70 years since his first film role in 1948. He came to the attention of horror movie fans when he became associated with the legendary Hammer Studios playing not only Frankenstein’s monster and The Mummy, but, became renown worldwide as one of the greatest screen Dracula’s of all time…a role he played in a series of films. He also played Sherlock Holmes, Fu Manchu, battled James Bond and starred in far too many classics to list here. His contributions to the movie world will never be forgotten, nor will his numerous classic roles and unique interpretations of classic characters…not to be left out, the multi-talented Lee also recorded a number of heavy metal albums when in his 80s and 90s. He worked almost until his last days. A true legend to whom MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse may partially owe it’s existence to. Farewell and R.I.P. Sir Christopher Lee!

Just a scant few of his classic roles! Farewell Sir Christopher Lee.

-MonsterZero NJ

Source: internet

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