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Ghastly ReflectionsHammer Files: Horror of Dracula
POSTED BY TERENCE NUZUM, September 18, 2014    Share

Horror of Dracula along with Curse of Frankenstein has a special place in my heart when it comes to Hammer films. Aside from the fact that they are both two of the best films Hammer ever made, they are also the first ones I saw. I rented them one after the other, and as it was done back in the day, dubbed them to an 8 hour VHS tape. I of course at the age of 15 would watch them back to back. Curse ended and in came that great mood setting opening as we take a camera tour of Dracula's castle until we end up at his grave and blood splatters glorious red on the TV screen. Dracula's first half was so good even if I was too tired after sitting through Curse I had to stay up and watch it. I would fall asleep usually by the middle, but much like the novel it adapts, the middle was never the film's strong suit.

Hammer right off of its success from Curse of Frankenstein knew the next logical monster to cover was Bram Stoker's suave but deadly bloodsucker Dracula. I can't help but think that it was at this point that Hammer laid out their plans to be the British answer to Universal's monsters series. Hammer's Dracula (later renamed Horror of Dracula in the U.S.) always claimed to be one of the closest adaptions of Stoker's novel but this is clearly a marketing boast. Mina and Lucy are two different characters entirely and Jonathon Harker is now a vampire hunter apprentice under Van Helsing. Nevertheless Horror of Dracula at the time must have packed such a punch that such literary balking went unnoticed.

Christoper Lee's animalistic sexual Count was a revelation. Here was a Dracula that was sauve and attractive but when the veil is lifted a wild vicious killer. Peter Cushing's Van Helsing is no longer a wise old man who masterminds the vampires destruction but instead a younger action oriented vampire hunter. The final showdown with Van Helsing where Dracula dissolves to ashes is the thing of legends. But it isn't quite the most memorable scene of the film as that goes to the first time we see Dracula, as the vampiric monster he is, when he bursts open the window to attack Harker with blood shot eyes and a bloody fanged mouth.

For me it took some getting used to this portrayal of Dracula, as I had grown up with Lugosi (who is still my favorite), but as time went by I saw the effort Hammer and Lee went into making a modern sexy vampire character, that as was at once attractive and horrific. Horror of Dracula has become one of my favorite Hammer horror films, and for my money Terence Fisher never directed this great again. His classy and polished look adds to the red gore and Victorian decor in a way that most modern directors would not know how to do. Fisher's shots of Dracula's victims as they are drained of life and blood were like a romantic sex scene. This film is the first time vampires became sexy and it changed everything. A whole new modern take on Dracula that has survived the fads of its era and inspired all subsequent vampire films.

"Ghastly Reflections" is ©2014 by Terence Nuzum. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2014 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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