Sunday, December 13, 2015

Movie review - "Brides of Dracula" (1960) *** (another viewing)

I caught this at the New Beverly in Los Angeles - such comfortable seats! - because I wanted to see it on the big screen. It's probably the best looking of the Hammer horrors,with gorgeous photography, colour, costumes and sets. Yvonne Monlaur is one of the prettiest Hammer horror starlets and there are some good looking women in the support cast. There are lots of "in depth" shots i.e. looking down on balconies and from higher floors.

The script is irritatingly disjointed (three writers are credited on it). I kind of went with why the innkeeper was so keen to get Yvonne Monlaur out of town at night,and got that Monlaur fell in love with David Peel in one scene with only a few lines of dialogue... but not that she never asked Peel about his relationship with his mother (Marita Hunt) even though he's accused her of locking up; or that she never seems perturbed that Hunt dies after she lets Peel go; or the fact that Peel bites Peter Cushing but leaves him alive (despite the fact two of his brides are there) to go and fetch Monlaur; Monlaur promises Cushing to have nothing to do with Peel then goes and gets engaged to him.

There's a mysterious servant figure who pops up at the beginning but is never seen again; servant Greta seems all keen for keeping the Baron under lock and key in the first third, then becomes a full on ally for him; Monlaur is always getting intro trouble in ways that feel increasingly contrived.

Added to this the bat work is very shonky and the climax where Cushing/Van Helsing creates a cross from the shadows of a windmill feels like cheating. There's an uncomfortable level of misogyny with all these men fighting over defenseless silly woman (though the Baron's mother is an imposing character). And what's with the random comic bit in the third act involving Miles Malleson as a doctor who takes a lot of pills and wants to increase his bill all the time?

But there are lots of good things about it: Cushing is a superb Van Helsing; David Peel a worthy adversary (what ever happened to him?); the support cast is awesome; some of the dialogue was great; there's a few nice digs at the importance of social status among the characters. It has amazing atmosphere. I just can't share fans' enthusiasm for this one, though.

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