Brides Of Dracula (1960)
Most people would assume that Christopher Lee was Hammer's most bankable asset, but the company itself obviously didn't think so back in the 60s.
Yes, Brides Of Dracula is that rarest of offerings - a Hammer Dracula film without the lanky mard-arse even in it. At least Legend Of The Seven Golden Vampires made a token attempt at shoehorning the Count in - but despite all the usual trappings (Transylvania, even Van Helsing himself in the spritely form of the ever dependable Cushing), of the old bad-tempered, red-eyed ponce there's not a sign.
And to be fair, he's not really missed. But enough of this anti-Lee procrastinating - on with the film itself.
As has already been noted, we're in Transylvania, where Count Dracula, the "monarch of all vampires", is dead - but his disciples live on.
A lone girl called Marianne Danielle (confusing - two first names, there) is making her way by coach through the forest, with what looks like one of those disciples clinging to the back of the vehicle. She stops at an inn, where she gets the usual grumpy response (© Hammer 1957-76) after mentioning that she's travelling alone. Things take a turn for the worse when her coach buggers off without her, the landlord noting helpfully: "He's gone and that's all there is to it "
As usual in these situations, no-one wants her to stay at the Inn (why is that? Will someone please explain it to me?), right up until there's another knock at the door and in walks the Baroness Meinster. All of a sudden there's rooms a-plenty available for young Marianne, but despite all the veiled warnings and the obvious fact that the old crone's not quite right, Marianne decides to take the wrinkled old biddy up on the offer of a bed for the night at her castle.
Once they arrive, the Baroness explains that she lives there with her son, but that he's not well. "People around here think he'd dead already, and I encourage that thought," she tells the girl.
"God bless you," Marianne tells her.
"If only he could " the Baroness replies.
That night, the plucky young tart looks across the castle courtyard to see what appears to be the Baron, ready to jump to his doom from his bedroom balcony. She rushes to his aid but discovers that he couldn't jump, even if he wanted to - he's chained to the wall by his ankle.
Marianne finally catches on after being told by the servant that the Baron must return by cock crow, because his coffin is at the castle, and she legs it - straight into the arms of Van Helsing (Cushing), who's knocking around Transylvania investigating "the cult of the undead" (that's handy).
As the deaths mount up, there are some stunning scenes (in particular the one where the Baroness begs Van Helsing to give her "release"), and some terrible ones (the villagers' unconvincing mutterings about "the undead" in the pub, and a frankly laughable bat attack).
But this is only the start of the vampiric high-jinks. Van Helsing accompanies Marianne to her destination (a finishing school), which, it turns out, is owned by the Baron himself (nice one)
Brides Of Dracula is an astonishing film, which turns out to be more than the sum of its parts (and is only improved by the lack of the titular character). It begins with a palpable air of menace, and ends with some of the best scenes Hammer ever came up with - Gina's amazing resurrection (try not to feel a chill as the padlocks drop through the locks on the coffin, and she tells Marianne: "Say that you forgive me for letting him love me "), an horrific baddie (the Baron looks vile in all his blood-crazed, bug-eyed glory), a fight scene which nearly eclipses the one in the first film, and the Baron's revenge on Van Helsing, which although cured in a vaguely illogical way, is breathtaking anyway.
Last updated: February 17, 2010
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