Cinema Sunday: The Brides of Dracula (1960)

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Title: The Brides of Dracula

Distributor: Universal Pictures (Hammer Studios)

Writers: Peter Bryan, Edward Percy, Jimmy Sangster, Anthony Hinds

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, David Peel, Yvonne Monlaur, Michael Ripper

Released: July 7th, 1960

MPAA: Unrated

In this second installment of the Dracula/vampire franchise, Hammer threw a bit of a curve-ball at its audience. You see, “Dracula”, doesn’t appear in this film at all, and the absence of Christopher Lee was something that would be disconcerting normally, but this film rises above that fear. David Peel makes a fantastic vampire, that’s both creepy and demonstrative. He, along with horror stalwart, Peter Cushing, put on a performance that ranks right up there with any Hammer film, or horror film for that matter. Lets get to the story!

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The film opens with a narrator exclaiming that Dracula is dead, but that Transylvania is still full of magical and mystical entities. We next see a beautiful woman, Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur), as she’s making her way via coach to the Lange School for girls, to take a position as a teacher. The coach stops st the Running Boar Inn for some food and rest for the horses. The owners greet Marianne, but are wary that she’s traveling alone. The coach then inexplicably leaves without her, and she’s stranded. Suddenly, as the owners are panicking to find a way to get her out-of-town tonight, there’s a knock at the door. An old woman enters, and the owners are very frightened. The old woman (Martita Hunt), invites Marianne to come and dine with her, and after some coaxing, Marianne agrees to be her guest for the night, and head to her new job in the morning.

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Once they arrive at the Baroness Meinster’s castle, Marianne is readying herself for dinner, and she notices a young man in one of the other rooms. She questions the housekeeper, Greta (Freda Jackson), about him, and she blows her off about the subject. During supper, Marianne asks the Baroness about the man, and she tells her that he’s her son, but that he’s insane, and so he’s locked up. After the meal, Marianne once again retreats to the balcony, and she sees that same young man, and it seems as though he might jump off the balcony to kill himself. She shouts to him, and then runs to his room. He greets her, and asks her to come closer, and then she notices the reason he cannot come to her, is because he’s chained to the room. He convinces her that he is the Baron Meinster (David Peel), and the rightful heir to the castle and fortune, but his mother is evil, and keeps him locked up to keep the money to herself. He also convinces her to sneak into his mother’s room, and steal the key to open his bonds. She does it and then the Baroness confronts her, but the Baron Meinster is now loose, and he commands his mother to follow him into another room, while Marianne packs her things.

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As Marianne is getting ready, she hears Greta raving in another room. She asks her why she’s going crazy, and she tells him that the Baron isn’t mad, but that he’s dangerous, and basically a killer. Greta then shows Marianne the corpse of the Baroness, and this freaks her out, and she runs off into the forest. A carriage comes by the young woman, as she lays unconscious in the forest. This is when we see Doctor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing),  and his coachman. They revive her from her sleep, and take her back to the Inn in town. Meanwhile, there’s a funeral going on in the parlor, and Van Helsing goes in to investigate. He notices two bite marks on the girl’s neck, and he realizes that it was the work of a vampire.

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Next, Van Helsing takes Marianne to her new job, across the way in the next village. They enter, and meet Herr Lang (Henry Oscar), and his wife (Mona Washbourne). He’s quite upset by her lateness, but Van Helsing calms him down. The good doctor next meets the man who called him to the area, Father Stepnik. The two discuss a plan to wipe out this plague, and make ready for this  evenings festivities. As the sun sets, the recently killed girl rises from her grave, and we see that Greta is the daytime servant to her and Baron Meinster. As the new vampire is rising from the grave, Father Stepnik and Van Helsing try to stop the two of them. They didn’t count on a giant bat (Baron Meinster) swooping in and attacking them though! Van Helsing scares it off with a cross, and then he heads to the Meinster castle. Once inside, he meets the now undead Baroness, but before he can do anything, he’s accosted by the Baron Meinster himself! A quick tussle, and the Baron gets away, but then Van Helsing puts the Baroness in her final resting place.

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Van Helsing must somehow find where the Baron is hiding, and try to protect the townspeople too! Can he do it? C’mon,  it’s Peter Cushing we’re talking about here! In the end, it will come down to an all out brawl between Van Helsing, Baron Meinster, his two brides, and Greta!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Listen, even though this flick doesn’t have Lee in it, it is still top-notch. David Peel makes a great vampire, and Cushing is his usual awesome self! Cushing really shows how much of a bad mamma jamma he is in this film. Jumping around like a grasshopper, fighting Peel, and his brides! Another great performance from Cushing and he and Peel definitely play off of each other quite well.

The older couple that own the school are hilarious, and add a lot of energy to the film. The moment when Baron Meinster meets the two of them is classic, and you couldn’t ask for a more comical scene. A quick scene with Michael Ripper adds his coolness to the film, and the other doctor, portrayed by Miles Malleson, another Hammer regular, is the icing on top of the cake!

A fantastic musical score, great cinematography, and the usual incredible production and directing crew, round out this very watchable film that somehow gets lost in the pile for non-Hammer fans. Believe me when I say, that this movie can hold its own against any other of its generation and genre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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