Amusingly enough, I was wearing a Famous Monsters of Filmland T-shirt I got as a gift when I ran into an older neighbor in the supermarket last week who mentioned that as a kid, her parents took her to see Horror of Dracula back in 1958. She was only 8 years old, but was a big fan of sci-fi and horror movies, noting her parents were as well, and they’d make trips to the movies regularly. She noted she couldn’t sleep for about a month or so, but not because of Dracula, mind you, as (spoiler!) he’s as dead as a door nail at the end of the film (well, until his revival in the next films), but because of his brides.
She was convinced they were going to come after her for some reason and I noted that I’m sure many people who’ve seen this film sure as heck wanted a nibble on the neck from any of the lovely ladies in that film, vampires or not. Maybe even a few too many nibbles.
She laughed, and said “I know, but there was one in particular… what’s her name? The one that looked like a cat?” I thought for a few seconds and guessed correctly it was Andrée Melly, who indeed did look like a cat, and yes, briefly played that favorite bide of too many others as well. The neighbor let out a loud laugh. “Well that was fast! I guess she made an impression on you, too!”, which made me laugh as well, as there’s a pun in there she didn’t realize she was making. Anyway, we chatted a bit more and I helped her get a big aluminum baking pan off a high shelf for the ham she was making, as family was visiting that weekend. She paid for her groceries and left with a wave, thanking me for jogging her memory.
Like many kids, I first saw this film on a black and white TV in the 70’s and it made quite an impression among myself and the school friends who braved it and spent a few times diving under blankets when things got scary. Here’s a kicker for you: I didn’t like Bela Lugosi’s portrayal as a kid because that 1931 version was too dull for my unrefined tastes.
Of course, I was also bored by many of those old Universal horrors except for two of the Frankensteins, The Mummy, The Invisible Man and The Wolf Man. Not surprising at all was once I saw it shortly thereafter, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was likely my favorite horror film for a while growing up. Yes, I got older and smarter in my film appreciation, by the way.
When I finally saw a color version many years later, I was shocked at the difference and how very frightening it was with the Technicolor pop. By then, I’d already seen a slew of Hammer horror and sci-fi films and was totally convinced that the studio was one that kept the genre flame burning for a while as tastes were changing, Anyway, in color (and later with a few edited scenes restored), Dracula remains a gorgeously shot and edited masterpiece. It’s clearly a totally different vibe that Universal’s original film, but both are seen as equal by me these days. I’m not here to
yammer Hammer on about the plot – I’ll just warmly recommend you see this if you haven’t.
It’s a film that I’d go as far to say that everyone is perfectly cast in. Christopher Lee’s portrayal is both menacing and dare I say, sexy? for the time. It’s a lot different that Lugosi’s Count, but both are I think, done well for each era. Peter Cushing plays Van Helsing so well, that I think it the best portrayal of the character I’ve seen. All the ladies who lunch here are stunning or elegant in their look, and even secondary characters fit like gloves here. The last version I was was on TCM, so I’m not sure if was the 2012 restoration with the two extended scenes or not.
If you own a multi-region Blu-Ray player and want it all, The UK version of the film has not only the 2012 restored cut, it’s got two extra discs of special features the Warner Archive version is missing, although that one can be bought as separate Blu-Ray or DVD versions. Yes, I’ll get to Horror of Frankenstein at some point as well as Hammer’s version of The Mummy and few other of their films at some point down the road. I just wanted to pop this one up first because it was the first one I remembered seeing and, hey, I found out someone else liked it as much as I do.