Synopsis: A young teacher on her way to a position in Transylvania helps a young man escape the shackles his mother has put on him. In doing so, she innocently unleashes the horrors of the undead once again on the populace, including those at her school for ladies.
Stars: Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, Yvonne Monlaur, Freda Jackson, David Peel, Miles Malleson
Director: Terence Fisher
Running Length: 85 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: With the success of Horror of Dracula in 1958, British film studio Hammer Pictures realized they had a property with franchise potential and started plotting out a sequel. Two years later, director Terence Fisher and screenwriter Jimmy Sangster collaborated again and walked The Brides of Dracula down the aisle at cinemas to another round of bloody good box office returns. The first of eight Dracula sequels filmed between 1960 and 1974, this is truly representative of a sequel that’s equal to its predecessor.
Lovely French teacher Marianne (the, um, lovely and French Yvonne Monlaur) is bound for her new position at a girls school on the outskirts of Transylvania. With her carriage driver going full tilt to make it through the forest before nightfall, it’s a rocky road to travel especially when a stowaway hitches a ride after the carriage stops to clear a log blocking their path. Arriving at a small village inn, as she dines the coachman takes off without her, stranding her in town for the night. She’s not put out for long though as the inn is visited by a Baroness (Martita Hunt, grandly ghoulish) that bids her to dine in her castle and stay the night, an offer the townspeople advise her not to take. Before you know it, Marianne has freed the son (David Peel, arguably the most movie-star handsome of the Hammer vampires) of the Baroness from his shackles and he has taken flight (as a bat!) on the hunt for blood. Thankfully, Dr. Van Helsing (the always excellent Peter Cushing) happens to be traveling in the area and knows the mark of a vampire when he sees one. Will he be able to save Marianne from the Baron before he sinks his fangs into her?
This is a very fun, entertaining film and one that I’d miraculously not seen before. The Dracula films featuring Christopher Lee always felt very intense with melodramatic acting that seems to pay special attention to the heaving bosoms of the women Dracula has the hots for. How interesting that in the first sequel to their blockbuster, Hammer only brought back Cushing to reprise his role and focused on an entirely new (albeit descended from the big D himself) bloodsucker. While Lee was an excellent Count his presence isn’t missed here, mostly because Sangster and Fisher have filled the film with appealing characters and splendid dialogue.
Sure, there are some holes here and there and some characters introduced as important are never heard from again. I also wished more time was spent at the boarding school for girls, seems like there was missed potential there to add a few more brides to the mix. As is typical of all Hammer creations, this one oozes opulence in every frame with gorgeous costumes and rich production values. The acting is strong and cinematographer Jack Asher films the action with a Technicolor flourish. While the action of the finale takes place in a well-designed windmill, it comes up ever so short by rushing through the dénouement to get to the credits.
If you wore out your copy of Horror of Dracula like I did or just would like a new old classic to keep your attention, The Brides of Dracula is one you can commit to without any fears of getting cold feet.