The Hammer Horror classic gets a superb restoration and release from Scream Factory
Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur), a beautiful young girl, is stranded en route to a teaching assignment in Eastern Europe. She is persuaded to spend the night at the nearly deserted castle of the mysterious Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt). In the castle, Marianne accidentally discovers a man chained to the wall in his room. The Baroness explains only that he is her “sick and feeble-minded” son. Unable to get any further information from her or the maid, Marianne steals a key and sets him free. But once unbound, the man — Baron Meinster (David Peel) — fiendishly recruits the undead for his evil purposes while Marianne and Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) try to stop him in this classic Hammer Film.
We’ve previously mentioned here at Cinapse how thrilled we are by the resurrection of the Hammer Horror archives by Scream Factory. They continue their celebration of the golden age of this studio with The Brides of Dracula, a follow up to Hammer’s 1958 box office smash The Horror Of Dracula. While not a direct sequel (so fear not about tracking that down), and lacking the immortal Christopher Lee in the titular role, it instead champions the character of Van Helsing once again realized by the legendary Peter Cushing, making for less of a horror and more of a haunting procedural affair.
Crossing Europe on her way to a new job, young schoolteacher Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) finds herself taking a bed for the night at a castle in Transylvania . She discovers that her host, Meinster (Martita Hunt), is keeping her her son Baron (David Peel) a prisoner in his own home. She sets him free, unwittingly unleashing a terror upon the local townsfolk, who start to disappear, some turning up dead, two puncture wounds in their necks. Baron is stalking the land, and more than that is looking to be united with the woman who gave him his freedom.
It’s pretty familiar fare to start things off, but the film goes up a notch with the arrival of Van Helsing,. A scholarly and focused presence that pulls the focus of the film toward a investigation to uncover and destroy this perversion of life and virtue. The majority of Hammer efforts move at a leisurely pace, but BoD actually moves with energy and momentum. Plot driving the film rather then mood. That’s not to say it is devoid of the latter. It’s a richly produced feature, with authentic locales, textured period costumes, ornate set dressing, and more. Terence Fisher directs with aplomb, crafting a Gothic atmosphere and effective tension, ably supported by a perturbing and dynamic score from Hammer stalwart Malcolm Williamson, that gets its own featurette in the extra features on this release. While the lad of Lee is saddening, David Peel offers an interesting contrast to the Vampire image you’d expect, more regal and fancy, with that underscore of danger still present. Cushing, turns in one of his best Hammer performances, with a commanding performance, showing an intelligence and intensity that propels this Hammer venture along.
A new 2K scan of the interpositive, the transfer showcased here is a delight to behold. Detail and black levels impress, color is strongly represented across the spectrum, no damage or artifacts evident, with a healthy layer of grain. Its a sumptuous production, notably the interior sequences, and this release really shows that off. Extra features are stacked with excellent material:
- NEW Audio Commentary with author/film historian Steve Haberman and filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr: A insightful, and clearly well researched contribution from the pair, discussing the film, and how it fitted into the Hammer output and approach at the time.
- NEW The Men Who Made Hammer: Terence Fisher: Running nearly an hour, it’s a career retrospective for Fisher, his style, collaborations, personality, and more, with a focus on his work with Hammer
- NEW The Men Who Made Hammer: Jack Asher: Shorter featurette at 16 minutes, but no less interesting, as it covers Asher’s work at the camera for the studio, and how his approach dictated much of the distinct style we see onscreen in Hammer’s output
- NEW The Eternal and the Damned — Malcolm Williamson and The Brides of Dracula: David Huckvale, the Author of Hammer Films Scores And The Musical Avant-Garde, delves into the life and career of Hammer composer Malcolm Williamson. The highlight is when, sat at a piano, he plays themes and puts them into context, as well as highlighting the approaches Williamson made to the horror genre
- The Making of Brides of Dracula– narrated by Edward De Souza plus interviews with Yvonne Monlaur, Jimmy Sangster, Hugh Harlow and more…: Just over 30 minutes in length, the featurette coveres multiple aspects of the production, from set and costume design, to the script, on set relationships, makeup, Peter Cushing, and the underwhelming response to the film on initial release
- The Haunted History of Oakley Court: A tour of the location where most of the film was shot in the South of England. A nice insight into the history of the building, and also it’s context as a shooting location for multiple features, not just BoD
- Theatrical Trailer
- Radio Spot
- Still Gallery
The Bottom Line
While not the horror thrills some may want from a vampire movie, The Brides of Dracula is a sumptuous production, that builds a compelling procedural around Cushing’s magnificent portrayal of Van Helsing. Top tier Hammer horror given a splendid treatment by Scream factory.
The Brides of Dracula is available via Scream Factory from November 10th