After the success of Horror of Dracula, Hammer Films wanted to film a sequel. Lee declined to revisit the role but Cushing was on board to further the adventures of Europe’s keenest adversary to evil.
Brides of Dracula is one of my favorite Hammer Films. It was a title that I added to my VHS shelf in the early days of building my library. I recently acquired the DVD which boasts some beautiful color and wonderful print quality. I’m sure the Blu-ray release is more beautiful but I haven’t gotten on that train quite yet.
|The incredible Bray studios back lot.|
|The beautiful Marianne.|
|The dashing prince of blood.|
The Baron visits Marianne at her school and asks her to marry him to which she agrees. That night the Baron also pays a visit to Marianne's roommate Gina. Gina's body is discovered and when Van Helsing arrives, he orders to keep the body in the stable away from the rest of the students. Marianne happens to go to the stable to help relieve the school teacher from watching over the coffin. While she is alone though, the locks on the coffin fall off mysteriously. Again this is one of those scenes that builds some great tension as the coffin lid slowly opens and an undead Gina rises. Van Helsing arrives in time to keep Gina from biting Marianne and discovers the Baron is hiding in an old mill.
|The brides advance.|
At the mill Van Helsing discovers Greta and the two undead “brides”. While fighting with Greta, Van Helsing loses his crucifix. The Baron and Van Helsing come to blows and Van Helsing is overcome by the Baron and bitten. The Baron leaves to find Marianne leaving Van Helsing to succumb to his wounds. Upon awakening Van Helsing realizes he is bitten and performs probably the only reversal of a vampire bite procedure that I can think of. This right here, is like the money shot scene. It totally defines the Van Helsing character as portrayed by Peter Cushing. Van Helsing heats up a brazier and when it is ready he cauterizes the vampire wound on his neck. He then doses the burned wound with holy water reversing the damage that Meinster had inflicted.
|Nothing beats a good holy water bath.|
|You don't mess with Peter Cushing.|
The Baron returns to the mill with Marianne to vampirize her in front of Van Helsing. As he attempts to bite her Van Helsing gives the Baron a good dose of the holy water, saving Marianne and burning the vampires face. The Baron kicks over the brazier which catches the mill on fire. Van Helsing and Marianne make their way to the top of the mill to escape. The Baron flees from the mill as well to escape into the night. Van Helsing sees him and hangs onto the sails of the mill which forms the shadow of a huge cross on the ground where the Baron is standing. The Baron is killed by the sign of the cross.
Even though Brides of Dracula may not star the great Christopher Lee, it still delivers the goods as a great gothic horror and a beautiful Hammer production. The sets are top notch as they always seem to be in these productions and give the film the authenticity of the time period. David Peel portrays the vampire Meinster very well in my opinion. He is charming and good looking and transitions from baby faced victim to bloodthirsty evil with ease. He tends to get looked over because he is not Lee. Well he is not and isn’t supposed to be Dracula in the first place but with the title the way it is, I imagine there was a bit of a letdown to audiences who wanted Dracula to be present. Still though this film is a wonderful example of the quality filmmaking that made Hammer famous and a force to reckoned with in the cinema world for years to come.