Wednesday, October 09, 2019
Dracula Adaptations | Horror of Dracula (1958)
Who's in it?: Christopher Lee (The Curse of Frankenstein, The Devil Rides Out, The Man with the Golden Gun, Sleepy Hollow, The Lord of the Rings, Attack of the Clones), Peter Cushing (The Curse of Frankenstein, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Dr. Who and the Daleks, Star Wars), Melissa Stribling, and Michael Gough (Konga, Batman, Sleepy Hollow)
What's it about?: Hammer makes a lurid, action-packed adaptation.
How is it?: Originally titled just Dracula in the UK, but renamed Horror of Dracula for US release, Hammer's version takes a lot of liberties with the novel, but it's so good. Christopher Lee perfectly captures both the menace and the sensuality of the Count. Peter Cushing is excellent as the super-competent Van Helsing who always knows what to do and just needs to find Dracula so he can do it. And even though it's a huge departure from the book, I love that Jonathan Harker is Van Helsing's agent sent to Dracula's castle not as a lawyer, but as an assassin to destroy the vampires.
It simplifies the supporting characters by having Mina (Stribling) be married to Arthur Holmwood (Gough) with Lucy (Carol Marsh) as his sister. When Lucy is killed by Dracula (as in the novel), Arthur and Mina assist Van Helsing in taking down the Count. There's a Dr Seward, but he's just the local physician and doesn't play a real role in the plot. There's no Renfield and frankly I don't miss him. There's certainly no Quincey Morris, whom I do miss, but he's been cut out of every adaptation so far and I understand why. From a plot standpoint, he's superfluous.
Mina has been young and innocent in every adaptation so far, but Stribling's version is an aristocratic matron with confidence and power. Her concern for Lucy feels like the duty of an older sibling, not the love of a dear friend. I like that she's so capable, but one of the things I love most about the literary Mina is the combination of her great intelligence with the flaw of self-doubt. That's missing in this version.
Rating: Four out of five Minas