In 1960, after the tremendous success of their very first Dracula (1958) movie, Hammer Films decided to see if they could replicate that success by making a sequel. That sequel was called The Brides of Dracula.
Although this movie did not feature the great Christopher Lee as Count Dracula, The Brides of Dracula was still a rollicking good vampire yarn (some Hammer fans have even said that it was better than the first Dracula film, although being a die-hard fan of Christopher Lee, I naturally beg to differ). It was a good, solid story, beautifully shot and full of atmosphere, tension and action. Peter Cushing returns as Van Helsing (yayyyy!) and, as usual, delivers an excellent performance. In addition, his character is more heroic and active in this movie, fearlessly going head-to-head with the vampires in proper swashbuckling style.
Christopher Lee was rumoured to have been approached to reprise his role as Dracula for the original version of this film, but this has never been 100% confirmed.
The story of The Brides of Dracula centres around a gorgeous young French teacher called Marianne Danielle (Yvonne Monlaur), who is travelling to take up a position at the Badstein Girls’ Academy. When her journey is interrupted and she is abandoned at a village inn, she meets up with the elderly recluse Baroness Meinster (Martitia Hunt), who invites the girl to spend the night with her at her castle. During the night, Marianne encounters a rather strikingly handsome, seductive young man, who happens to be the Baroness’s son, and who is kept chained up by his mother.
Baron Meinster implores Marianne to retrieve the key that will unlock the chain on his leg. Foolishly, she does, and it is then that all hell immediately breaks loose, literally, as the freed son dons his vampire cape and starts acting in the manner of a true autocratic, menacing vampire. And his first target is his mother.
Whilst David Peel (whose youthful teen-pinup looks belied his true age of 40), who plays the evil Baron Meinster, lacks the tall, daunting, regal presence of Christopher Lee, he is still a pretty good bloodsucker (knocking the contemporary over-slushy and unscary vampires of today completely out of the water), and when he starts baring his fangs and exhibiting his glaring-red eyes in true vampiric fashion, you really feel the sheer terror of those who encounter him. His vampire “brides” are also pretty formidable and malevolent.
The Brides of Dracula was a movie that had many rewrites, which would account for some of the more glaring plot holes, especially the all-too-brief appearance of the mysterious black-garbed, creepy-looking man at the opening of the film. The movie was originally going to be called “Disciple of Dracula” which, given the nature of the storyline, would certainly have been a more appropriate title, thus avoiding any possible misleading of Hammer fans who might have thought that Christopher Lee was going to return as Dracula, due to the count’s name being in the title. Also, the original ending, which involved Van Helsing – of ALL people! – calling on the black arts to summon a huge swarm of demonic vampire bats to take out Meinster and his acolytes was considered a little too incongruous to Van Helsing’s Man-of God character by Peter Cushing, so this was scrapped and an alternative ending was drawn up.
To sum up, The Brides of Dracula is a pretty fun vampire flick. All the familiar Hammer horror elements we so love are here: beautiful color cinematography, lavish sets, solid writing, strong performances and a ferocious-looking vampire, making this a watchable heir to its predecessor, despite the fact that Christopher Lee is conspicuous by his absence. And this Final Cut Blu Ray/DVD Combo comes with some tasty extra features, including The Making of The Brides of Dracula, Cast interviews, Theatrical Trailer and Stills Gallery.
If you enjoyed my review of The Brides of Dracula, you might like to check out my three books on Hammer Horror, details of which can be found HERE