Friday, May 21, 2010

Brides of Dracula

Brides of Dracula was released in 1960 and stars Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing, Martita Hunt as Baroness Meinster, David Peel as Baron Meinster, Yvonne Monlaur as Marianne Danielle, and was directed by Terence Fisher.

Marianne Danielle (Monlaur) is on her way from Paris to the Academy at Bachstadt. Her coach makes an unexpected stop before reaching the Academy, and then leaves while she is getting something to eat at the local inn. Marianne is informed that the inn has no rooms and she is out of luck, that is, until the
Baroness von Meinster (Hunt) offers lodging for the night at her castle.

As Marianne prepares for dinner, she looks out the window and sees a young man on the balcony below. When she asks the baroness who the young man is, the baroness tells her that it is her son, the Baron von Meinster (Peel). Later, as Marianne gets ready for bed, she again looks out the window and sees the young man. She runs down to his room and learns that he is chained up. Marianne then searches through the baroness's desk in search of the key. When she finds it, she frees the baron.

The next morning, Marianne is found lying in the forest by Dr van Helsing (Cushing) who agrees to walk her to the school. On the way, they make a stop at the inn where a young girl is lying on her death bed with two wounds on her neck. Van Helsing recognizes the bites and realizes that Marianne's life is also in danger.

That night, the dead girl rises from her grave, but before van Helsing can kill her, she changes into a bat and escapes. Van Helsing then heads to the castle, hoping to find the baron, but instead he runs into the baroness, who's now a vampire, so van Helsing drives a stake through her heart.

The baron and his two brides, Marianne and Gina, take refuge in an old windmill, so van Helsing comes after them. A fight follows in which van Helsing is bitten by the baron. To prevent himself from becoming a vampire, van Helsing cauterizes the marks on his neck with a branding iron. Then van Helsing splashes the Baron with holy water, and the baron kicks over a grate of burning coals, causing the mill to catch on fire. As the baron tries to flee, van Helsing leaps on the windmill and moves it so the shadow of a cross appears on the ground, trapping the Baron and destroying him.

Brides of Dracula is a very stylish film with beautiful sets and striking cinematography which makes up for a weak plot and less than stellar acting. Though Fisher's directing is good, the film lags at times and is needlessly gory. The biggest fault of the film is that it doesn't attempt to push the boundaries of the vampire/Dracula genre. It uses a lot of the same techniques of earlier films, but fails to have the seductive or creepy qualities of its Universal predecessor, Dracula, starring Bela Legosi, and directed by Tod Browning. Over all it's a better than average film, but not one that I would highly recommend.

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