Horror of Dracula

Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Michael Gough
Warner Home Video
RRP: 7.99
Certificate: 15
Available 11 October 2004

Harker applies for and accepts a job at Castle Dracula cataloguing the ancient and extensive library, but his true intention is to put an end to the master vampire's evil. The count is extremely cordial, the perfect host, but on only the first night a young woman pleads with Harker to get her away from the castle where she is being kept prisoner. He agrees to help. However, the woman is not what she seems; baring fangs she attacks him, before the primal creature that is Dracula intervenes. Harker now bares the marks on his neck and realises he only has so long to rid the world of the fiend or become like him. Harker writes to his friend and scholar Van Helsing, who travels to the village to help, but Dracula has turned his attention toward Harker's fiancee in retribution for his agression...

All the way back to 1957 for this one, Christopher Lee's first and quite possibly best outing as everyone's favourite creature of the night. Certain scenes stick quite closely to Bram Stoker's original novel: Harker and his diary narrative, the power of the crucifix, Dracula lying in his coffin with soil from his homeland, the fiancee being visited at night, etc. Poetic licence is used to edit the remaining concept into what at only 79 minutes is a pretty short (if tight) feature. But it doesn't matter, because quite simply this is great stuff.

Lee is just superb here as Dracula. The first glimpse of his dark form at the top of the stairs is exquisitely done, and he switches from the perfect formal gentleman in one scene to the quintessential representative of evil (in both looks and manner) in the next. He naturally takes command of every scene in which he makes an appearance, putting over a sense of strength, power and ancient knowledge which you can't imagine many other actors even attempting. Peter Cushing makes the perfect light to Lee's dark. His character is believable in that he continuously instructs others around him, but finds himself almost overwhelmed by the brute strength of Dracula, relying only on his personal steadfastness.

Horror of Dracula has genuine emotion and bags of tension. The sense of time running out as night falls hasn't been captured to quite this effect since Richard Matheson's excellent novel I Am Legend.

This is definitely one of the best products to have left the Hammer stables. What are you waiting for? Go buy it!

Ty Power

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