Cast & Crew
Parisian Marianne Danielle travels to Transylvania to begin her new job as an assistant teacher at a girls's school. When the stage stops at an inn, the driver spots a servant of the Baroness Meinster, who lives secluded in a nearby castle, and flees. Although the inn's kindly landlord, Johann, and his wife try to dissuade Marianne from staying the night, she has no other option, so they allow her to rent a room. As they have feared, the regal Baroness soon arrives and insists that Marianne stay with her at the castle. The innocent Marianne disregards the sinister demeanor of the Baroness' maid, Greta, even after the woman refuses to explain the identity of the young man Marianne spies in another wing of the house. Later, Marianne questions the Baroness, who admits that the man is her son, the Baron, a madman. She adds that the struggle to keep him contained in the castle has ruined her life and causes them both to "pray for death." That night, Marianne wanders onto her balcony, where she sees the Baron about to leap from his window. She races into his wing, where she finds him unharmed, but chained to the floor. The handsome Baron tells Marianne that his mother locks him up in order to deny him his rightful inheritance, and asks her to retrieve the key to his chain from the Baroness' dressing table. Marianne finds the key, but the Baroness spots her at the last moment, forcing Marianne to crawl along the window ledges into the Baron's room. After freeing himself, the Baron commands his terrified mother to come to him. Marianne hides upstairs while Greta wails, but soon the servant urges her to come downstairs and see what she has wrought: the Baroness lays dead, two bite marks in her neck. Greta explains that the Baroness chained her son to keep him from his evil ways, but kept him alive by bringing young girls for him to feed off. As Marianne flees the castle, Greta raves that the Baron must return to her, and his coffin, before sunrise. By morning, Marianne has collapsed on the road to town, where British metaphysics specialist Dr. Van Helsing finds her. He brings her to the inn, where a wake is in progress for a village girl found murdered during the night. Upon inspecting the body, Van Helsing discovers, as he has expected, puncture marks in the girl's neck. He drives Marianne to her school, explaining along the way that he is studying "a local sickness" and must learn everything about her stay in the castle. When they reach the school, Van Helsing's credentials impress the grouchy headmaster, Herr Lang, who promises to look after Marianne for him. Van Helsing then returns to the inn, where he confers with the local priest and agrees that a vampire is at large. He explains vampires' key qualities: They cannot tolerate sunlight or religious imagery, cast no reflection, sleep in coffins, can transform into bats and hypnotize people, and can be killed only with fire or a wooden stake to the heart. That night, Van Helsing and the priest wait by the village girl's grave until they see Greta approach and coach the girl on how to rise from the dead. When the girl emerges from the ground, the men attack, but the girl turns into a bat and escapes. Van Helsing follows Greta to the castle, where he confronts the Baroness, who is now a vampire. As they talk, the Baron appears and attacks Van Helsing, who brandishes a cross to repel the creature. After a fight, the Baron runs off, after which the Baroness begs Van Helsing to kill her with a stake so her soul can rest. While Van Helsing performs the terrible act of kindness, the Baron visits Marianne, who has no memory of their earlier meeting. He is about to bite her neck when Herr Lang interrupts, at first irate that they are alone together, but soon charmed by the Baron, who announces his engagement to Marianne. That night, Marianne and her friend Gina discuss the Baron's many attributes, and after Marianne leaves Gina's bedroom, the Baron enters and drinks Gina's blood. Soon, news of Gina's death reaches Van Helsing, who accompanies incompetent local doctor Tobler to the school. There, upon learning that Marianne is engaged to the Baron, Van Helsing realizes that she is under his spell. He insists that Gina's body be stored in the stable and that the Langs watch over Marianne. That night, however, Marianne enters the stable, whereupon Gina, now a vampire, climbs out of her coffin and pursues Marianne. She is saved by Van Helsing, who convinces Marianne that her fiancé is a monster who must be stopped, after which she admits that the Baron is hiding at the old mill. Van Helsing searches there for the Baron, who eventually attacks him with a chain. The Baron manages to bite the doctor, then leaves to find Marianne. Weakened but alive, Van Helsing cauterizes the bite with a burning-hot poker, then seals the wound with holy water. Now healed, he is able to splash the rest of the holy water onto the Baron when he returns with a hypnotized Marianne. The Baron is maimed by the water but manages to set fire to the mill, forcing Van Helsing to grab Marianne and escape to the roof. There, the doctor jumps on the windmill blades, causing them to turn until their shadow forms a cross. When the Baron unintentionally steps into the shadow, the Christian icon destroys him. While the creature dies, Van Helsing holds Marianne, who has awakened from her trance.
The Brides of Dracula
In the fall of 1959, Hinds commissioned Hammer staffer Peter Bryan to have a whack at rewriting Sangster's script, which was now called Dracula, the Damned. Principally a camera operator for the studio, Bryan was battling the throat cancer that would ultimately take his life and was glad for the extra income. The assignment came with just one prerequisite: remove Dracula from the script entirely. With Dracula literally out of the picture, Bryan thought it best to bring back the character of indefatigable vampire slayer, Abraham Van Helsing, whom Peter Cushing had played in Hammer's original. Bryan also added a spectacular climax in which Van Helsing invokes the powers of Hell to destroy Dracula's disciple with a plague of vampire bats. At the behest of Cushing, the bat swarm was eighty-sixed (Cushing felt the righteous Van Helsing would not broker with the Devil) and a third writer, playwright Edward Percy (coauthor of the stage thriller Ladies in Retirement and a member of Parliament from 1943 to 1950), was retained to embroider the script with historical flourishes and elevate its dramatic pedigree. By the time cast and crew set to work on January 26, 1960, the project was called Dracula II, which Hammer bustled through principal photography in order to deliver a summer release to Universal-International in the United States. Peter Bryan was ultimately credited with the final title change to The Brides of Dracula (1960).
"Count Dracula, monarch of all vampires, is dead." So begins The Brides of Dracula, with a stentorian bit of narration that sets the stage for an un-Dracula film while at the same time evoking the immortal opening lines ("Marley was dead: to begin with") of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Before audiences can process the implications of this disclaimer, Terence Fisher slashes the frame with the image of a hackney being driven pell-mell through the mossy, mist-choked Transylvanian countryside. In the driver's seat, Hammer trouper Michael Ripper ignores the entreaties of the sole passenger (Yvonne Monlaur) to slow down as he steers the coach into the main square of a somber Carpathian village. Stranded by her driver in the hamlet's discomfiting inn, our heroine laments that she will arrive too late to accept a coveted teaching position at a girls' academy in nearby Badstein but is rescued through the intervention of a local aristocrat (Martita Hunt), who takes the girl under her wing with the expected disastrous results. As if ripping a page or two from Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) while anticipating Roger Corman's The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), The Brides of Dracula has the wizened and witchy Baroness Meinster bringing the girl into her home not for care and comfort but as food for her ravening monster of a son, whom she keeps shackled and safe from the world in the depths of their ancestral manse.
The Brides of Dracula moves fleetly from one foreboding scene to the next, with cinematographer Jack Asher lighting the proceedings with a candied palette whose purples, reds and blues are as sickly as they are majestic. Standing in for Count Dracula is David Peel's younger, more impulsive Baron Meinster, a Wildean libertine whose boyhood experimentations have left him "a beast of the night." While Christopher Lee's instantly iconic Count was a bit stoic and inflexible, the Baron is a Byronic, self-amused and even sympathetic figure... until his true nature is revealed in a toothsome attack on one of the schoolgirls (Andree Melly). A cruelly handsome and quite patently homosexual actor (who eventually quit the business to become an antiques dealer), Peel makes Meinster as feral as he is fey and provides Cushing's dogged and determined Van Helsing with a consummate and capable adversary, able to charm the bodices off the local ladies and then transform into a leather-winged bat to elude capture. The film's standout scene has Meinster bestow upon an unconscious Van Helsing the dreaded kiss of the vampire; this unabashedly homoerotic exchange leaves the good doctor to awaken in a panic and then exorcise this infection with fire in a scene of self-scourging worthy of Martin Scorsese (an admitted Hammer fan). A generation later, Tim Burton would draw on his childhood memories of the pyrotechnic conclusion of The Brides of Dracula while conceiving the final frames of his own Sleepy Hollow (1999).
The genius of Jimmy Sangster's script for Dracula lay in the skill with which the writer telescoped the major scenes from Bram Stoker's source novel so that plot developments were always two steps ahead of audience expectation. For all its intensity and forward momentum, however, the production could not shake the overall aura of abridgement, leaving this epoch-making film feeling decidedly less than epic. In proceeding without Dracula for The Brides of Dracula, Hammer was able to work around its own diffidence toward the character, whom they never again were able (through half a dozen sequels starring Christopher Lee) to depict satisfactorily, reducing "the Undying Count" to a grumpy, reclusive major domo ordering barmaids and defrocked clerics to do his bidding. The Brides of Dracula feels at once more personal, more specific and, despite a syllabus rich in necromancy, necrophilia, incest, homoeroticism and all around monsterism, more human. Manifest terrors to one side, the script works in a persuasively apt leitmotif of social ascendancy, from the airs of Henry Oscar's huffy academy headmaster ("How could I be expected to recognize a doctor of philosophy, a doctor of theology, a professor of metaphysics by the cut of his trousers?") to the royal pretensions of the Baroness Meinster, who boasts that her house wine "is twin brother to the best in the emperor's cellar." Given this class-conscious subtheme of acquisitiveness (Meinster's intention to wed the heroine reeks of a paper marriage of convenience), the requisite risings from the grave reflect a perversion of social climbing, with vampirism itself bearing the shadow of social disease.
Rather than being weighted down by these somewhat academic blandishments, The Brides of Dracula gallops from start to finish, propelled by crisp direction from Terence Fisher, on-target performances by a top-flight of British stage and film actors (including Freda Jackson, an unsung horror hag if ever there was one, and Miles Malleson, who turns in an amusing bit as a comic medico), Jack Asher's seductively chromatic Technicolor cinematography and an invigorating and highly romantic score courtesy of Malcolm Williamson, an Australian expatriate composer who worked infrequently in films and served as Elizabeth II's Master of the Queen's Music from 1975 until his death in 2003.
A success for Hammer at a time when the studio seemed to leap from strength to strength, The Brides of Dracula remains semi-obscured by the long shadow of Dracula/Horror of Dracula yet is well-regarded by the Gothic horror cognoscenti. In his 1996 history of Hammer Studios, author Denis Meikle proclaimed it "the high point of Hammer Horror," noting that the film "functions in a universe that is entirely of its own making, separated from the mechanics of its creation. Like all good fairy tales, it is rooted in a reality of sorts, yet elements of it stay in the mind long after, garish and redolent as a dream." Elements jettisoned from drafts of the script by Sangster and Bryan (most notably, the climactic bat attack) were worked into Hammer's The Kiss of the Vampire (1963), a bid by the studio to squeeze even more blood from the vampire mythos without having to pay a farthing to either Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing.
Producer: Anthony Hinds
Director: Terence Fisher
Screenplay: Peter Bryan, Edward Percy, Jimmy Sangster; Anthony Hinds (uncredited)
Cinematography: Jack Asher
Art Direction: Thomas Goswell (uncredited)
Music: Malcolm Williamson
Film Editing: Alfred Cox
Cast: Peter Cushing (Dr. J. Van Helsing), Martita Hunt (Baroness Meinster), Yvonne Monlaur (Marianne Danielle), Freda Jackson (Greta), David Peel (Baron Meinster), Miles Malleson (Dr. Tobler), Henry Oscar (Herr Otto Lang), Mona Washbourne (Frau Helga Lang), Andree Melly (Gina), Victor Brooks (Hans - a Villager), Fred Johnson (The Cure, Father Stepnik), Michael Ripper (Coachman), Norman Pierce (Johann - Landlord), Vera Cook (Landlord's Wife), Marie Deveruex (Village Girl).
by Richard Harland Smith
English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby (Reynolds & Hearn, Ltd., 2000)
A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer by Denis Meikle (Scarecrow Press, 1996)
Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography by Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio (McFarland Publishing, 1996)
The Films of Christopher Lee by Robert W. Pohle, Jr., and Douglas C. Hart (Scarecrow Press, 1983)
"'Mother, Come Here' - The Making of The Brides of Dracula," by Bruce G. Hallenbeck, Little Shoppe of Horrors, #14, December 1999
"The Brides of Dracula: the Making of a Classic," by Mike Murphy, Dark Terrors, #10, June 1995
"The Legacy of Terence Fisher," The House that Hammer Built, No. 10, November 1998
The Brides of Dracula
The ending was to have originally had the vampires destroyed by a swarm of bats. This ending proved too expensive to stage and shoot. The concept of this ending was recycled three years later for the climax of Hammer's _Kiss of the Vampire (1963)_ .
Executive producer Michael Carreras' name does not appear until the closing credits. The opening and closing cast credits vary slightly in order. The film begins with a voice-over narration explaining that although Count Dracula has been killed, his disciples live on. Marie Devereux's name, which does not appear in the opening credits, is misspelled in the closing cast credits as "Deveruex". Andree Melly's name is mistakenly listed as "Audrey" in several reviews.
According to a February 15, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item, Monarch Books planned to release a novelization of the film. As noted in a July 1960 Los Angeles Times article, at the close of Hammer Films' 1958 Horror of Dracula, "Count Dracula" was destroyed, with only the character of "Van Helsing" left alive. For more information on other films featuring Dracula, please consult the Series Index and the entry for the 1931 Universal film Dracula (AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40).
The Brides of Dracula was one of several films Hammer produced in cooperation with Universal that remade or featured characters from classic Universal horror films from the 1930s and 1940s. For additional information, please consult the entry below for the 1959 version of The Mummy.
Released in United States Spring May 12, 1960
Re-released in United States on Video August 6, 1996
Formerly distributed by MCA Home Video.
Released in United States Spring May 12, 1960
Re-released in United States on Video August 6, 1996