Happy October, folks.
With the release of LET ME IN, Hammer Films, that wonderfully blood-saturated UK production company looks to be getting its foot back into the world of horror. To celebrate Hammer's reintroduction into the spotlight, I decided to kick off the fifth year of Hail Horror with Hammer's version of the Bram Stoker classic, DRACULA, or HORROR OF DRACULA as it was known upon its release in the United States. Filmed with lush, vibrant urgency by Terence Fisher, who was responsible for many of Hammer's best films such as THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, THE MUMMY, and THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, (the latter two films solidifying, along with DRACULA, the powerhouse pairing of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing), HORROR OF DRACULA offers all of the earmarks that typify a "Hammer" film, and provides a few pleasant surprises for those familiar with the source material.
The surprises start right away: first with the voice over narration of Jonathan Harker, echoing the epistolary nature of Stoker's novel. A red leather diary opens as Harker's voice begins the story, and then dissolves to a shot of a carriage travelling through the woods. I don't know why but this, the first of many beautiful outdoor shots, served to ground the film in a weird sort of reality even as the rest of the film's sets evoked a twisted reflection of the Technicolor melodramas of Douglas Sirk blended with Roger Corman's lurid Poe adaptations and, even further back, the black and white Universal films that set the standard for classic horror. Take for example the lair of Dracula, and its resemblance in its columns and arches to Doctor Frankenstein's quarters in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN: