Archive | May 2013

StarChoice 18: The Brides of Dracula – (Part 2 of 2)

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The morning has broken when Dr. Van Helsing’s carriage chanced upon Marianne lying unconscious in the forest. After reviving her, the doctor and his driver Carl took her to the “Running Boar Inn” where Father Stepnik had booked his boarding. From Johann, the landlord, he came to know of the death of a village girl whose wake is being held there now by few male relatives.

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The deceased maiden, attired in a clean beige satin gown, lay on a patterned sheet inside the wooden coffin. It is the custom that the men related to the deceased are bound to spend the night, short of sleep, keeping watch over the corpse. This is called the privegghia*.

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Although no one knows how she died, a brief look at the girl’s bitten throat was enough for Dr. Van Helsing to know the reason. He found a garland of wild garlic flowers # around the girl’s neck, placed there by the superstitious Transylvanian villagers as a precaution against evil. (# It is also very usual to lay a thorny branch of wild-rose bush across the body to prevent it leaving the coffin).

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Sometime later, finding Marianne fit to travel, he took her to the Lang School. En route, Marianne related the events at Castle Meinster to him. At the school, they were happily received by the principal’s wife, Frau Helga Lang, a jovial woman.

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Although the principal was initially annoyed by her late arrival, upon realising the identity of the eminent Dr. Van Helsing, a Doctor of Philosophy, Theology, and Professor of Metaphysics, he was impressed enough to forgive Marianne.

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When Dr. Van Helsing returned to the Inn, he learned that Hans, the dead girl’s father, a casualty of hard times, had buried his daughter in the churchyard which Fr. Stepnik had objected because he had inkling that she is not at all like the rest of the others*. Having met Fr. Stepnik who had send for Dr. Van Helsing to investigate the local nefarious activities, the doctor decided to seize the initiative and visit the girl’s grave to ensure that she will not rise as undead and become bound to this earth, which would initiate a new cycle of evil.

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Later into the evening, at the girl’s grave, he was horrified to find Greta lying above it, gently tapping on the loose ground, urging the dead girl to wake up to go for her ghastly business. With constant prodding from Greta, encouraging to push from underneath, the ground finally broke and a feminine hand came out. No sooner the lid of the coffin opened and the girl sat up, the hysterical Greta reached over and flicked the garland of wild garlic flowers off the girl’s neck. The reign of terror of the vampire has reached its full zenith. – (rest on the screen…..)

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10What is so ground-breaking about this horror film with elements of fear that has made some followers going gaga over it? “The Brides of Dracula” with its devilish violence and sexuality follows the formula of most of the classic Hammer horror films of the 1950s and 60s, a time when the vampires were elegantly dressed unlike someone displaying his buff biceps and abs in an ad of Paco Rabanne. Those spooky films were noted for their eerie storyline, good characterisation, inexpensive sets and gorgeous costumes (that appeared more lavish and expensive than they actually were), sharp and kinetic editing. The action is kept close to its original period and the climax always featured the triumph of the good over evil, despite the occasional dominance of the evil.

Most of these Hammer movies were of low-budget nature, created  in the family atmosphere at Bray Studios using the same producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, production designers, set/costume designers, including sets, costumes, etc.

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Veteran Hammer director Terence (Terry) Fisher (1904-1980), an astonishing visionary, helmed the direction with an intuitive and decisive flair. A former editor in films from 1933, Fisher had directed “The Curse of Frankenstein”, “Dracula”, and “The Hounds of the Baskervilles” (1959) to impressive results. Born in London, Fisher began his career in 1928 as a clapper boy from which he worked his way up to become an apprentice editor (for Gainsborough Studios) before progressing to a trainee director with the Rank Organisation. Having been invited by Anthony Hinds to direct “The Last Page” (1951) for Exclusive/Hammer, his unique, laid-back style in gothic horror started to develop with “The Curse of Frankenstein”. Reportedly, Fisher always insisted that the script came before all else in film-making, although he chose not to follow the original outline of Jimmy Sangster for the destruction of the vampire woman in “Dracula”. Staying within that framework and using minimal resources, Fisher was able to fashion up many horror creations with such power and conviction.

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The cast is led by Peter “Wilton” Cushing (1913-1994), one of my favourite actors. Cushing had left the English theatre and moved to Hollywood’s “dream factory” in 1939 to commence his film career. Soon after his arrival there, on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. In March 1942, he was back in England, fell in love with his future wife actress Helen Beck in April of that year. Cushing joined the Hammer horror school in 1956 to star in “The Curse of Frankenstein” which brought him instant international fame and set him on a course to confront an assortment of monsters in films.

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A great persona of humour, Cushing reportedly enjoyed learning not only his lines but his co-stars’ as well. Cushing gives a charismatic and commendable performance as the renowned vampire hunter whose strength is rooted in his knowledge, generosity, honour, discipline, and courage. A noteworthy scene that easily comes to my mind is the one in which Cushing perfectly conveys the learned man’s physical and mental agony upon his realization that he had been bitten by a menacing vampire and should instantly muster up a life-prolonging intervention to get rid of the curse, which he does with the help of a white hot poker from a brazier.

16 English actor David Peel (1920-1981), once a student of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, was known to Cushing since their days in the 1954 BBC adaptation of “Beau Brummell”. In his last major role as Baron Meinster, Peel is particularly convincing as the evil imprisoned in the castle.

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19Although Peel had restrained from aping the mannerisms of Dracula, at times his depiction lacks the presence and menace of the vampire who recharges his batteries on young blood. This deficiency is understandable since, to the audience, the character of Baron Meinster is just a small fish compared to the animalistic ferocity of the chief Transylvanian Count Dracula who is successfully anchored in the public mind by the portrayal of Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee. Dracula depicted by Lugosi and Lee appeared effectively menacing and sexy even when he gently approached the woman and forced his will on her, brushing his lips lightly on her cheek before sinking his teeth into the throbbing vein of her neck.

Actress Yvonne (Bèdat de) Monlaur (born 1939) is the daughter of a Russian count and his ballet dancer wife. It was her performance in “Avventura a Capri” that drew the attention of Anthony Hinds to her. After Monlaur’s arrival in England, she had much to be glad about since she could not only act in TV series but also  in three films in quick succession – “Circus of Horrors” (1960), “The Brides of Dracula” and “The Terror of the Tongs” (1961), a low-budget Hammer film starring Christopher Lee. Known mainly for her roles in Hammer Film horrors, Monlaur also did a screen test for the role of Dominique “Domino” Derval in the James Bond vehicle “Thunderball” (1965) though the role eluded her since the producers eventually cast French actress Claudine Auger.

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As student teacher Marianne Danielle, alone and new to the surroundings, everything from the way she dresses and does up her hair to the way she talks reveals the movie’s personality of a naïve young woman with good upbringing. However, the range of emotions Monlaur goes through needs refinement, while, in fact, her energy and beauty gleams throughout the movie.

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British theatre and film actress Martita Hunt (née Burnett) (1900–1969), was reportedly trained as an actress under Dame Geneviève Ward and Lady Benson. She graduated from roles of spinsters to grande dames one of which is her role as Baroness Narbonne Meinster. She is noted for her role as Baroness Elena von Livenbaum in director Anatole Litvak’s Ingrid Bergman and Yul Brynner starrer “Anastasia” (1956) and as Grand Duchess Elise Lupavinova in director Charles Walters’ “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” (1964).

As the mysterious Baroness dressed in glorious black and red, (folds flowing downwards in soft easy lines, sleeves full and bulging while on her head was a dark, embroidered filmy veil floating down the back like a Spanish mantilla), Hunt’s looks and mannerisms, highlighted by lights and camera angles, projects the intended fear factor which in the initial scenes leaves us with doubt whether it is she or her son who is the vampire. Her scenes at the Inn where the Baroness gains the confidence of Marianne and entices her to the castle are well acted.

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There follows a scene of the Baroness’ encounter with Dr. Van Helsing when, looking pale and morbid, she bares her fangs but does not show the animalistic signs of nosferatu (described as a Romanian word for vampire) in spite the fact that the Baron had initiated his mother into the realm of the “flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood” – creating a “little death” that gave her the gift of immortality (essential aspect of the vampire) and an eternal demonic bond with her son. Hunt’s depiction of the vampire here is noteworthy for her acting as well as its deviation from the general perception of the characteristic of a vampire.

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Even with limited screen time, we cannot help but notice the fine performance of the British actress Freda Jackson (1909-1990) as the eccentric housekeeper/nurse of the Baron – especially, the eerie scene when the hysterical Greta coax the young girl to “push and push” (suggesting parturition) to emerge from her grave.

As much as Bram Stoker wished to demonise his female vampires, he did not create them with decomposing faces and bodies. Likewise, Hammer’s female vampires had beautiful but spitfire eyes, fair skin, voluptuous bodies clad in flimsy negligée, and pearly white fangs.

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Beautiful English actress Andrée Melly (born 1932) acts in the role of Marianne’s roommate Gina who was initiated as a bride of the vampire.

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Mona Washbourne (1904-1988) as the round and roly-poly Frau Helga Lang, the Principal’s wife, is a joy to watch. Her part, though minuscule, provides a fresh air of breath amongst the dark undertones of the movie.

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Although obscured by a muffled scarf, hat and top coat, Michael “George” Ripper with his wide staring eyes and controlled mannerisms in a cameo role as the coachman of Marianne, is instantly recognisable.

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The supporting characters in pivotal roles are represented by Norman Pierce (Johann, Landlord), Vera Cook (Landlord’s wife), Miles Malleson (Dr. Tobler), Henry Oscar (Herr Otto Lang, Principal), Fred Johnson (The Cure, Father Stepnik), Victor Brooks (Hans, Villager), Marie Devereux (Village girl), Harold Scott (Severin, stable-keeper), Michael Mulcaster (Mysterious man), etc.

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The marvellous sets created by Production Designer Bernard Robinson, who enriched more than forty films for Hammer, provides a wonderful gothic feel of the period, namely, the splendidly furnished castle at “the land beyond the forest” featuring a grand staircase, spiral pillars, the griffins, candelabras, wooden furniture, etc.

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Likewise, the old Transylvanian Inn with its old-fashioned wooden furniture, stone fireplace, wicker lamps, metal utensils on walls and cupboards, old clock, antique table glasses, wooden walking sticks, a coat-hanger that appeared like the branch of a tree, framed thread-works of flowers on the walls, etc, provides the traditional appearance of an Inn that is customary in Hammer horrors. All of this was set up at Bray Studios.

The costumes were executed by Hammer Wardrobe mistress Molly Arbuthnot (1908-2001) who discharged the same assignment for “Dracula”. The film is well pieced together by Film Editor Alfred Cox (“The Revenge of Frankenstein,The Mummy”, etc).

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The celluloid canvas of the movie was illustrated by master Cinematographer Jack Asher (1916-1991) whose immense talents in what is essentially a visual medium, was evident from his initial Eastman colour photography of “The Curse of Frankenstein”. His crisp photography created a sharp, eerie, and visceral look.

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The horse-driven coaches, the gothic castle, the haunted cemetery, the simple Transylvanian woods and Inn are all beautifully photographed in glorious Technicolor in superb lighting which has a rich illuminating flavour.

Hairstylist Freda (Frieda) Steiger’s ingenuity is evident in David Peel’s look which was emphasised by a blond wig. You can identify a similar look on the blond character of Herbert von Krolock in Roman Polanski’s “Dance of the Vampires (1967 – “The Fearless Vampire Killers or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck”) which also feature a wonderful set of a Transylvanian Inn. Roy Ashton’s make-up appears a bit topped up, especially relating to Andrée Melly and Marie Devereux.

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The other members of the crew are: Anthony Nelson-Keys (Associate Producer), Michael Carreras (Executive Producer), John Hollingsworth (Musical Supervisor), John Peverall (Assistant Director), Len Harris (Camera Operator), Sidney Pearson (Special Effects), etc.

The soundtrack dominated by organ, is composed by Australian-born prolific composer Malcolm “Benjamin Graham Christopher” Williamson (1931-2003). Though repetitive, it is nevertheless romantic and genuinely suits the tone of the movie. Being his first film score, Williamson would go on to compose scores for several Hammer productions. A former nightclub pianist whose music maintained a touch of the jolliness and forthrightness of his native Australia, he was the first non-Britain appointed as Master of the Queen’s Music (in 1975) whose duties include composing appropriate music for state events. In 1976, he was appointed CBE., and an officer of the Order of Australia in 1987.

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Even if you will not miss Dracula or Christopher Lee, “The Brides of Dracula” does have few flaws. It does not offer any explanation about the motive or connection to the castle of the mysterious man who coerced the coach-driver to ditch Marianne at the Inn. Besides, he never turns up after his initial appearances in which he could be sometimes mistaken for Christopher Lee from the distance. In another instance, Marianne had left her luggage at the Inn and miraculously, it was waiting for her inside the room assigned for her in the castle. The garland of wild garlic flowers does not appear to be an impediment to the dead village girl to rise from the grave.

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However, Terence Fisher maintains the suspense while keeping the film well-structured with taut narrative, visually impressive – the atmosphere top notch. As an added incentive, here is Peter Cushing, the great perfectionist and believer in politeness, at what he does best – positive aspects that had won this movie a cult following.

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By the sixth year after the release of “The Brides of Dracula”, once again Christopher Lee donned the long dark cloak and appeared as the Count in director Terence Fisher’s “Dracula: Prince of Darkness”. That was another reincarnation which would subsequently spawn various horrific and brutal sequels. Though the subject matter would not be necessarily attractive to just anybody, there are many who sought and welcomed the appearance of this abhuman entity. Bram Stoker wrote in his novel: “He may not enter anywhere at the first, unless there be some one of the household who bid him to come, though afterwards he can come as he please.” Are you very warm and welcoming? Until next time, Ciao, Jo

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PS:

1)   The DVD of this movie is available with main dealers such as amazon.com, TCM Shop, etc. Reportedly, the Blu-ray version is scheduled for release on July 22, 2013.

2)    In “Chapter XXV: The Roumanians: Death and Burial – Vampires and Were-wolves” (Page 318) of “The Land Beyond The Forest: Facts, Figures & Fancies From Transylvania” (published in 1888), its author Emily Gerard recounts: “In the case of a (man) who has died a violent death, or …..without a light, such a (man) has neither right to bocete, privegghia, mass, or pomeana (funeral feast), nor is his body laid in consecrated ground…..”.  Gerard’s book had quite an influence on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

3)    Scene of the Wake: Although we can see a man standing in the back of the room who could be leading the wake, the film shows only chanting of prayer and omits “Bocete”, the mourning songs usually sung over the corpse by paid mourners. According to Gerard’s book: “Bocete is sung as a “last attempt by the survivors to wake the dead to life by reminding him of all (he) is leaving, and urging (him) to make a final effort to arouse his dormant faculties, – the thought which underlies these proceedings being that the dead man hears and sees all that goes on around him, and that it only requires the determined effort of a strong will in order to restore elasticity to the stiffened limbs and cause the torpid blood to flow anew in the veins.”

4)    When Gina’s corpse was watched over in the night as instructed by Dr. Van Helsing, it is kept in the stable inside a closed coffin. According to Gerard’s book, the corpse must remain exposed a full day and night. Maybe the film-makers kept the lid closed in order to dramatize the following scene.

5)    Listen closely for the faint notes of “Hallelujah” in the climax scene.

6)    A movie tie-in novel “The Brides of Dracula” by Dean Owen is available in some bookstores including amazon.com.

7)   This illustrated article is meant for the promotion of this movie. Please refer to “About” for more details.

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 (This review is dedicated to the memory of Peter Cushing, OBE, one of the finest British actors whose 100th birthday falls on May 26, 2013)

 (Text: © JS/Manningtree Archive)

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StarChoice 18: The Brides of Dracula (Part 1 of 2)

(aka. “Le spose di Dracula”, “Les maîtresses de Dracula”, “Dracula und seine Bräute”, “Dracula – blodtörstig vampyr”, “As Noivas de Drácula”, “De bruiden van Dracula”, “Las novias de Drácula”, “Las novias de Drácula”   – 1960 – Colour)

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Few of my friends have expressed their interest in film reviews of a particular genre which British actor Peter Cushing always referred to as “fantasy” instead of its much common adjective “horror”. When I thought about selecting such a movie from my collection for review, my criteria was to stick to the old masters of horrors: Hammer Films – which led me to the rarest of the Hammer horror Draculas, “The Brides of Dracula”, even though that film is devoid of the chief Transylvanian Count and Christopher Lee.

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During the final years of my school days in the Seventies, one of my classmates had a steadfast knack of narrating stories of occult and superstitions which are folklore in his native place. Those were the days when television was on its slow trek to Cochin and the only visual entertainment for us was the movies though accessing them had its limitations due to lack of time from studies and that ever missing essential called pocket money.

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Although, my friend’s knowledge on the subject of the undead was limited to a certain religious perspective, whenever time permitted, he carried on entertaining us over and over with the same ancient folklore, each time improvising and adding more spice to it. Despite the scant narration about the dualistic principle of the offsetting of good by evil, his stories often emphasised the use of ritual magic for personal gain or lust.

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But then, what is the truth behind the legends of all this? The existence of Satan as the centre of evil is part of the teaching of both Old and New Testament and accentuated in catechism classes to elucidate the righteousness. Whilst the various phenomena related to this subject are difficult to explain, to us teenagers, the twilight world of the unseen seemed fascinating and mysterious.

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Horror stories and films have always been popular even though lot of people won’t admit they like such genre. But the fact is that, if you ask about “Cimarron” which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1931, it is doubtful that it is remembered. On the other hand, it’s unlikely that you have not heard of “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” which came out in the same year. How can one forget the image of Christopher Lee when he first appeared as the starkly, statuesque and satanic Count Dracula at the head of the stairs in Hammer’s “Dracula” (USA: “Horror of Dracula”)? How can one forget those welcoming words of Dracula in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel: Welcome to my house! Enter freely. Go safely, and leave something of the happiness you bring!”?

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Count Dracula has followed us through the years – remaining either a reincarnation or undead – regularly making his various onscreen appearances in many manifestations, speaking different languages. His recent outings were in movie creations titled “Dracula 3D” by Italian director Dario Argento and in two movies by Indian directors: in Vinayan’s “Dracula 2012” (in which he came to our State to taste its “bountiful local winepress” and spoke Malayalam!) and in Rupesh Paul’s “Saint Dracula 3D”. Evidently, the interest in him has remained undiminished to this day. And I suspect it always will be. How could such an undead beast be so romantic as to catch the popular imagination, although, most likely, blended with fear?

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When I think about the ghoulish tradition of “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” started by Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, how could I resist from thinking about that wonderful British production company, “Hammer Film Productions” who revived Frankenstein and Dracula myths, and gained fame and fortune from their cycle of horror films?

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Shot in Bray Film Studios, Berkshire, England and in real old houses, the classic horror movies of Hammer, with rampant blood and gore, not only gave the audience graphic violence and sex but also created a feeling of gothic horror amidst purely British atmosphere. Triggered by the tremendous impact of Hammer horrors, those wonderful people earned a massive audience base around the world.

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In the wake of the success of Hammer’s “Dracula”, produced by Anthony Hinds in 1958 based on characters in Bram Stoker’s (1847-1912) novel “Dracula”, a surge of confidence spread across Hammer prompting them to press ahead with a sequel which would also be produced by Hinds.

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After all, Hammer had already released “The Revenge of Frankenstein” (1958), a sequel to “The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957) which had resurrected the horror genre and had started its race to become the most profitable film ever to be produced in England by a British studio, a position it would retain for some time.

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14According to a publication, by early 1959, British horror screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, an associate of Hammer, was commissioned by Anthony Hinds (who would write screenplays under the name of “John Elder” from 1961 onwards) to prepare a treatment titled “Disciple of Dracula” which revolved around Baron Menister, a disciple of Dracula, who terrorized a couple of visiting English girls and feasted on the blood of few ladies of a nearby girl’s school. Having been fed up with Baron’s notorious activities, Latour, the hero of the script, calls for the spirit of Count Dracula to put an end to his disloyal disciple.

Christopher Lee knew that the character of Dracula has become the object of popular entertainment and he is unlikely to lie down for long. After his appearance in “Dracula”, the audience has started to consider him the personification of Dracula. Lee wanted to disengage himself from being typecast as the Count. In a desperate attempt to rope in Christopher Lee to the project, Hammer prepared another treatment to suit him which they named as “Dracula the Damned”.

Once the studio realized that Lee didn’t wish to be associated entirely with one part and intend to expand his area of creative endeavour, the options left for Hammer was either to recast the role which could possibly adversely affect the character in their future sequels or else, base the story solely around the character of Dr. Van Helsing, the vampire hunter.

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Opting for the second option, a revision was made on “Disciple of Dracula” by writer Peter Bryan wherein the character of Dracula was replaced to bring in Dr. Van Helsing. By now, the script has acquired the misleading title of “The Brides of Dracula”, as a marketing strategy.

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Then again, when they tried to hire Peter Cushing to reprise the role of Dr. Van Helsing, Cushing sought further modification on the draft and suggested it be done by Edward Percy (Member of Parliament from 1943 to 1950), known to Cushing from his days with theatre. In spite of the minor facelift to the draft by Percy, the script underwent yet another modification as a precaution to avoid any scissor-work from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

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Slated for production under the alternative working title “Dracula 2”, the principal shooting began on January 26, 1960 (7 days after my birth) and came to an end by mid-March*. It was shot on locations in England: at Black Park (Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire); Oakley Court, (Windsor Road, Oakley Green, Windsor); and Bray Studios, (Down Place, Oakley Green, nestled beside the silver Thames). The post-production work was precipitated to meet the delivery date of Universal and the movie was premièred on July 6, 1960 at the Odeon, Marble Arch, London. I read somewhere that actress Yvonne Monlaur, the leading lady of the film, made a regal appearance for the Premièr in one of the horse-drawn carriages used in the movie.

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Not far into its general release, the film’s earnings showed progressive improvement which encouraged Hammer to initiate talks about an outing of the Count in Dracula 3. This headway is hardly surprising since, on all fairness, Dracula was not missed in the movie as all the usual ingredients of a Hammer horror was in place – and then, there is the ever distinguished presence of Peter Cushing to keep the audience’s mind alive with the existence of Dracula.

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Synopsis for those who have not seen it yet:

After the credits are shown, the movie opens when a horse-driven carriage is rattling and shaking its way through a muddy track cutting across the wet and misty Transylvanian forest. The carriage’s route-board showed: “INGOLSTADT-ABENSBERG-REGENSBURG-BADSTEIN”*. A voice-over narration is heard:

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Transylvania, land of dark forests, dread mountains and dark unfathomed lakes. Still the home of magic and devilry as the nineteenth century draws to its close. Count Dracula, monarch of all vampires, is dead, but his disciples live on, to spread the cult and corrupt the world

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Inside the carriage was Marianne Danielle a naïve young Frenchwoman from Paris on her way to her first appointment as a students’ teacher at Langs School, a girls’ teaching centre at Badstein.

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After the driver stopped his carriage to clear the log that was blocking the road and resumed the journey, a mysterious stranger who had appeared from the woods, jumped onto the back of the carriage and hung on, unseen by the others. It was dark when the carriage finally pulled into the courtyard before the Running Boar Inn*. While Marianne went into the comfort of the Inn, the mysterious man in black, approached the scared coach-driver and gave him some money.

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The Inn was crowded at that time of the night by village people and Transylvanian folk music can be heard, accentuated by the tones of cimbalom. Johann, the landlord, offered her hot Goulash, a dish of sauerkraut and red wine from the valley. Marianne told him that she would be eating alone and would leave quickly since she must reach Badstein latest tomorrow. At that moment, the mysterious man suddenly appeared before the doorway and stood glaring at her. The gay mood inside the Inn suddenly changed. The music and conversation came to a quick stop. As abruptly as he appeared, he was gone a moment later, closing the door behind him.

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There was a scurry amongst the customers as most of them started to leave. Johann expressed his advice to her to leave immediately on grounds that she was alone, and he didn’t want the coach to leave without her. It so happened that the minute he finished talking, they heard her coach leaving. Running out into the courtyard, they were in time to catch sight of the coach disappearing beyond the gate. Her luggage had been left behind, neatly stacked by the entrance to the Inn.

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Stranded at the Inn, Marianne’s attempt to spend the night there was not successful since Johann and his wife stressed that none off the rooms were vacant. Nevertheless, the compassionate wife soon sent her husband away to the nearby farm to ask for their cart while she would get something for Marianne to eat.

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By the time Johann returned, Marianne had a wooden tray full of hot soup, bread and a bottle of wine set in front of her.

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Johann had the cart ready in the back and there was no time to loose. She must leave now. Just then, they heard a carriage pull up before the inn.

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Shortly, the local Baroness Narbonne Meinster came in and ordered wine. When Marianne was invited to join the noblewoman, she happily complied leaving her food untouched. The Baroness claims that the Tokaji (Slovakia: Tokaj) wine she ordered is twin brother to the best in the emperor’s cellar – rather different from the wine of the valley Marianne was drinking.

Hearing of Marianne’s futile endeavour to get round her untoward situation and report for duty at the school tomorrow without giving bad impression by arriving late, the Baroness expressed her inability to take her to Langs School that night, but she could see to it that the young teacher gets there early in the morning. Marianne doesn’t need to stay in a poor place like this.

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She would be welcome to stay at the Baroness’ castle in the hills just above the village. She’s a lonely woman who often longed for the company of a woman with a little breeding – a rare thing in these parts. Marianne graciously accepted the offer, ignoring the landlord’s wife’s discreet intervention with an offer of a room for her stay which was denied earlier due to mistake of her husband. Soon their carriage departed for the castle, and we could catch a glimpse of the mysterious man stepping out from behind it.

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At the Castle Meinster, she was left under the care of housekeeper Greta with instructions to Marianne to be ready for dinner in ten minutes.

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Before long, she was out on the balcony of her room, enjoying the breeze when she caught sight of the dark figure of a man on the lower stone balcony.

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Moments later, when Greta came to fetch her, she didn’t provide Marianne with a proper explanation about the man who didn’t look like a servant. But at the dining table, the Baroness brought up the subject and let her know that she is not living alone. She has a son who is ill. She never sees him, but Greta, his old nurse, looks after him.

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Soon after, with the evening meal out of the way, having retired to her room, Marianne was lying on the bed when she heard sounds, similar to knocking, from outside. From the vantage point of her balcony, she saw the young man again, this time, bracing up to jump off the balcony. Horrified, she abruptly shouted at him to stop, drawing his attention to her. Bidding him to wait, she ran down the rough-hewn steps of the grand stairs to the lower room and over to the dashing young man.

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Obviously surprised to see her in the castle, he assured her that he can’t throw himself out of the balcony because his mother had shackled him, keeping him a prisoner. His is Baron Meinster and this castle, the mountains, the dark acres of forest, even the valley below belongs to him – his inheritance. His mother is a vicious evil, a jealous woman. She has made the villagers think that he is dead. Wouldn’t Marianne be kind enough to find the key that fits his iron shackle and free him? According to Greta, it is inside the locked drawer of the bureau in his mother’s bedroom, next to Marianne’s.

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It didn’t take her much longer to locate the key and before the Baroness could find her, she tied the key to her handkerchief and threw it down to the Baron on the lower balcony. As he hastily unlocked his shackle, he told her to hurry up and meet him outside.

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When the Baroness had gone to look for Marianne in her bedroom earlier and found her missing, she was inclined to expect for the worst. Returning to Marianne’s bedroom, she found the Frenchwoman getting ready to dress.

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Instantly, she demanded to return the key which she knew Marianne had taken from her room. Denying any knowledge of the key, Marianne ran out of her room, down the stairs and straight into the arms of the Baron. By now, the Baroness had come to the top of the stairs. Having assured Marianne that his mother can’t harm her now, the Baron sent her back to her room to wait. As she left him, he commanded his mother to come down to him. As if hypnotised, she meekly obeyed him. Clearly under his sway, she moved down the stairs, resigned to face the dread that is to befall on her soon. Marianne ran up and disappeared into her room.

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Cut to Marianne’s bedroom. She had changed into travelling clothes when she heard the hysterical cries of Greta from the lower floor. No other noise followed from below. Rushing down, she found Greta on her knees, holding the iron shackle and lamenting that the devil is free to roam the night.

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She showed her the lifeless body of the Baroness, lying on a cushioned chair, the wound on her throat clearly visible – the bite of the vampire.

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At the sight of the horrible scene, Marianne ran out of the room, down the stairs and out of the castle into the cold night and dark woods.

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Inside the castle, Greta was mumbling to her mistress about how truly she had kept faith with the Baroness for twenty years. She accused that the Baroness had spoiled the boy, who was always self-willed and cruel. It is the Baroness who encouraged him and the bad company he kept too, laughing at their wicked games until, in the end, one of them took him and made him what he is. The Baroness had kept him supplied with hot blood of young girls* to appease his unquenchable thirst for it – to prolong her son’s existence of life in death. But the powers of darkness are too strong and they have beaten her.  …………….. Continued in Part II

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PS:

1)             The DVD of this movie is available with main dealers such as amazon.com, TCM Shop, etc. Reportedly, the Blu-ray version is scheduled for release on July 22, 2013

2)            Some reports have indicated the dates of principle photography as January 16 to March 18, 1960.

3)            Ingolstadt, Abensberg, and Regensburg are all Bavarian cities, but Badstein could be contrived.

4)            A comic series of the movie name the Inn as “Running Bear Inn” instead of “Running Boar Inn

5)            Look for a red board with caption “THALHEIMER SCHLOSSBRUNN” inside the “Running Boar Inn”.  This relates to the water from the springs of the “THALHEIMER SCHLOSSBRUNNS” (Thalheim castle well), still in use since 1578, which comes from one of the oldest Styrian springs.

6)            Also look for the symbol of “Gösser Bier” which is the main brand of the Göss brewery in the Styrian city of Leoben, in central Austria, located by the Mur River.

7)            Prescribed by both doctors and witches, the blood, especially of virgins, was an important cure for ailments in the eleventh century.

8)           Photo of Bram Stoker from Wikipedia.

9)           This illustrated article is meant for the promotion of this movie. Please refer to “About” for more details.

10)        The reduced posts in my blog is resultant of a troubling eye which is being sorted out.

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(Text: © JS/Manningtree Archive)