Directed by Terence Fisher
Written by Jimmy Sangster & Peter Bryan & Edward Percy
Starring Peter Cushing, Yvonne Moniaur, David Peel, Martita Hunt
I love vampire stories. I’ve written a few and tend to like variations on the basic mythology. One small but entertaining example of the genre is The Brides of Dracula.
It’s the story of Marianne Danielle (Yvonne Moniaur), who we first see in a carriage speeding to get to a village by nightfall. Of course, the villagers act very strangely toward her, leaving the inn. And then the Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt), arrives and, since there’s no room at the inn, invited her to stay at her castle – much to the consternation of the innkeeper and his wife.
The Baroness is welcoming but Marianne notices a second setting at the table. And when she is preparing, she sees a man on a terrace just outside her balcony. When she asks the Baroness, she explains he’s just her insane son (David Peel).
But Marianne has to see for herself.* She finds her way to the son’s room. He is sweet and charming and quickly wins her over. The only problem is that his mother keeps him chained in his room. He asks her to get the key.
You can probably guess what happens next. The Baron is a vampire and turns his mother, then escapes to terrorize the countryside. Dr.Van Helsing (Cushing) has been called and he works to find the Baron and kill him.
The movie’s strong point, of course, is Peter Cushing’s performance. His Van Helsing is ruthless toward vampires and kindly toward everyone else.
David Peel also makes an excellent vampire. I’m not sure if this is the first time, but it’s clearly a landmark in the portrayal of a seductive vampire. Peel is charming when he needs to be and you can understand Marianne’s attraction.
Martita Hunt is also notable. She had a strong Miss Haversham air to her – not surprising since the played the role years before.
The movie certainly isn’t perfect. The bat version of the Baron is as bad an example of the effect as you’d ever seen.** And the opening sequence of the ride is the woods is good, but has nothing to do with the story, other than to give us a chance to see Peter Cushing lurking menacingly.
But the final sequence – set in a old mill*** is nicely designed and staged, with a clever way of killing the vampire.
This was David Peel’s last credited film. Primarily a TV actor, he retired from acting soon after.
*In many ways, Marianne is not particularly smart.
**Reports are that they put a lot of effort into a realistic looking bat, but it somehow got lost before shooting, so they had to improvise.
***Frankenstein’s monster doesn’t show up, alas.