It's time to open the eyes of those who've neglected so many truly fantastic clasc features. While today's society is wrapped up in the extreme nature of contemporary horror films, there's an entire world of magically subtle terror that rests in the annals of history. Today, I'm going to speak on a few of these timeless treasures, and inform you of just how you can track them down!
BRIDES OF DRACULA
When Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) frees the captive Baron Mienster (David Peel), she unwillingly unleashes all hell…or, just one really bad vampire. One way or the other, village people begin dropping like flies, and the charming Baron Mienster is responble. Fortunately for our naïve female lead Marianne, the wise Dr. Van Helng (Peter Cushing) arrives just in the nick of time. After assesng the tuation, Van Helng quickly determines there are vampires to blame for the mysterious deaths; it’s not long after, before the good Doc also realizes the mysterious Baron Mienster is the culprit. After the Baron has recruited a few attractive young ladies to join him in his life of vampirism, Van Helng cuts all plans short by tracking the Baron down and feeding him a fatal dose of Holy Water.
Cushing is wonderful as the viting hero Van Helng, and Yvonne Monlaur is perfectly oblivious in the unsuspecting female lead.
Peels performance is half charming, half cheese ball; convincing as a prisoner, and awfully hammy as a vampire (but I admit, I do like it!).
Martita Hunt provides a creepy performance as Baroness Mienster, the young Baron’s mother. Though unintentional, Hunt actually provides a certain fear factor herself. This woman either intentionally deprived herself of sunlight in preparation for the film, or she was some kind of recluse, as she could nearly pass for an albino… and that’s while her character was still ‘one of the living’! Despite a few good performances, Freda Jackson all but steals the show as the maniacal housekeeper/vampire guardian, who admittedly is a tad frightening looking herself.
Though the scares are minimal, the sets are lavish, the acting is solid, and the score is genuinely eerie.
There are tense moments, frightening moments and a few clasc tongue-in-cheek moments to round out the platter.
Cushing and Jackson are superb, and both equally convincing in their performances.
Released in 1960, THE BRIDES OF DRACULA is tame, but definitely one of the more enjoyable Hammer releases.
You can catch BRIDES OF DRACULA in the HAMMER HORROR SERIES Box-set, which also features THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962), PARANOIAC, KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, NIGHTMARE, NIGHT CREATURES and THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN. With the box-set running an average of about 20 bucks, it’s definitely a worth-while purchase.
THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN
After successfully reviving a dog, Baron Victor Frankenstein, with help from his long time tutor and co-worker Paul, decide to create the perfect human being.
To do so, Frankenstein will need to obtain a body, a brilliant brain, the steadiest hands known to man and a few other miscellaneous body parts.
While the body and hands prove to be relatively easy to obtain, Frankenstein will go to much more extreme lengths to possess any remaining misng pieces.
Paul wisely decides he doesn’t like the direction their “experiment” is going, and opts out of the creation in progress.
Frankenstein however, becomes quite obsessed with his work, and quickly transforms from logical scientist to psychopathic murderer.
It seems as though nothing will stop the Baron from finding success in reviving the creature, who is far from the perfect specimen Frankenstein planned for.
When the monster is eventually reanimated, he goes on a killing spree, and Frankenstein is all but helpless in his attempts to regain control of the tuation.
Will Frankenstein survive the tumultuous tuation, or will the monster emerge the victor in this battle of evil versus evil?
The sets are lavish and well assembled, and the color really helps the characters come to life (pardon the pun).
Robert Urquhart turns in a very under rated performance as Paul, the former friend and tutor turned unlikely hero.
While Cushing and Lee receive the majority of credit for this film, Urquhart more than handles his own, and deserves some rarely received praise for his role. Cushing does earn his dues, as he is surpringly savage as the insane, and unforgiving Baron Victor Frankenstein, and Christopher Lee is haunting, and genuinely frightening as the monster.
Both veteran actors turned in excellent performances under the guidance of Terence Fisher who did a wonderful job directing the film.
The story remains relatively true to the original Mary Shelley story, and Jimmy Sangster deserves a lot of credit for a solid screenplay transfer.
A standout amongst the Hammer stable, this one is absolutely not to be missed.
As a final note, I’ll say that what makes this film so enjoyable is the replay value. There’s a specific eeriness within Christopher Lee’s performance that will always carry with it a certain impact. And Cushing... well - what can I say? Cushing was the man, plain and mple.
THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN has been released on DVD by multiple different production companies. It’s common to spot double features including the film, and it’s even more common to catch the 2002 DVD re-release. The picture runs 83 minutes and was originally released in 1957.
THE MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM
After sculptor Ivan Igor’s (Lionel Atwill) buness partner burns his wax museum down in order to collect on an insurance policy, Igor’s life, work and phycal appearance are destroyed.
The tragedy forces Igor into hiding, rebuilding, and relocating.
12 years pass and Igor finally resurfaces.
Inde the aforementioned 12 years of lence, the sculptor has managed to rebuild a great deal of sculptures, manufactured a nifty mask for himself and opened up a lovely new museum in New York.
Inde that timeframe, plenty of bodies have also gone mysteriously misng in New York. The problem : half of Ivan’s lifelike “sculptures” are actually human beings covered in wax….hmmm, I wonder where all those “misng” bodies have gone.Local reporter Florence Dempsey (Glenda Farrell) finds herself smack dab in the middle of Igor’s new museum the morning before it opens.
The brash reporter happens to notice one specific sculpture that bares a striking resemblance to a recently deceased local woman.
Coincidentally, the woman’s body has also gone misng.
Dempsey puts two and two together and sets out to solve the riddle and expose this so-called museum as the perversely fancy morgue it truly is.
Unfortunately for Dempsey, Igor has taken a liking to the looks of her close friend Charlotte Duncan, and a mple mystery quickly escalates into a race to save Charlotte from the fate of the mad sculptor.
There are some eerie moments in this film, and director Michael Curtiz does manage to conjure ncere tenon.
The story unfolds at a rapid pace, and the dialog is impresve, but there are some subplots that fail to cohevely fit in the picture, and manufacture more confuon than suspense.
Lionel Atwill supplies a fine performance as the deranged Ivan Igor, but Glenda Farrell’s portrayal of the sassy Florence Dempsey exudes personality and completely steals the show.
This one is worth the time and rental cost for Farrell’s spirited performance alone; As most male characters in the film, you’ll find yourself in love, and ready to marry the spunky blonde before the final reel.
Released in 1933, MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM is available on DVD, albeit difficult to track down. You’re much better off snatching a copy of the VHS which is an easy find, or scanning youtube, as the entire film can be tracked down online nowadays. The picture runs a brief 77 minutes.