Brides, Brides, everywhere a Bride, breakin’ up the scenery, changin’ my mind!

Tonight at 9:30 pm EST (6:30 Pacific time), Turner Classic Movies will show THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960), Terence Fisher’s follow-up to Hammer Studios’ HORROR OF DRACULA (UK: DRACULA, 1958), as part of its month-long, 20-film “Hammer Horrors” tribute.  I recently turned in a 1,600 word programming article on the film, its origins, production history and my thoughts on its lasting value to the horror genre, but when Morlock Jeff announced that we were doing a Hammer blog-a-thon, my hand shot up high like a full Harvest moon to claim this title as my own.  I considered, for a very brief interval, discussing another of Hammer’s worthwhile efforts, but it all comes down to THE BRIDES OF DRACULA for me.  It very well may be the spark that started my fire, horror-wise.

“Transylvania.  Land of dark forests, dread mountains and black, unfathomed lakes.  Still the home of magic and devilry as the 19th 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.”

This curtain warming narration really sets the tone for a true descent into the maelstrom and the audio is well-matched with an establishing shot of lifeless, twisty black trees shrouded in ground fog.  I don’t remember how old I was when I first saw THE BRIDES OF DRACULA on TV but it made an immediate impression on me, the way that a lightning strike will leave you with a shock of white in your hair (you know, if you’re a horror movie character – do not try this at home!).  I hadn’t yet seen Hammer’s earlier HORROR OF DRACULA and I wouldn’t see a Hammer horror in the cinema until DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968), so I’m fairly certain this was my introduction to Hammer horror.  THE BRIDES OF DRACULA may also be the first movie I saw multiple times.  As an avid early TV Guide reader, I knew when it would play and I made arrangements to be there in front of the TV.  I bought the film on video cassette when it made its VHS debut and when it was included among a clutch of Hammer titles in a DVD box set, I made sure to have the money for that purchase.

It’s hard for me now, at nearly 50, to separate what I know now about THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, and the meanings I and other critics have read into it over the years, with what I thought about it on first viewing, when I was 8 or 9.  Certainly, it’s status as a horror movie impressed me.  I knew then that this was rarefied air, this was through-the-looking-glass.  Although my parents actually forbid me very little, watching THE BRIDES OF DRACULA felt forbidden, its frames profane, its engorged Technicolor almost obscene in its vivacity.  Even on a shitty console television this was obvious to me.  It helped, I guess, that the movie jumps right into the ooga-boogs.  Some horror flicks guide you in gently, giving you a context of normalcy which the evil that is the soul of the plot attempts to corrupt.  You see good men turn bad, happy houses grow sad and gloomy, and monsters rise from the decline of reason and faith.  Not here.  As he did more or less with HORROR OF DRACULA, director Terence Fisher dives right in, practically putting you in the driver’s seat of a coach-and-two (driven by Hammer regular Michael Ripper in full on Cor Blimey mode) as it tears through the Transylvania backwater.  Even as a little kid in a Banlon Pugsley shirt I knew why the driver of the coach was so fearful… there were monsters afootand the dead travel fast! As the coach pulls into a small, generically Mittel European village and its sole passenger, a beautiful young Frenchwoman (Yvonne Monlaur) steps into one of those discomfiting country taverns where everyone looks at you funny, THE BRIDES OF DRACULA slows down only slightly to plot up and introduce our principals.

Written in ad hoc style by three different men (one of them, Edward Percy, had been a member of Parliament, but was better known as a playwright and coauthor of Ladies in Retirement), THE BRIDES OF DRACULA comes closest, I think, as Hammer ever did to a Gothic novel.  It’s got the willowy heroine (Monlaur), the spooky castle, the big family secret, locked doors, chains, keys, and more blood and thunder than you could ever have any practical use for.  Some movies tickle you, some movies prickle you – this movie thrilled me, and it still does.  Mind you, it’s a good story… unwitting heroine unleashes a ravening monster (that would be David Peel, as the wicked proto Teddy Boy Baron Meinster, who probably has both Ed Hyde’s and Dorian Gray’s cards in his pocketbook) upon the world… but it’s the look and feel of THE BRIDES OF DRACULA that really have my heart.  There’s a palpable sense of Autumn in its air… the scuttling of dead leaves across the masonry of Castle Meinster, the claw-like tree branches of those dead trees, and a palpable chill that permeates the production from collar to cuffs.  I love everything about this movie, from the props (the canteen of holy water ported about by Peter Cushing’s aerobically courageous Prof. Van Helsing) to the candied chromatics of Jack Asher’s gorgeous cinematography (which makes every set up look as magical as the lenticular covers of those old storybooks from Shiba Productions) to Malcolm Williamson’s rousing orchestral score (particularly that five note theme that recurs whenever Van Helsing wields the crucifix), to the use of miniatures and mattes and even that big-ass fake vampire bat that flaps through the movie making a godawful sound like somebody’s shaking cookie crumbs out of the folds of a pleather jacket.  After I saw this movie, I wanted to be Van Helsing.  I wanted to wear a waistcoat and carry a Gladstone bag and deal harshly with vampires.  I have vague memories of appropriating one of my Mom’s black purses and filling it with mallets and chisels from my Dad’s workbench.  I think I had a denim vest.  And I’ve been on the hunt ever since.

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING THEATRICAL TRAILER IS SPOILER-RIFFIC! VIEW AT YOUR OWN RISK!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaunvDZcf7E]

Oh, I don’t know if I’m making a strong case for THE BRIDES OF DRACULA or not – that movie just turns me into a big old girl, all giggly and helpless and too scared to scream.  I just hope you’ll watch it tonight, either pig-a-back with HORROR OF DRACULA (and chased by DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS [1965] and DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE [1968]) or on its own.  One of the happiest times of my life, right up there with seeing the birth of my children and having my father beat his cancer, was taking my wife Barb to the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood to see THE BRIDES OF DRACULA on the big screen, for the first time ever.  If you’re seeing this for the first time tonight, I envy you the experience.  Dim the lights and do it up right!  And leave a space for me on the couch, as I’ll be there with you in spirit.

30 Responses Brides, Brides, everywhere a Bride, breakin’ up the scenery, changin’ my mind!
Posted By Foulard : October 1, 2010 1:54 pm

Well, I didn’t see this until I was over 40, but was extremely delighted by it too. This movie reeks with atmosphere, and Yvonne Monlaur is a great stand-in for the viewer. Whenever I see one of the Hammer gothics, I always want to step into one of those taverns for a drink (not so much the vampire’s castle!).

Posted By Foulard : October 1, 2010 1:54 pm

Well, I didn’t see this until I was over 40, but was extremely delighted by it too. This movie reeks with atmosphere, and Yvonne Monlaur is a great stand-in for the viewer. Whenever I see one of the Hammer gothics, I always want to step into one of those taverns for a drink (not so much the vampire’s castle!).

Posted By Bob Gutowski : October 1, 2010 2:15 pm

I think you’ve hit it with the word “gothic.” Yes, it’s got all those necessary ingredients, including a sinister Baroness, the exquisite Martita Hunt (and what a Freudian twist HER life takes)! A lovely evocation of this fever dream of a movie.

Posted By Bob Gutowski : October 1, 2010 2:15 pm

I think you’ve hit it with the word “gothic.” Yes, it’s got all those necessary ingredients, including a sinister Baroness, the exquisite Martita Hunt (and what a Freudian twist HER life takes)! A lovely evocation of this fever dream of a movie.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 1, 2010 4:51 pm

I saw this film for the first time when I way too young and it scared me too death. I caught it playing on TV one afternoon and it’s one of the few films I can remember (THE INNOCENTS was another) having to turn off before it ended because I was so frightened by it. Oddly enough I originally watched it (or a part of it) on a black and white TV and it was still extremely effective. The black and white undoubtedly added to the whole gothic atmosphere of the thing but when I finally saw it in color in the early ’80s it just blew my mind. It’s one of the most beautiful and scary films that Hammer made. It’s also a favorite!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 1, 2010 4:51 pm

I saw this film for the first time when I way too young and it scared me too death. I caught it playing on TV one afternoon and it’s one of the few films I can remember (THE INNOCENTS was another) having to turn off before it ended because I was so frightened by it. Oddly enough I originally watched it (or a part of it) on a black and white TV and it was still extremely effective. The black and white undoubtedly added to the whole gothic atmosphere of the thing but when I finally saw it in color in the early ’80s it just blew my mind. It’s one of the most beautiful and scary films that Hammer made. It’s also a favorite!

Posted By Domenick Fraumeni : October 1, 2010 7:38 pm

When I would watch it on television, comments on BRIDES OF DRACULA considered to be one of the more unique Hammers, in that it wasn’t really about Dracula and of course Christopher Lee wasn’t in it at all. But it’s a beautifully photographed, mature movie and the sort of movie I wish Hammer had been more successful in making, down the road.

One of the more vivid moments for me was Van Helsing’s unique, seemingly impromptu cure against being turned into a vampire.

Posted By Domenick Fraumeni : October 1, 2010 7:38 pm

When I would watch it on television, comments on BRIDES OF DRACULA considered to be one of the more unique Hammers, in that it wasn’t really about Dracula and of course Christopher Lee wasn’t in it at all. But it’s a beautifully photographed, mature movie and the sort of movie I wish Hammer had been more successful in making, down the road.

One of the more vivid moments for me was Van Helsing’s unique, seemingly impromptu cure against being turned into a vampire.

Posted By Ken Driggers : October 1, 2010 8:16 pm

I saw this when I was eight or nine (1968-69) and loved it. I have always been a fan of Hammer and ‘Brides’ is one of my first choices. I even have it on VHS…lol.
The music that they play, when they brandish the cross, is one of the best throughout all of the Hammer films. Thanks TCM, for making my evening-month!

Posted By Ken Driggers : October 1, 2010 8:16 pm

I saw this when I was eight or nine (1968-69) and loved it. I have always been a fan of Hammer and ‘Brides’ is one of my first choices. I even have it on VHS…lol.
The music that they play, when they brandish the cross, is one of the best throughout all of the Hammer films. Thanks TCM, for making my evening-month!

Posted By David Breakfield : October 1, 2010 11:19 pm

I think I saw this was 9 or 10–on a Sunday afternoon matinee on TV! From that moment it became a absolute favorite. An impeccable production in every way, and looks stellar on DVD. Hammer at its gothic best.

Posted By David Breakfield : October 1, 2010 11:19 pm

I think I saw this was 9 or 10–on a Sunday afternoon matinee on TV! From that moment it became a absolute favorite. An impeccable production in every way, and looks stellar on DVD. Hammer at its gothic best.

Posted By Norm : October 2, 2010 3:18 pm

Terrific atmospheric vampire vehicle with Peter Cushing chasing the undead, CLASSIC. When horror movies were just that, the blood was just a secondary plot devie. TCM did GREAT Programming of 4 of the Best Hammer or Vampire Horror for that matter, Ever ! I watched them all, just Great Fun !

Posted By Norm : October 2, 2010 3:18 pm

Terrific atmospheric vampire vehicle with Peter Cushing chasing the undead, CLASSIC. When horror movies were just that, the blood was just a secondary plot devie. TCM did GREAT Programming of 4 of the Best Hammer or Vampire Horror for that matter, Ever ! I watched them all, just Great Fun !

Posted By Dry-Killer : October 2, 2010 9:29 pm

I’m 52, but I’ve never seen The Brides of Dracula in full – just bits and pieces here and there over the years. Friday night, I made a point to watch HoD, Brides, and D,PoD. They were great and reminded me of my childhood. I remember at around age 8 or 9 looking forward to watching, The Curse of Frankenstein that was to appear on the “late, late show”. It took Kate Bush’s tune, Hammer Horror, and TCM to revive my interest!

Posted By Dry-Killer : October 2, 2010 9:29 pm

I’m 52, but I’ve never seen The Brides of Dracula in full – just bits and pieces here and there over the years. Friday night, I made a point to watch HoD, Brides, and D,PoD. They were great and reminded me of my childhood. I remember at around age 8 or 9 looking forward to watching, The Curse of Frankenstein that was to appear on the “late, late show”. It took Kate Bush’s tune, Hammer Horror, and TCM to revive my interest!

Posted By Robert W. Gerrie : October 3, 2010 6:49 pm

I`ve been a big fan of Hammer prod. movies for many years.I can`t describe the viewing pleasure I experienced watching 4 of Hammer`s classic vampire thrillers.I look forward to viewing more Hammer films this month.”Hats off” to TCM for presenting it`s viewers with this unique opportunity!

Posted By Robert W. Gerrie : October 3, 2010 6:49 pm

I`ve been a big fan of Hammer prod. movies for many years.I can`t describe the viewing pleasure I experienced watching 4 of Hammer`s classic vampire thrillers.I look forward to viewing more Hammer films this month.”Hats off” to TCM for presenting it`s viewers with this unique opportunity!

Posted By Joanne : October 4, 2010 1:59 pm

Thank you TCM for the Hammer movie festival this month! Hammer
horror films are my favorite and I can’t wait to watch them
every Friday night this month. They are the best horror films
and you just don’t see them on tv anymore. So, again, thank
you thank you thank you TCM!!!!

Posted By Joanne : October 4, 2010 1:59 pm

Thank you TCM for the Hammer movie festival this month! Hammer
horror films are my favorite and I can’t wait to watch them
every Friday night this month. They are the best horror films
and you just don’t see them on tv anymore. So, again, thank
you thank you thank you TCM!!!!

Posted By Bob Paglione : October 5, 2010 2:39 pm

I love the Hammer remakes of Frankenstein and Dracula, I remember the first time I saw a double bill of Horror of Dracula and Curse of Frankenstein I was 7 years old and sorry to say it was a sad day for America. The date was Nov. 23, 1963 and due to the fact that the only thing on Television was coverage of President Kennedy’s death. Although it was history in the makeing my Mom thought it was better to take her kids minds off the happenings by going to the movies. I had already shown a penchant for the old horror movies, but Christopher Lee really brought the terror of Dracula to my imagination and delight. For me his interpetation of Dracula is the definitive one. I am glad that TCM brings these movies back to us every October as it reminds me of a simpler time and a great upheavel in our countries history.

Posted By Bob Paglione : October 5, 2010 2:39 pm

I love the Hammer remakes of Frankenstein and Dracula, I remember the first time I saw a double bill of Horror of Dracula and Curse of Frankenstein I was 7 years old and sorry to say it was a sad day for America. The date was Nov. 23, 1963 and due to the fact that the only thing on Television was coverage of President Kennedy’s death. Although it was history in the makeing my Mom thought it was better to take her kids minds off the happenings by going to the movies. I had already shown a penchant for the old horror movies, but Christopher Lee really brought the terror of Dracula to my imagination and delight. For me his interpetation of Dracula is the definitive one. I am glad that TCM brings these movies back to us every October as it reminds me of a simpler time and a great upheavel in our countries history.

Posted By Donnie : October 6, 2010 4:58 pm

Thank You TCM for showing the best horror films ever made.Hammer has been my favorite since that afternoon in 1970 at the Raleigh YMCA.The YMCA back then would show movies for us kids while we waited for our parents to come and pick us up to go home.That Friday late afternoon,I was introduced to the greatest horror film ever made in my opinion.Horror of Dracula.Beautifully made in every way as were most of Hammers films.I missed the Oct.1 Friday night showing by TCM,( had to work)but I agree that the 4 vampire thrillers that were shown were the 4 best.Great job TCM.I wish you would show an encore so I could catch these great movies as well as the comments from the TCM host.I will be sure to catch the rest of the month long friday night movies from Hammer(5 million years to earth,All the Frankenstein films and more)All these movies are superb.Please do it again next year.

Posted By Donnie : October 6, 2010 4:58 pm

Thank You TCM for showing the best horror films ever made.Hammer has been my favorite since that afternoon in 1970 at the Raleigh YMCA.The YMCA back then would show movies for us kids while we waited for our parents to come and pick us up to go home.That Friday late afternoon,I was introduced to the greatest horror film ever made in my opinion.Horror of Dracula.Beautifully made in every way as were most of Hammers films.I missed the Oct.1 Friday night showing by TCM,( had to work)but I agree that the 4 vampire thrillers that were shown were the 4 best.Great job TCM.I wish you would show an encore so I could catch these great movies as well as the comments from the TCM host.I will be sure to catch the rest of the month long friday night movies from Hammer(5 million years to earth,All the Frankenstein films and more)All these movies are superb.Please do it again next year.

Posted By chris : October 7, 2010 12:22 pm

i love brides of dracula,even without christopher lee it was still fantastic. The sets,the lighting,the technicolour blood.I love fridays in october with tcm. I think they should release all the hammer horrors in one big box set.Thank you tcm, i don’t know what would do without you.

Posted By chris : October 7, 2010 12:22 pm

i love brides of dracula,even without christopher lee it was still fantastic. The sets,the lighting,the technicolour blood.I love fridays in october with tcm. I think they should release all the hammer horrors in one big box set.Thank you tcm, i don’t know what would do without you.

Posted By October Links : The Shadow Cabaret : October 30, 2010 9:27 pm

[...] posts on memorable horror films, including – but not limited to – the Hammer shockers The Brides of Dracula and Curse of the Werewolf, MGM’s faux-Dracula romp [...]

Posted By October Links : The Shadow Cabaret : October 30, 2010 9:27 pm

[...] posts on memorable horror films, including – but not limited to – the Hammer shockers The Brides of Dracula and Curse of the Werewolf, MGM’s faux-Dracula romp [...]

Posted By ccmiller1492 : November 24, 2010 8:53 pm

It was a real treat to see these great Gothic horror films on TCM
My particular favorites have always been the first Lee Dracula,
(I was 12 when I saw it, and walkied home in the dark from the theater, scared as hell) Brides of Dracula and Countess Dracula
were just as thrilling/chilling. Sad that Ingrid Pitt just passed away, she was great as the Countess Bathory.

Posted By ccmiller1492 : November 24, 2010 8:53 pm

It was a real treat to see these great Gothic horror films on TCM
My particular favorites have always been the first Lee Dracula,
(I was 12 when I saw it, and walkied home in the dark from the theater, scared as hell) Brides of Dracula and Countess Dracula
were just as thrilling/chilling. Sad that Ingrid Pitt just passed away, she was great as the Countess Bathory.

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