When it comes to classic Horror films, some will always swear by Universal. That was the studio that gave us Bela Lugosi as Dracula and Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster. But for my dime, my heart belongs to Hammer.
The key to Hammer was that they managed to hire great actors, real Shakespearian thespians looking for quick and easy work in the off seasons. To them, the stage was the thing, and anything else was slumming. Movies weren’t so interesting to them, but as true dramatic actors, playing literary characters in genre movies was a smooth proposition. That’s Christopher Lee as Dracula. True to Bram Stoker’s vision he played the Count as something of a gentleman, practicing a brand of evil that is almost subliminal.
Although Mr.Lee played the immortal count a number of times, I can only recommend the first Dracula feature, entitled Horror Of Dracula in the US to avoid copyright issues with Universal. A relatively loyal retelling of the essence of Bram Stoker’s story, Lee faces off against Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, taking turns chowing down on the scenery until their final face off, which is as memorable a piece of celluloid action as scenes that cost literal millions more to make. The trouble with each subsequent Dracula feature was that he was revived and perished again every time out for each cash grabbing a sequel, leading to an impression that he just couldn’t get anything right. in my imagination there’s a great unmade Christopher Lee Dracula flick in which the consummate bloodsucker successfully conquered the world, but since it doesn’t exist, I just stick to the first one and recommend that you do the same.
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