Favorite Horror Films of the 1950s: Horror of Dracula




I am returning to my series of examinations of horror movies through various decades.  After the great horror  cycle of movies from Universal Studios in the 1930s and 1940s culminating in the Abbott and Costello spoofs, serious horror movies vanished for a period. They were replaced by the spate of giant critter movies spawned by the fears of nuclear fallout post World War Two and the ominous threat of nuclear armageddon of the Cold War.



In 1958, Hammer Studios, a British film company initiated a new cycle of horror films with the release of Horror of Dracula (the American title) or Dracula (the British title).  This film not only allowed this film studio to emerge as a major force in horror films, but also it spawned a new cycle in horror that would span nearly two decades. The film starred Sir Christopher Lee as Dracula, Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing, and Michael Gough as  Arthur Holmwood and was directed by Terence Fisher.



This film dramatically changed the course of horror films.  Prior to Horror Of Dracula, most horror movies, especially  the classic Universal films were shot in black and white; this film was in vivid color. Also changed noticeably from the 1931 Dracula with Bela Lugosi was the pacing and the level of over sexuality and violence. This movie moved at a very rapid pace with condensed action and compression of characters from the book.  A very lively film score added to the tension and feeling of almost constant movement.




Christopher Lee brought an imposing physicality to the role and played the count with a noble British accent. He showed great strength and mobility in his performance. And this film introduced  the vampire with fangs and blood.  When he emerges in full fury after the vampire girl has attacked Jonathan Harker, he is a demonic image.  This was a representation of the vampire that was entirely new and very powerful.

In Britain, this movie received an X rating because of its, what was for the time, overt sexuality and violence. The women sometimes wore low cut gowns, and Dracula’s attacks carried a not too subtle sexuality, although by today’s standards, this shocking sensuality certainly would be tame or almost quaint.

Horror Of Dracula was a success both financially and critically. Hammer studios would make numerous sequels to this film and would also base the release of other movies, principally on Dr. Frankenstein , on their good fortune. If you enjoy horror films and have not seen this particular movie, I recommend it.




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38 thoughts on “Favorite Horror Films of the 1950s: Horror of Dracula

  1. Playing Dracula must have been a healthy profession for Christopher Lee who lived until he was the ripe old age of 93. I remember watching one of his Dracula movies when I was a child, but I don’t recall the story line; only that he could hypnotize blonde and voluptuous women 🙂

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  2. It seems like (along with lighting) we transitioned in these films from monsters that shape our behaviors from the blurred edges of folk and fairy tales to monsters that lurk within ourselves…an even scarier place from which to view our human potential!

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  3. I worked as a projectionist at a small TV station during college. Saturday nights, we’d run a classic “horror” movie on Shock Theater. I think we featured “Horror of Dracula” at least five times in my three-year career.

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    • True, but you could write a memoir about the times when going to the movies was true social interaction, and the old films of the times. I think it would be interesting to emphasize the social aspect and for youngsters, the size of the screens. Just a thought.


  4. This was one of the first Dracula films I saw as a kid. What stood out for me was the color, extremely vivid and very bright. Loved Peter Cushing as Van Helsing too. Christopher Lee was very good in the role and he made it his own for a long stretch. In hindsight, I feel the Hammer films kind of foreshadowed the American International horror films of the early 60’s. Those featured Vincent Price at his scary best.

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  5. Hey Charles. I enjoyed reading this post. I would love to watch some of the old horror movies like Dracula. I see that you’re an author of a horror-ish novel. I started a new horror novel blog and am looking for horror novels to review. Only one post on my blog so far.


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