Favorite Horror Films of the 1960s: The Brides of Dracula

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BridesofDposter

A tsunami of horror films cascaded into movie theaters in the 1960s, some by the larger studios and an abundance of grade B-Z films from smaller companies. Following the success of Horror of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein, and The Mummy, Hammer created a plethora of sequels as well as new horror films. Frankenstein and Dracula would serve as the basis for the most sequels, thereby creating a seemingly non-ending money source for the studio, even as the films often became bad imitations of the original productions.

Oddly, the first sequel to The Horror of Dracula, The Brides of Dracula, (1960) does not feature Dracula as a character. Instead, the movie features a Baron Meinster, as the opening voice-over narration says is a disciple of the ongoing cult of vampirism led by the now destroyed Dracula. While Dracula does not appear, the renowned vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing does as played once more by Peter Cushing. Along with Baron Frankenstein, this role would establish Cushing as a major horror film star of the 1950s-1970s.

petercushing

https://en.wikipedia.org

The characters are indirectly based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, the foundation for most vampire films, until Anne Rice’s revolutionary treatment of the undead in Interview With The Vampire.

The plot involves a young teacher who is “wooed” by a Baron Meinster. He proposes to her, while intending to make her his vampire bride. The tone of the film is clearly Gothic, with an architectural focus on a castle, the threatened young maiden, and a Bryonic Hero–the Baron.  These are standard, but not all inclusive, elements of a Gothic tale, and the Byronic Hero is typically a sexually attractive and threatening person, but more importantly, someone who lives according to his or her own rules, ignoring  the dictates of society.

Byron_1813_by_Phillips

https://en.wikipedia.org

While much of the film does not break new earth in exploring the vampire story, it does feature one very unusual twist. In one sequence, Dr. Van Helsing is attacked by a vampire and bitten. He passes out, and when he awakens, he is able to remove the curse of the vampire bite. He heats an iron in glowing coals, then uses it to cauterize the bite and finally pours holy water onto the wound. It works and suggest that the vampire attacks are not merely demonic but also infections. This motif is one that will be greatly developed in many later vampire novels, TV shows, and films.

Van Helsing is successful in destroying the vampire and saving the young woman. The motif of the holy symbols are repeated: Van Helsing throws holy water onto the face of the Vampire, repelling and burning him, and then he is able to catch the Baron in the shadow of a giant cross, which destroys him.

Terence Fisher directed, and the film did well enough at the box office to justify a chain of sequels. Even though Christopher Lee did not appear in this movie, he would soon return to reprise the role of Count Dracula in the near future.

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17 thoughts on “Favorite Horror Films of the 1960s: The Brides of Dracula

  1. It is fascinating that vampires have been the source of folklore for centuries and by many different names in different cultures. Their appearance, abilities, and origins differ, but the result is always the same. The vampire’s voodoo eyes captivate the unsuspecting female, who, by the way, is open to suggestion by the suave, mysterious, and dangerous male. The reality is that diseases, mental and physical are perhaps the real origin, of course, of the folklore. However, I think there is a deeper psychological origin to most of these stories: it is the “beast” that nestles quietly in the breast of humankind until it can no longer be contained. I do think the vampire stories are written to explain, or try to anyway, the evil that humankind can inflict on one another. Also, the vampire stories are cautionary tales, that as humans, we need to consider carefully. Thank you for the great post. I find vampire stories fascinating.

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    • Thank you Karen for the very well-considered comment. I think you are correct that vampires speak to something very primal in humanity. Almost all cultures have some aspect of the vampire or shape-shifter, which is similar, and it is a myth that will continue to speak to us always.

      Liked by 1 person

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