Hammer Films brought Dracula bang up to date by going back to the story’s roots, adapting Stoker’s novel – with a few twists – and bringing the famed Count back to life in all his technicolour glory. When Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) accepts a position as Librarian at Count Dracula’s castle, his subterfuge is quickly discovered by the vampire (Christopher Lee), who sets out to avenge the deception by attacking Harker’s nearest and dearest. It’s up to Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) to protect the Count’s would-be victims and destroy Dracula once and for all.
Christopher Lee’s imperious Count Dracula instantly manages to redefine the character for a new generation – and became the first to grin and bare the now-obligatory pointed canines which have become inextricably linked with the character. He’s matched (and some might say bested) by a dynamic and swashbuckling Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, bringing a steely-eyed intensity to the role of Dracula’s nemesis.
The production itself is lavish and indulgent, director Terence Fisher making full use of the chance to bring the timeless tale to live in technicolour and he really goes for it. Working with cinematographer Jack Asher, the mock-gothic Victoriana is exquisite in its detail and the colours are bold and bright and beautifully lit. Okay, so the blood never once looks like actual blood, but it’s such a shockingly bright shade of scarlet it achieves a sort of hyper-realness and thanks to the chilling charisma of Lee’s suave and seductive Count, the dazzling colour palate still manages to create a dark and foreboding atmosphere. The special effects are excellent too, especially during the final dramatic showdown between Van Helsing and Dracula in the castle library.
There’s a sinister score and an excellent supporting cast, headed by Michael ‘Alfred to three Batmen’ Gough making this a real Halloween treat that can be enjoyed at any time of the year, just not when the sun’s up. It infused new lifeblood into the tired cinematic legacy of the character of Dracula and ensured the venerable Count of cinematic immortality.