What would Freud say?

Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) goes to Transylvania to kill Dracula. Instead he is turned into a vampire. Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) finds Harker and drives a steak through his heart. Van Helsing then follows Dracula to England. Dracula first turns Lucy Holmwood (Carol Marsh) into a vampire. Lucy was Harker’s fiancée and the sister of Arthur Holmwood (Michael Grough). Lucy’s preference seems to be children.

A child pedophile is an unusual plot angle for a film done in 1958. When Lucy is dispatched with a steak through her heart (a wooden steak also being a phallic symbol), Dracula next goes after Arthur’s wife Mina (Melissa Stribling). It’s a race against time to stop Dracula and hopefully save Mina’s life.

“Horror of Dracula” was released in 1958. It is the first time Sir Christopher Lee played the count. He continued to play him in 7 of the 9 Hammer Dracula movies. All told Lee played Dracula 9 times. Originally called “Dracula” the name was changed for the American release so as not to confuse people with the original 1931 Universal studios release of the same name.

Lee gives a strong performance as the count despite having only 7 minutes of screen time. His mysterious sexuality and tall dark looks lends credence to the idea that women might want to have him chew on their necks. The neck being one of a woman’s erogenous zones makes the act of piercing it with fangs symbolic of intercourse. Especially when he is doing it in your bedroom. Add to the story Peter Cushing and director Terence Fisher and you’ve got yourself one scary sexy horror movie.

Hammer’s take on the Dracula story differs a little from both the 1931 Universal version and the original Bram Stoker story. Not enough to change to story completely but enough to give it its own spin. There is no Renfield in Hammer’s version.

There is a vibrant use of red from the opening credits to the closing which enhance the gothic style of the movie. Hammer’s flair for period pieces shows in everything from the sweeping capes and gowns of the characters’ wardrobes to the palatial homes of the count and Arthur Holmwood. The set dressings add a haunting touch to an already terrifying movie. Hammer’s Dracula is both evocative and sensual.

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