The Brides of Dracula (1960)

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*. What a title. That’s not Dracula and those aren’t his brides.
*. It’s not Dracula in part because Christopher Lee wouldn’t do the movie. He didn’t do the movie because he didn’t want to be typecast. Too late! He’d be back. Again and again, unhappier and unhappier in the role. But that’s another story.

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*. David Peel is better anyway for this part, as a sort of spoiled vampire Richie Rich, complete with a soft blonde quiff. It seems he became a vampire not from any genetic inheritance but from hanging out with the wrong crowd. He’s never called Dracula but is known as the Baron Meinster. Which makes the narrator’s introduction a bit pointless, but that’s by the way.

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*. In fact, what we have here is a classic codependent household. Mama Meinster keeps her adult son chained up in a dungeon so that he will never leave. This is doing everyone a favour because nobody likes the young Baron and he doesn’t play well with others. Apparently his mother encouraged him in his dissolute ways as a youth, a bad habit she continues by feeding his degenerate dependency even to the point of dragging home girls for him to play with. When he finally breaks free he goes on a murderous rampage, beginning by “killing” his maternal enabler (who, of course, blames herself). How many times have we seen or heard variations of this story played out in real life? Indeed, this may be the most psychologically realistic vampire movie ever made. Yes, we know you encouraged him, you foolish woman! But why? Because you were his mother?

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*. The bats in vampire movies are usually pretty bad, but the one here stands out as particularly lame. The wires are very visible and it’s as big as a hang-glider. Apparently the prop department had made a realistic model bat but they lost it and so had to stick together this ridiculous thing on short notice.
*. The script is dreadful in every way. Things happen that are never explained, characters behave in wildly inconsistent ways, and everyone seems uncomfortable delivering their terrible lines. I mean: who is that guy who hitches the ride on the back of the carriage in the opening scene? Why bother introducing that unfunny hypochondriac doctor just to drop him later? Why does Greta switch from being upset at the Baron’s escape to becoming his new enabler? I could go on and on, but won’t. Nobody seems to have cared if it made any sense.
*. I do like Greta’s midwife routine on the first victim’s grave, urging her to “push . . . push!” That was funny.
*. Also worth some praise is Peter Cushing. I think he’s probably the best Van Helsing ever. Here his card introduces him as “a doctor of philosophy, a doctor of theology, [and] a professor of metaphysics.” He certainly looks the part. You can feel confident that he’s going to take care of all this vampire business, with no messing around. And while he’s not very impressive physically (Greta has her way with him twice), he does redeem himself somewhat when he cauterizes the bite on his neck. That must have hurt.

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