Yet another All Hallow’s Eve has come and gone. I hope you enjoyed this year’s run of diabolical dread and devilish distress. This year we revisited some old favorites, conjured up some new scares, and assailed our ears with terrifying…
Hammer Studios didn’t always produce the best scripts for their classic horror series, but when it came to timeless icons Dracula and Frankenstein, they perfectly captured the spooky, haunting atmosphere. In this follow-up to their adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel, the thunder claps, the wind howls, the townsfolk fret and the beautiful young sex-kitten is… well, young and sexy.
Christopher Lee returns as the undead count, despite having been turned to ashes in the previous episode. And you thought it was only modern movie monsters like Jason that were hard to kill. Peter Cushing is absent in this follow-up, leaving Andrew Keir as the reproachful Father Sandor to take up arms against the fiendish foe.
Though it followed in the footsteps of the trailblazing The Curse of Frankenstein, this second film in Hammer Studios long-lived love affair with horror virtually invented traditional gothic atmosphere with its quiet, windswept countryside, cozy village inn and brooding, spooky castle. Christopher Lee puts on a tall, dignified air until his dark side comes out, at which point his towering height and unsettling snarl become truly menacing.
Four years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and four months after the bombing of Hiroshima, the Universal monster movies gasped their last as literary monsters gave way to monsters of the atomic age. The plot itself is a Frankenstein creation, cobbled together from bits and pieces of previous Universal monster movies for one last cash grab. That doesn’t mean it lacks any kind of enjoyable charm.
This is a more direct monster movie than Frankenstein. What it lacks in complexity, however, it makes up for in performances, especially Claude Rains, Ralph Bellamy, Maria Ouspenskaya, and no less than Dracula himself, chameleon Bela Lugosi as Bela, the cursed gypsy fortune teller who passes his burden onto Lon Chaney, Jr.’s Lawrence Talbot.
The orchestrations of prior horror films, most notably the Hammer Studios films, were frenetic and uptempo, something more suited to an action movie today. Williams mostly avoided this zealous use of horns and frantic strings, preferring instead the sweeping romanticism that has since become a hallmark of the Dracula story.