Film Review: Dracula (1958)

Dracula 1958Hammer’s 1958 classic Dracula (Horror of Dracula in the US) gets a Blu-Ray release featuring both the 2007 BFI restoration and the 2012 Hammer restoration.

Jonathan Harker travels to Count Dracula’s castle under the guise of working as his new librarian. After Harker’s attempt to vanquish Dracula, the vampire travels to the nearby town and sets his sights on the family of Harker’s fiancee…

Like most cinematic adaptations of Bram Stoker’s seminal novel, Hammer’s Dracula makes a number of alterations. Characters are combined, and some omitted altogether. Nevertheless, the essence of the novel still shines through. The general premise remains the same, even if the locations and character differ.

Hammer’s interpretation of Dracula really emphasises the seductive nature of the title character. Gone are the less savoury descriptions that can be found in the novel. Dracula is both ruthless and seductive in this 1958 version. It is a theme that Hammer continued to highlight as their series of Dracula films went on.

Like most vampire films, Dracula is not actually frightening. What the film works with is a sense of foreboding. The Gothic reigns supreme; the themes of otherness and duality are prominent. Rather than terrifying viewers, Dracula makes them uneasy. The title character is more complex than some of the other movie monsters.

Christopher Lee delivers a commanding performance in one of his most famous roles. Peter Cushing is excellent as Van Helsing, while Michael Gough is well cast in one of his early feature-film roles. There is a strong use of colour in Dracula, which is enhanced on Blu-Ray. The 2012 restoration adds a few moments, most notably the very climax of the film. For this alone, fans of the 1958 film should aim to view this restoration.

Dracula is released on 3-disc Double Play, with a host of extra features, on 18th March 2013.

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