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Horror of Dracula

Director: Terence Fisher
Cast: Peter Cushing, Melissa Stribling, Christopher Lee
Running time: 81 minutes
Rating: Un-rated

Story: A young man cons Count Dracula into hiring him to catalogue his library. Turns out he's really there to destroy the Count, but he'll find this is not so easy. The Count falls for his fiance and so Dr. Van Helsing is called in to protect her.

Review: The Dracula legend has been told and retold for centuries. It has been updated for modern society and has been the subject of various types of media, including video games and cartoons. The first film based on the novel by Bram Stoker is the 1922 silent film 'Nosferatu' and the second the 1931 Universal film simply called 'Dracula.' Both films are in black and white and no blood is spilled whatsoever. These films were made in a time when what you didn't see was far more scary than what you did. Eventually this would change, but not for quite some time.

Universal kept the legend alive by producing a series of sequels to their undead hit, none of which caught on like the original. It wasn't until the late 1950s that another great film based on the tale would be unleashed on audiences. This time it came from Great Britain and would be the first adaptation of the story in color. Not only that, but it would also be the first to feature any blood, which was still kept to a minimum. The two male lead roles were cast with two actors who would go on to horror stardom. The film was so well received that a series of sequels followed until the mid 1970s.

Like the earlier adaptations I mentioned earlier, this one is pretty dated by today's standards, especially compared to vampire films such as 'Blade' and 'From Dusk Till Dawn.' This however does not make 'Horror of Dracula' a poor film, far from it. In fact, despite it's few short comings it's one of the better films based on the story and unlike films such as 'Dracula 2000' has real class and deserves to be remembered. It's from a time when many horror films were of high quality. It's also one of the scariest and doesn't use a lot of elaborate effects to try and scare the audience.

The performances are universally good. Christopher Lee is given less screen time than some of the other actors, but makes the most of the time he is given and leaves a lasting impression. The score is quite good, if a bit over-dramatic. This is especially the case during the opening titles. Beautifully photographed, making the colors really vibrant. Speaking of things pleasing to the eyes, the production design, set decor, and costumes are all fabulous.

Christopher Lee makes a frightening Dracula. His portrayal has similarities to Bela Lugosi's, but Lee is more vicious and it's very effective. The film has a creepy atmosphere and there are moments that will make your hair stand up. The film, for the most part, moves at a decent pace. Those used to films with a brisk pace will have to be patient with this, but it's rewarding. The finale is quite exciting.

Anything negative to say about this movie? Well the pace does drag in spots. I have no problems with a slow-burn pace, but some brief stretches do drag. The film really could have used some extra oomph. Perhaps a really nail-biting chase through the dark woods would have helped. And lastly, most of the effects really haven't aged well. Granted this movie is over 50 years old as of this writing, but the effects are minimal and could have been a bit better.

Minor quibbles aside, this take on the Dracula legend is a solid effort that needs to be remembered. Sure it will unlikely ever reach the overwhelming fan base that 'Twilight' has, but that frankly wouldn't exist had it not been for films like this. A gem.

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