Well let me be the first to warn everybody that there is no Dracula and there is sure as heck no brides of Dracula anywhere near this movie. However, even though the title has nothing to do with the move, BRIDES OF DRACULA is a superb film and if not the best film produced by Hammer Studios. The title just sounds cool, I guess. If you use your imagination one can surmise that even though Dracula is dead any woman who is a vampire maybe called his bride simply because he started all this vampire stuff. Despite the absence of Christopher Lee I have to say that BRIDES is one of my favorite films of all time.
I believe BRIDES OF DRACULA is a sequel to THE HORROR OF DRACULA (Or just plain DRACULA if you live in the U.K.) which has a young woman named Marianne going to an all girl school to become a teacher. After she is invited by the mysterious Baroness Meinster to stay at her castle the young teacher discovers that mystery lady has a son, the Baraon Meinster, who is chained to his room. Figuring the lady of the house is mad, Marianne helps the Baron escape. Of course he is a dracula. The newly freed vampire wastes no time going out and turning a couple of women in the village into vampires including a friend of the young naive teacher. Finally Van Helsing shows up and figures there is a dracula on the loose and takes it upon himself to kill the unholy creature.
Director Terence Fischer has a way of bringing out so much bold color and detail to his sets and characters. His horror films are quite beautiful to look at. While the bulk of BRIDES is full of polite talk and proper manners one can't help but get drawn in by Cushing's straight forward but warm Van Helsing. He is charming and courteous but when someone pops out them fangs he has no problem shoving a crucifix down their undead throat. I remember when I was a kid and first watched BRIDES on TBS back in the day that I was disappointed in the new vampire played by David Peel simply because he was not Christopher Lee. I wanted Christopher Lee. Nowadays though I think David Peel's Baron Meinster is wonderfully horrifying with his maddening blood crazed eyes and uncharacteristic to his proper self vampire fangs. His death at the end is one for the ages and my favorite part of the film. The Baron is making his escape with what is left of his face after Van Helsing splashed him with holy water. The Baron had made it out of the now burning windmill he had been using for his lair. He is totally free with Van Helsing up at the top of the windmill. If I was Van Helsing I would have been like "Crap...Oh, well I bet I get him in the sequel." and quit the chase. But not Peter Cushing's Van Helsing. He wasn't going to have this guy show up in some sequel. Using his brain Helsing jumps on one of the wings of the windmill and drags it down with his weight converting the windmill into a giant cross which kills the Baron instantly. Brilliant! I love that so much. We also get to see how Van Helsing handles being bit by a vampire too. He burns the wound with a hot poker and splashes it with holy water like a real man. That is the perfect cure for vampirism and naughty thoughts. I probably would have just succumbed to being undead. Man, it is a good thing I wasn't Van Helsing. We all would have been screwed.
I think it is kind of funny in the HORROR OF DRACULA Van Helsing says vampires do not turn into bats. At least if I remember correctly he does. In BRIDES they turn into bats all the time. So the good doctor isn't right all the time. Big deal. Maybe he meant realistic looking bats since these bats are the hanging from a string variety. I always love a good "bats dangling on a string" horror movie. They are good fun and cheesy. I think that is another reason why BRIDES is so good though. Even though the bat special effects are not so special it doesn't detract from the genuine sense of horror the movie provides. I think a lot of that credit goes to Cushing and Peel playing their parts with straight faced determined gusto especially when the two face off against each other. You can't help but get drawn into the two of them fighting over Marianne's soul.
THE BRIDES OF DRACULA is an excellent example of the greatness of Hammer Studios horror movies from back in the old days. They made a whole bunch and I try my best to collect them all especially the ones with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. They weren't all perfect and not without an exploitative nature but I think those of us who want to make scary movies with a real story to tell should watch these along with the Universal Monsters horror collection to culture ourselves on what truly makes horror movies work. I fear that too many of the old movies have been forgotten and replaced with THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. I think horror fanatics should go back further than the seventies to learn the basics of HORROR 101. Maybe then we can get better story driven horror movies in the future even if they are low budget.