Hammer had become the new hotbed for horror films as the ’50s came to an end. The Curse of Frankenstein, The Horror of Dracula and The Mummy had allowed the English studio to reliably crack the American film market with their full color bloody cinematic nightmares. The fans and international distributors wanted more of Hammer with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in the leads. The trouble is that Christopher Lee wasn’t eager to repeat his monster roles. But Hammer figured out ways to work around a missing performer. They had already created The Revenge of Frankenstein with Peter Cushing stitching together a new creation. So they decided to bring back Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing to face off with a new bloodsucker eager to sink their fangs into the young ladies. But to make sure people knew it was a sequel, they stuck the old Count’s name in the title for The Brides of Dracula.
Marianne Danielle (Circus of Horrors‘ Yvonne Monlaur) arrives in Transylvania in order to take a teaching job at a private girls finishing school. But her journey comes to an abrupt end when the coach driver dumps her at a village inn and unexpectedly bolts. While unsure of how to get to her gig, she meets Baroness Meinster (Bunny Lake Is Missing‘s Martita Hunt). With no real place to stay while waiting for the next coach, Marianne accepts an invitation to sleep over at the Baroness’ nearby castle. The place isn’t that empty since there’s her servant Greta (Die, Monster, Die!‘s Freda Jackson). The Baroness doesn’t mention her son Baron Meinster (The Hands of Orlac‘s David Peel). Marianne finds the young royal who is chained in his bedroom. The teacher helps the Baron escape only to realize that she shouldn’t have gotten involved in this family issue. The teacher flees from the castle and ends up running into Doctor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). He’s there to help out since he knows the true nature of the Baron and the girls in the village who become his Brides.
Originally when the film was in pre-production, the title was Disciples of Dracula which sums up the film better since there’s no real Dracula or a wedding scene. But that’s the only hiccup in a fine sequel that doesn’t retread the original script. David Peel proves that just because you’re undead, your hair doesn’t have to be slicked back. He’s not merely a stand-in for Christopher Lee with his approach to seducing and sucking the ladies. The fight at the end between him and Cushing is worthy of any of the other battles in Hammer’s Dracula films. Peel retired from acting soon after this film to become an antiques dealer. He could have played a few more characters for Hammer, Amicus and Tigon.
Brides of Dracula works as a Hammer vampire film because you’re not imagining how the movie would have played out if Christopher Lee had returned with his fangs. It’s good that Van Helsing has a chance to stake new vampires instead of an eternal cat and undead mouse chase. This is the perfect Hammer Horror to enjoy in the Fall.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. There’s also a 1.66:1 anamorphic version reflecting how it was projected in London. The 1080p transfer on both versions looks so much better than the VHS release that I watched in the ’90s when Paul Malcolm was writing a review of the tape for his syndicated what’s at the videostore column. It’s also an upgrade from the barebone DVD & Blu-ray releases. The audio is DTS-HD MA Mono. You’ll hear Cushing break out his stakes. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary with author/film historian Steve Haberman and filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr goes into how the film came about and its impact.
The Men Who Made Hammer: Terence Fisher (58:20) details the director that set the standard for Hammer Horror. Writer Richard Klemensen also shares details from his interview with Fisher.
The Men Who Made Hammer: Jack Asher (16:25) covers the cinematographer. Once more writer Richard Klemensen relates the time he interviewed Asher.
The Eternal and the Damned (15:22) dips into composer Malcolm Williamson’s score for The Brides of Dracula.
The Making of Brides of Dracula (31:11) is narrated by Edward De Souza with Yvonne Monlaur, writer Jimmy Sangster, Hugh Harlow, producer Anthony Hinds and others discuss what went into the production.
The Haunted History of Oakley Court (15:13) explores the estate that has popped up in numerous films including The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Theatrical Trailers (4:05) promise you more undead action.
Radio Spot (1:03) will get you excited while stuck in rush hour traffic.
Scream Factory present Brides of Dracula: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: Steve Beck. Screenplay by: Mark Hanlon and John Pogue. Starring: Peter Cushing, Yvonne Monlaur, David Peel, Martita Hunt, Freda Jackson, Miles Malleson, Henry Oscar, Mona Washbourne, Andrée Melly, Victor Brooks, Fred Johnson and Michael Ripper. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 86 minutes. Released: November 10, 2020.