The sex is on fire in THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, the sequel to 1958’s HORROR OF DRACULA. This 1960 picture is a rapturous symphony of horror and eroticism, with Terence Fisher as director. The screenplay by Jimmy Sangster, Peter Bryan and Edward Percy allows for an explosion of Hammer Film Productions tropes, complete with plenty of fire, blood and heaving bosoms. Things are almost feverishly theatrical, with the entire production benefitting from the Gothic opulence.
The movie opens with Count Dracula dead and probably not loving it. Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) is making her way to her gig at a girls’ school in Transylvania, but her coach driver takes off and she’s left at a village inn. Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt) takes an interest and hauls the young woman off to her castle. Marianne is eventually convinced to release the Baroness’ son (David Peel), who she believes is an innocent captive. This is untrue, however, and Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) springs into action as vampires once again run free.
Under the vigilant eye of Fisher, Transylvania becomes every bit the “home of magic and devilry” it ought to be in the context of this yarn. The film’s sense of place is strong, rich with murky corridors and spooky woods and not-quite-dead women. The narration establishes the grounds so well that it’s hard to imagine why dear Marianne would take a job in such a place. She’s even travelling alone, something that panics the hoteliers and seems to signal the arrival of some sort of doom.
The darkness is difficult to escape in THE BRIDES OF DRACULA and the characters are likewise infused with all things nocturnal. We feel a kinship with Marianne as she negotiates the strange land and we hope she finds someone she can trust. It’s a relief when Van Helsing at last arrives, with Cushing’s command helping assuage some of the tension. But even he is vulnerable under foot of the dread mountains, with the spiritual and physical peril of vampirism refusing captivity to death or life. We feel his pain and adamant fatigue, as the night lingers much too long.