Dracula (1958 film)
Original film poster
|Directed by||Terence Fisher|
|Produced by||Anthony Hinds|
|Written by||Jimmy Sangster
Bram Stoker (Novel)
|Music by||James Bernard|
|Edited by||Bill Lenny|
|Hammer Film Productions|
|Distributed by||Rank Organisation (UK)
Universal Pictures (USA Theatrical)
Warner Bros. (Home Video)
|Release date(s)||8 May 1958|
|Running time||82 minutes|
Dracula is a 1958 British horror film. It is the first in the series of Hammer Horror films inspired by the Bram Stoker novel Dracula. It was directed by Terence Fisher, and stars Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling and Carol Marsh. In the United States, the film was retitled Horror of Dracula to avoid confusion with the earlier Dracula (1931) starring Bela Lugosi.
In May 1885, Jonathan Harker arrives at the castle of Count Dracula near Klausenberg, posing as a librarian for hire. He is startled inside the castle by a young woman begging for help, claiming to be a prisoner. Dracula then greets Harker and guides him to his room, where he locks him in. Jonathan starts to write in his diary, and his true intentions are revealed: he has come to kill Dracula.
Freed sometime later, Harker again is confronted by the desperate woman. She begs him for help but then bites his neck. Just as she does, Dracula – fangs bared and lips bloody – arrives and yanks her away. When he awakens in daylight, Harker finds the bite mark. He hides his journal in a Virgin Mary grotto outside the castle and descends into the crypts, where he finds Dracula and the unnamed vampire woman resting in their coffins. Armed with a stake, he impales the woman. As he looks on, the woman's corpse immediately ages from young to old. Harker turns to Dracula's crypt with the intention of killing the vampire only to find it empty. Looking up, Harker is in time to see the Count shut the door and they are both plunged into darkness...
Dr. Van Helsing then arrives in Klausenberg, looking for Harker. An inn keeper's daughter gives him Harker's journal. When he arrives at the castle, it is deserted; a hearse carriage speeds by with a coffin in it. In the crypt, Van Helsing is horrified to discover Harker lying in a coffin as a vampire. Staking Harker, he leaves to deliver the veiled news of Harker's death in person to a wary Arthur Holmwood and his wife Mina, brother and sister-in-law of Harker's fiancée Lucy Holmwood. Lucy is ill, so the news is kept from her and Lucy's little niece, Tania. But, when night falls, Lucy opens the doors to her terrace and lays bare her neck – already, it bears the mark of a vampire bite. And soon Dracula arrives and bites her again.
Mina seeks out Van Helsing's aid in treating Lucy's worsening health, but Lucy defeats his prescribed garlic bouquets and dies. Van Helsing turns over Harker's journal and reveals the truth. Meanwhile, the Vampire Lucy lures away Tania to a graveyard, but the child is saved by Van Helsing and Arthur. Van Helsing takes Tania home and returns to find Arthur still at Lucy's crypt. Arthur refuses to use Lucy as a means to find Dracula, so Van Helsing stakes Lucy in her coffin.
Van Helsing and Arthur travel to the customs house in Ingstadt to track down the destination of Dracula's coffin (which Van Helsing saw carried away when he arrived at Dracula's castle). Meanwhile, Mina is called away from home by a message telling her to meet Arthur at an address in Karlstadt – the same address Arthur and Van Helsing are told the coffin was bound for – and Dracula is indeed waiting for her...
The next morning, Arthur and Van Helsing find Mina in a strange state. They leave for the address they were given, an undertaker's, but find the coffin missing. When they decide to set off again, Arthur tries to give Mina a cross to wear, but it burns her.
During the night, Van Helsing and Arthur guard Mina's windows outside against a return of Dracula, but Dracula, who nonetheless appears inside the house and bites her. A remark by the maid leads Van Helsing to the coffin's location: the cellar of the Holmwoods' own house. But Dracula is not in the coffin and instead escapes into the night with Mina.
A chase then begins as Dracula rushes to return to his castle near Klausenberg before sunrise. He attempts to bury Mina alive outside the crypts but is caught by Van Helsing and Arthur. Inside the castle, Van Helsing and Dracula struggle. Van Helsing tears open the curtain to let in the sunlight and, forming a cross of candlesticks, he forces Dracula into it. Dracula crumbles into dust as Van Helsing looks on. Mina recovers, the cross-shaped scar fading from her hand as Dracula's ashes blow away, leaving only a ring behind.
The filming of Dracula's destruction included a shot in which Dracula appears to peel away his decaying skin. This was accomplished by putting a layer of red makeup on Christopher Lee's face, and then covering his entire face with a thin coating of mortician's wax, which was then made up to conform to his normal skin tone. When he raked his fingers across the wax, it revealed the "raw" marks underneath. This startling sequence was cut out, but has been restored for the 2012 Blu-ray release, using footage from a badly damaged Japanese print.
Zodiac wheel in final scene
At the end of the movie, Dracula is destroyed on an inlaid Zodiac wheel on the floor, which has several quotes in Latin and Greek. The inner circle in Greek has a quote from Homer's Odyssey Book 18.136–7: "τοῖος γὰρ νόος ἐστὶν ἐπιχθονίων ἀνθρώπων οἷον ἐπ᾽ ἦμαρ ἄγησι πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε" ("The mind of men who live on the earth is such as the day the father of gods and men [Zeus] brings upon them.") The outer wheel is written in Latin, and is a quote from Hesiod via Bartolomeo Anglico (De proprietatibus rerum, Book 8, Chapter 2): "Tellus vero primum siquidem genuit parem sibi coelum stellis ornatum, ut ipsam totam obtegat, utque esset beatis Diis sedes tuta semper." ("And Earth first bare starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, and to be an ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods.") Dracula's ring is left on the water sign on the Zodiac wheel.
Dracula was a critical and commercial success upon its release and was well received by critics and fans alike of Bram Stoker's works. The film currently scores 93% on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus "Trading gore for grandeur, Horror of Dracula marks an impressive turn for inveterate Christopher Lee as the titular vampire, and a typical Hammer mood that makes aristocracy quite sexy."
|This section requires expansion. (March 2014)|
The film made its first appearance on DVD in 2002 in the US stand-alone and was later re-released on 6 November 2007 in a film pack along with Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Taste the Blood of Dracula, and Dracula A.D. 1972; which was part of Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema's "4 Film Favorites" line of DVDs. On 7 September 2010, Turner Classic Movies released the film in a 4-Pack along with Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, The Curse of Frankenstein and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. The film was released on DVD in the UK in October 2002 alongside The Curse of Frankenstein and The Mummy in a box-set entitled Hammer Horror Originals.
2007 UK re-release
The film was digitally restored and re-released in the UK by the BFI in 2007. When the film was originally released in the UK, the BBFC gave it an X rating, being cut, while the 2007 uncut re-release was given a 12A.
Blu-ray Disc Restored Version
For many years historians have pointed to the fact that an even longer, more explicit, version of the film played in Japanese and European cinemas in 1958. Efforts to locate the legendary 'Japanese version' of Dracula had been fruitless.
In September 2011, Hammer announced that part of the Japanese release had been found in the National Film Center at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. The first five reels of the film held by the center were destroyed in a fire in 1984, but the last four reels were recovered. The recovered reels include the last 36 minutes of the film and includes two extended scenes, one of which is the discovery of a complete version of the film's iconic disintegration scene. The announcement mentioned a HD telecine transfer of all four reels with a view for a future UK release.
On 29 December 2012, Hammer announced that the restored film would be released on a three-disc, double play Blu-ray Disc set in the UK on 18 March 2013. This release contains the 2007 BFI restoration along with the 2012 high-definition Hammer restoration which includes footage which was previously believed to be lost. The set contains both Blu-ray Disc and DVD copies of the film as well as several bonus documentaries covering the film's production, censorship and restoration processes.
- *Rigby, Jonathan (July 2000). English Gothic : A Century of Horror Cinema (in English). Reynolds & Hearn. p. 256. ASIN 1903111013. ISBN 978-1903111017. OCLC 45576395.
- Christopher Lee (Actor), Peter Cushing (Actor) (2007). 4 Film Favorites: Draculas (Dracula A.D. 1972, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Horror of Dracula, Taste the Blood of Dracula) [4 Film Favorites: Draculas] (Motion Picture DVD) (in English). Burbank, California: Warner Home Video. ASIN B000U1ZV7G. ISBN 9781419859076. OCLC 801718535.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dracula (1958 film).|
- Dracula at the Internet Movie Database
- Dracula at AllMovie
- Dracula at Rotten Tomatoes
- BFI Screenonline article
- Britmovie article