Dracula (1958 film)

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Original film poster
Directed by Terence Fisher
Produced by Anthony Hinds
Written by Jimmy Sangster
Bram Stoker (Novel)
Starring Christopher Lee
Peter Cushing
Michael Gough
Melissa Stribling
Music by James Bernard
Cinematography Jack Asher
Edited by Bill Lenny
Distributed by Rank Organisation
 United Kingdom
 United States
Release dates
8 May 1958 (1958-05-08)
Running time
82 minutes
Country  United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £81,000[1]
Box office 1,008,834 admissions (France)[2]

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.

Production began at Bray Studios on 17 November 1957 with an investment of £81,000.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

In May 1885, Jonathan Harker arrives at the castle of Count Dracula near Klausenburg (Cluj), to take up his post as librarian. Inside, he is startled by a young woman who claims she is a prisoner and begs for his help. Dracula then appears to greet Harker and guide him to his room, where he locks him in. Jonathan starts to write in his diary, and his true intentions are revealed: he is a vampire hunter and has come to kill Dracula.

John Van Eyssen as Jonathan Harker.

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 shrine to the Virgin Mary outside the castle and descends into the crypt, where he finds Dracula and the vampire woman resting in their coffins. Armed with a stake, he impales the woman, who, as he looks on, immediately ages from young to old. Whilst he does this, the sun sets, and when he turns to Dracula's coffin with the intention of killing the vampire, he finds it empty. Looking up, Harker is in time to see the Count shut the door and they are both plunged into darkness...

A few days have passed Dr. Van Helsing then arrives in Klausenburg, 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 removes the crucifix from round her neck, 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 declining health, but Lucy begs Gerda the maid to remove his prescribed garlic bouquets, and she dies. However shortly after she's buried, Tania is spirited away into the night and is returned the next day, claiming Lucy had beckoned her. Realizing that Lucy has arisen as a vampire, Van Helsing turns over Harker's journal and reveals the truth to prove his claim. The next night, Lucy, now undead and evil, lures away Tania once more to a graveyard with the intent to feed on and turn her into a vampire. But the child is saved when Arthur, curious of Van Helsing's claim, spots them and calls out to Lucy. Lucy turns her attention to him but Helsing manages to ward her off with a cross and forces her to flee back to her crypt. Van Helsing takes Tania home and returns to find Arthur still at Lucy's crypt. He explains that Lucy is both Dracula's revenge against Harker and a replacement for the bride killed by him. Van Helsing suggests using Lucy as a means to find Dracula. But Arthur refuses as it runs the risk of her biting someone else, plus not wanting see Lucy corrupted any further. So Van Helsing stakes Lucy in her coffin.

Christopher Lee as Count Dracula.

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, revealing that she's infected by vampirism and is slowly turning into a vampire herself.

During the night, Van Helsing and Arthur guard Mina's windows outside against a return of Dracula, but Dracula nonetheless appears inside the house and bites her. A remark by Gerda 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, intent on making her a new bride.

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 indicating she's been saved, as Dracula's ashes blow away, leaving only a ring behind.



Special effects[edit]

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 was restored for the 2012 Blu-ray release, using footage from a badly damaged Japanese print.

Zodiac wheel in final scene[edit]

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 glyph of the sign of Aquarius 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."




DVD release
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.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5] 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b * Rigby, Jonathan (July 2000). English Gothic : A Century of Horror Cinema. Reynolds & Hearn. p. 256. ISBN 978-1903111017. OCLC 45576395. 
  2. ^ Box office information for Terence Fisher films in France at Box office Story
  3. ^ 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). Burbank, California: Warner Home Video. ASIN B000U1ZV7G. ISBN 9781419859076. OCLC 801718535. 
  4. ^ http://www.hammerfilms.com/news/article/newsid/314/dracula-resurrected
  5. ^ http://www.hammerfilms.com/news/article/newsid/462/dracula-on-uk-blu-ray

External links[edit]