A slow crawl towards the tomb of the deceased vampire and the spritz of blood that soon follows gives audiences the terror and horror only Dracula could bring. Another entry into the Hammer Horror era of classic filmmaking, director Terence Fisher offers the chance to experience the work of a collation of brilliant British actors at the height of their powers. The top form presented is a clear sign, indicating the real strength of the industry and their talents of adaptation for books of old. Here is no surprise, Dracula is everything the genre at the time offered to those wanting chills and thrills, all set to a timely backdrop of grand castles, worthy parents and one doctor striving to figure out the aims of a villainous beast residing in the halls of a grandiose manor.
Continuing the superb chemistry they had as either allies or enemies on screen, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee make for dominant, incredible personalities. With such an incredible style shared between the two, it is no surprise that the brunt and underwhelming portions of the film are hidden tremendously well by their efforts. Lee is an imposing figure, the camera angles portray him as a dominating man, tall and agonisingly fiendish. He is everything the character of Count Dracula should be, embodying the role with such villainous glee. Cushing is just as strong, Doctor Van Helsing is played with composure like no other, his role here being the straight man to the otherworldly apparitions and horrors found throughout.
Consistency is key to these features, and so far, my experiences with Hammer have been of forthright quality. Nothing incredible, not just yet, but there has been a remarkable ability to stay far away from the pitfalls and tribulations of many moments of cliché and uniformity. A reliable pool of leading cast members, falling into place with the steady hand of Fisher behind them make for a remarkable pairing, one that is difficult to replicate. How Dracula and the films that followed it throughout the Hammer series are on par with the consistency of one another is a testament to the efficient talents of all involved, from the leading men to the hard work off-screen.
Fisher has very carefully and meticulously crafted a strong representation of Dracula, and as he tries his best to follow the book almost to the letter, it is surprising to see that the results aren’t quite superb. Strong, sure, but they suffer from over-eager supporting performers. They look to leave their mark on the film, but rather than compete with the immense talents of Cushing or Lee, they ham it up, chewing the scenery and their finely ironed costumes. Still, it could be worse, and Dracula manages to flee into the night with a potent presence and impact on those looking for that one, essential adaptation of the Bram Stoker classic.