Follow TV Tropes


Film / Horror of Dracula

Go To

Horror of Dracula is a 1958 Hammer Horror film directed by Terence Fisher. Its official British title is simply Dracula, but to avoid confusion, we'll be using the title that it was released under in the U.S. It stars Christopher Lee as the eponymous Count and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, roles for which both actors would be remembered for a long time. Lee would later come to resent his role because of increasingly inferior sequels and typecasting.

A very loose adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel, the film opens with Jonathan Harker arriving in Castle Dracula. He has come to destroy Dracula, but the plan falls through and he becomes a victim of the Count. Shortly after, Van Helsing arrives to investigate and discovers that Harker has been turned into a vampire, and Dracula has moved out from his castle to find more prey.


The film had several sequels, beginning with The Brides of Dracula. Christopher Lee would return to reprise his role in the subsequent Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

This film has examples of:

  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: In this film, Lucy and Mina's relationships from the original novel are swapped, with Lucy being engaged to Jonathan Harker and sister of Arthur Holmwood, while Mina is married to Arthur.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Van Helsing, an old man in the novel and 1931 film, is played by the dashing and energetic Peter Cushing here.
  • Adaptational Nationality: Van Helsing is a dapper Englishman, as opposed to the elderly Dutchman of the novel.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Dracula doesn't have ability here to transform into wolf, bat, mist, or anything, because scriptwriter decided it made the film seem more like a fairy tale and wanted to ground the story in realism.
  • Adapted Out:
    • As the film was made on the cheap, a good chunk of characters from the book were cut, most notably Quincy Morris and Renfield. Likewise, Dracula's three vampires brides are reduced to only one in this film.
    • The whole Dracula's journey to England on the ship Demeter was cut. Instead Dracula travels in his coffin in a carriage.
    • The England itself is completely cut. Dracula moves to Karlstadt instead, which is in Germany.
  • Adult Fear: Not long after Lucy dies, Tania suddenly goes missing in the middle of the night. She's found by the police where she explains that Lucy was the one who called her much to the shock of Arthur and Mina. If that wasn't bad enough, Tania goes out again by herself the following night where Lucy, clearly now undead and evil, leads her to the cemetery and was on the verge of biting her if Arthur hadn't decided to camp out near her crypt that night to see if Helsing's story was true and spotted them.
  • Agony of the Feet: Van Helsing manages to halt Dracula by exposing his feet to sunlight.
  • All in the Eyes: Used on Dracula when he appears in Lucy's room.
  • Animals Hate Him: There is no birdsong anywhere near Dracula's castle, presumably because birds know he is evil.
  • Asshole Victim: Subverted with Arthur (Michael Gough), who while initially obstructive and unhelpful, survives his brush with death at the graveyard and from then on becomes a loyal and open-minded companion to Dr. Van Helsing.
  • "Awkward Silence" Entrance: Abraham Van Helsing gets this as he goes into a tavern in Klausenberg. Music stops playing upon his entry and the patrons just stare at him in silence. The tavernkeeper willingly provides him with a brandy and a meal, but goes mum when pressed on the whereabouts of Jonathan Harker.
  • Badass Bookworm: Dr. Van Helsing: vampire hunter and even has Dracula running by the end of the film.
  • Big Bad: Count Dracula, the vampire lord Van Helming is hunting down.
  • Blatant Lies: The newly-vampirized Lucy, when she calls Tania to her in the dead of night.
    Tania: I heard you call me, Aunt Lucy.
    Lucy: (stilted) Yes, dear. (She grins, revealing her fangs before taking Tania's hand) Come along.
    Tania: You're cold! Where are we going?
    Lucy: For a little walk. I know somewhere nice and quiet we can play.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: After fending off the vampiric Lucy and forcing her back to her coffin. Van Helsing suggests to Arthur of using Lucy to track them to Dracula since, as she's in his control, it could allow them to end his threat faster. Arthur, however, refuses, both for not wanting to continue seeing his sister corrupted by the undead influence and that there's too much of a risk of Lucy going after Tania again as well as other people and spreading more of the vampire curse. Van Helsing concedes to his point and decides to stake Lucy then and there.
  • Breaking and Bloodsucking: How Dracula attacks Lucy. She is awake in bed, watching as Dracula appears on the balcony and waits for him to come to her.
  • Broad Strokes: Somewhat follows the plot of the original novel though diverges in a lot of areas.
  • Buried Alive: After arriving back at his castle, Dracula attempts to bury Mina alive to kill her via suffocation and trigger her vampire change. He's foiled by the arrival of Arthur and Van Helsing.
  • Composite Character: Dracula's three brides from the book are combined into one.
  • Canon Foreigner: There was no Tania or Gerda in the original novel, they were made up for the movie.
  • Cassette Craze: Van Helsing records notes on a nifty Edison wax-cylinder phonograph (probably a Shout-Out to Seward's phonograph diary in the novel). Alas, it only plays out as a joke when a servant wonders who the good doctor is talking to, and is somewhat taken aback when Van Helsing says he is talking to himself.
  • Creepy Mortician: J. Marx, although he's really more comically eccentric than creepy.
  • Death by Adaptation: Unlike the original novel, Harker never leaves Dracula's castle alive.
  • Decoy Protagonist: We're led to believe the movie is following the novel at first, as we follow Harker arriving at Dracula's castle for a business deal. Only to find out later that he's working with Van Helsing, actually going in covertly to find Dracula's resting place so that he can kill him. Unfortunately, Dracula's lone bride manages to bite him, infecting him with vampirism. While he manages to find their sleeping quarters and stake the bride, he waits too long to stake Dracula, who completely drains and turns him. The focus then shifts to Van Helsing as he tries to track down Dracula.
  • Demoted to Extra: Dr. Seward has a much smaller role than in the novel. This is most likely due to Renfield being Adapted Out.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the novel, Dracula is killed by Jonathan Harker, who beheads him, and by Quincy Morris, who plunges a Bowie knife into his heart. In the film, Van Helsing kills him with a combination of sunlight and a makeshift crucifix.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Jonathan Harker who arrived at the castle determined to destroy Dracula and his evil once and for all, is immediately distracted by a slinky young woman.
  • Dutch Angle: When a vampirized Lucy approaches Arthur to "kiss" him, the camera does this to represent how twisted she now is.
  • Eats Babies: Lucy, in her vampire state, nearly feeds on her 10-year-old niece.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold:
    • Harker notes how cold Dracula's castle feels like compared to outside.
    • Likewise Tania notes how cold Lucy (post-turning) is when they meet up in the forest. Granted makes sense considering she's a walking corpse now.
  • Fainting: Due to Dracula's bite, Mina Holmwood faints when a cross is placed in her hand.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • Harker should've known better to trust a woman within Dracula's castle especially considering that he knew about vampires. Not surprisingly the woman turns out to be undead and bites him when his guard is down. He does it again when he finds Dracula and the bride's sleeping quarters and doesn't keep an eye on Dracula as he stakes the bride first nor how much sunlight he has left. Dracula revives once the sunlight leaves the chambers to which he proceeds to kill Harker.
    • Tania when she goes to meet up with Lucy. Despite knowing she died not too long ago, she doesn't find it odd that Lucy is clearly walking around, has a pale complexion, two fangs sticking out of her mouth, not talking like the Lucy she should know or the fact that she wants to "play" with her in the middle of the night. The most Tania notices is that Lucy's touch is very cold, but doesn't question it further.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Dracula is initially a gracious host when Jonathan Harker arrives at the castle, but it doesn't take long for the Count to reveal his true nature.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Van Helsing has to give a slap to hysteric Gerda at one point.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Lucy in her first scene with Dracula.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Lucy's nightgowns and Mina's dresses are especially stunning in Technicolor.
  • Gratuitous Latin: A family crest above a fireplace in Castle Dracula reads "Fidelis et mortem" (faithful in death).
  • Hollywood Darkness: Day-for-night shots are used for several exterior scenes.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Van Helsing does this to the vamped Lucy, searing her head with a cross. Later when Mina is partially bitten by Drac, she's handed a cross to keep her safe but it burns her hand instead.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Little Tania is rescued just before she becomes vampirized Lucy's victim. Oddly this ends up happening twice, with the first time the characters even unaware of Lucy having risen as a vampire. The only reason she doesn't bite Tania that time is because she got scared off by a passing cop, causing Tania to name drop her to Arthur who proceeds to check out the crypt. Luckily being right where he needed to be when Lucy managed to bring Tania to the graveyard to feed on her on the second go around.
  • Improvised Cross: During the climactic confrontation, Van Helsing keeps Dracula at distance by putting two candlesticks together.
  • Informed Ability: Dracula is touted as a nigh-unstoppable force of evil that is a threat to the entire planet's safety. Killing him turns out to be a rather simple matter. One man is able to chase him down and forces him into the sunlight with minimal assistance.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: In Harker's opening narration, he mentions that everything seemed normal when he arrived at Castle Dracula, "except for one thing: there were no birds singing".
  • Leitmotif: Probably the most memorable element of James Bernard's music score. ("DRAAAA-culaaa!"')
  • Light Is Not Good: Dracula's coffin is white.
  • Match Cut: The shot of Dracula pushing a clearly excited Mina onto the bed is allowed by a shot of a screeching owl. (Her clueless husband actually smiles at the owl.)
  • Mercy Kill:
    • After finding Harker turned into a vampire, Van Helsing reluctantly stakes him, knowing Harker would view being undead as a Fate Worse than Death since he won't be in control of his actions.
    • Likewise he does so to Lucy at Arthur's request.
  • No Immortal Inertia: When vampires are killed, they reveal their real age (recently turned people look normal, but centuries old vampires look like they should).
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The border guard at Ingstadt, who refuses to divulge the destination of Dracula's coffin...that is, until Holmwood slips him a couple of bills.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Harker, when going to stake Dracula and finding his coffin empty. Then seeing that Dracula is on the staircase above him standing by the exit before he closes the door.
    • Van Helsing, upon finding an undead Harker at Dracula's castle.
    • Both Van Helsing and Arthur have one when they give Mina a cross but it burns her hand. Indicating that she's been bitten and in danger of becoming a vampire.
  • Ominous Owl: Arthur is startled by an owl's screams in the night, thinking them to be Mina's.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Getting bitten, even if not completely drained of blood, is an instant threat to the victim and they'll turn unless 1) they're treated properly or 2) the vampire who bit them is killed.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: When Van Helsing visits Lucy to break the news about Harker's death, she states she already knew. When asked how she comments she just did. Of course, the viewer knows it's due to Dracula infecting her with vampirism and presumably his subconscious is seeping in hers, sharing this information with her. After Van Helsing sees the bite marks on her neck, he notes both of these are early signs of her becoming a vampire.
  • The Quiet One: Dracula only has thirteen lines in the whole film. Apart from assorted snarls and hisses, he never actually speaks to anyone other than Jonathan Harker.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Dracula's eyes become bloodshot when he hungers or is enraged.
  • Related in the Adaptation: In the novel, Arthur was Lucy's fiancee. In this movie, they're brother and sister.
  • Revealing Hug: The woman in Dracula's castle, who begs Harker to help her escape. He agrees, she tearfully thanks him, and they embrace...and then she gets a very carnivorous look. And then her fangs come out.
  • Revenge: Van Helsing figures Dracula targeted Lucy as poetic revenge against Harker for staking his original bride and have his fiancee replace her.
  • Scenery Porn: Jack Asher's Technicolor photography and Bernard Robinson's sets look fantastic.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Used when Harker stakes Dracula's bride.
    • Averted when Van Helsing stakes Lucy. We're treated to a delightfully gory special effects shot instead.
  • Sibling Switch Squick: Lucy and Arthur are usually engaged in Dracula, but here, they're brother and sister (as Arthur and Jonathan swapped spouses).
  • Skeptic No Longer: Arthur initially doesn't believe Van Helsing about vampires, though mostly due to losing two family members, Harker and his sister Lucy, in rapid succession. But after reading Harker's diary which Van Helsing delivered to him and Tania's claim of seeing Lucy. He decides to at least check into it. Needless to say he becomes a believer when he sees Lucy walking about after her death and her vampire form nearly trying to bite both Tania and him. After which he helps Helsing hunt down Dracula.
  • Slasher Smile: Lucy twice after we see her as a vampire onscreen, the first is after calling Taina to her with the intention of feeding on her. The second is when Arthur calls out to her and she realizes he's in the graveyard.
  • Staking the Loved One: Played straight at the start when Helsing is forced to stake Harker after finding him now a vampire resting in Dracula's previous coffin. Subverted when Van Helsing and Arthur find the newly vampirized Lucy in her coffin. Arthur can't even look as Van Helsing drives the stake into her heart.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Harker foolishly waits until just before dusk to try and dispatch Dracula, and then even more foolishly stakes the female vampire first.
    • Tania leaves her household at night and goes with Lucy despite something clearly being wrong with her (child or no, you'd think the fangs would've been a warning sign to her).
    • Again, the vampirized Lucy running into her crypt after being burned by Van Helsing's cross rather then fleeing the cemetery. (Granted, Van Helsing had mentioned that the sunrise was coming soon, which would have prevented her from getting far before she was forced into her sleep, but still...)
  • Transhuman Treachery:
    • Lucy after rising as a vampire. Her first act is to target her own niece for feeding. When she spots Arthur, who was spying on her grave, she instantly tries to "kiss" him.
    • Judging by the way Harker was smiling when Van Helsing found him sleeping in a coffin, it's likely Harker was primed for this as well if he hadn't already (though the lack of blood on his mouth suggests he hadn't fed yet).
  • Vampire Bites Suck: Somewhat. When Harker is bitten by the vampire bride, his wounds are actually fairly clean on his neck, although when Dracula later bites him and we see his undead form, most of his neck is covered in blood (likely because Dracula was angry at that point and was looking to kill him instantly). However, when Dracula goes after Lucy, his bites are once again very clean.
  • Vampire Hunter: Harker (who's not successful) and Van Helsing (who is).
  • Vampire Refugee:
    • Harker when he see's the bite marks after Dracula's bride bites him, he despairs and he knows it's a matter of time before he turns unless he kills Dracula. He fails and is bitten by Dracula who exacerbates his previous wounds which, not surprisingly, kills him. When Helsing later finds Harker, the vampirism has long since claimed him.
    • Lucy in the middle of the film naturally.
    • Likewise Mina later in the film.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: Women in this film simply cannot resist Dracula.
  • The Voiceless: Dracula, save for a few words with Harker at the very beginning of the film.
  • Voiceover Letter: The film opens with Harker narrating his arrival at Castle Dracula from his diary. Used again when he makes a new entry, detailing how he plans to destroy Dracula.
  • Wham Shot: Several.
    • When Harker awakens after being knocked out by Dracula, he finds that there are bite marks on his neck.
    • When Van Helsing searches Dracula's castle and finds Harker in Dracula's crypt, now a vampire. The camera even goes in for a close up to confirm his undeath as Harker is now deathly pale, sporting fangs (and even grinning slightly, indicating the corruption has taken hold completely) and most of his neck where he was bitten previously by Dracula's bride, which before was only clean puncture wounds, is covered in blood. Likely done by Dracula to kill him and trigger his transformation.
    • Not long after the scene where Mina and Arthur wish Lucy a good night, she quickly gets out of bed, opens he patio door to her room, pulls off her necklace and lays back down, pulling down her collar to reveal puncture wounds on her neck.
    • After Lucy dies and Arthur reads Harker's journal at the behest of Van Helsing, he decides to at least check out Lucy's crypt at night. Sure enough, when he inspects her coffin, her body isn't there.
    • Shortly after the above, it cuts to a forest where we see Tania wandering about before calling out to...Lucy. Indeed the camera cuts to her, where a much active but obviously vampirized Lucy smiles at her, revealing her fangs.
    • After Arthur goes to check a basement for something and leaves. The camera pans down to show that Dracula's coffin was hidden there.
    • When Arthur gives Mina a cross, she faints instantly at its touch. Van Helsing and Arthur pry it from her hand and find it has burned her palm.
  • Will Talk for a Price: The border guard refuses to reveal the destination of the hearse bearing Dracula's coffin... until Arthur slips a couple bills into his hand.
  • The X of Y: The film's overseas title, original one being an Antagonist Title.
  • You Are Too Late: Van Helsing comes to Transylvania after hearing no word from Harker. He eventually reaches Dracula's and unfortunately finds the Harker he knows already dead and turned into a vampire, waiting to arise to attack the nearby village.
  • You Must Be Cold: Played innocently when Van Helsing gives his coat to a scared little girl, and then tells her "You look like a teddy bear."
  • Your Vampires Suck: Van Helsing dismisses as "a common fallacy" the idea that vampires can turn into wolves or bats.
    • The underlying reason is pragmatic: Hammer really could not have done the FX work, as was shown by the utter Special Effects Failure in 1970's Scars of Dracula. Director Terence Fisher also said giving Dracula a handicap made the films more exciting.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Dracula 1958


Horror of Dracula [Dracula in Coffin Room]

Scene from the 1958 film, Horror of Dracula. Mina is suddenly "called" away by Arthur to meet her at an undertaker shop. Oddly she doesn't find anyone there but notices the storage room where the coffins are kept. As she goes in thinking Arthur might be there, she unaware of the undead danger within.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / VampiresSleepInCoffins

Media sources:

Main / VampiresSleepInCoffins