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Film / Horror of Dracula

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"You can have no idea what an evil man he is, or what terrible things he does!"

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 forever afterward (though Lee eventually would become disenchanted with his role due to increasingly inferior sequels and typecasting).

A very loose adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel, the film opens with Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) arriving at Castle Dracula, ostensibly for a job as a librarian. In fact, he has come to destroy Dracula, but the plan falls through and he becomes a victim of the Count. Van Helsing arrives to investigate some time thereafter, quickly discovering that Harker has been turned into a vampire and that the Count has moved out from his castle in search of more prey – which he soon locates, in the person of Harker's fiancée, Lucy Holmwood (Carol Marsh). Can Van Helsing, with the help of Lucy's brother Arthur (Michael Gough), track Dracula down and bring an end to his reign of terror?

The film had several sequels, beginning with The Brides of Dracula. Christopher Lee would return to reprise his role eight years later in 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 (Lucy still ends up dying while Mina lives, however)
    • Van Helsing and Harker never met each other before in the novel. In the film, they're old friends.
    • Dr. Seward was Van Helsing's student and friend and personally called him in to investigate Lucy's illness. Here they don't seem to know each other.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Downplayed. Van Helsing, an elderly man in the novel and 1931 film, is played by the dashing and energetic (even at forty-five years old) Peter Cushing here.
    • Also Dracula himself. In the novel he's described (when Harker first encounters him, anyway) as a sinister-looking, very old man with creepy long fingers. Here he's portrayed by the handsome Christopher Lee.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • Van Helsing in the novel was an eccentric, elderly scholar who was an expert on vampires but had never actually faced one in person. The Hammer version is a much younger man of action who confronts Dracula head on.
    • Subverted with Jonathan Harker. In the novel, Harker was a lawyer whom Dracula used to secure a London property and, over the course of the story, took a level in badass and helped to slay Dracula in the climax. Here, after an introduction that appears to follow the novel (albeit he's a librarian, not a lawyer), it's revealed that in this version he's Van Helsing's vampire-hunting apprentice, who has specifically come to slay Dracula. Unfortunately for him, in this version, he fails.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: Dr. Seward is pretty clueless about Lucy's illness, whereas book Seward called on an expert in obscure diseases to examine Lucy when it was clear he had no idea what he was looking at.
  • Adaptational Job Change: In the novel, Jonathan Harker visits Dracula's castle to sell him real estate, unaware that he is a vampire. In this movie, he arrives with the full knowledge of Dracula's vampiric nature and the intention to kill him, posing as a librarian.
  • Adaptational Location Change: The film swaps the novel's Transylvania and England settings in favour of Klausenburg, Romania and Karlstadt, Germany, presumably because the latter were easier to mock up on a limited budget. (Although ironically enough, most of the film was shot on soundstages at Bray Studios in Berkshire, with a few exteriors taken in and around the nearby countryside.)
  • Adaptational Nationality: Rather than England, Dracula travels to Karlstadt, Germany. None of the characters from the original novel have their names changed to fit and only Jonathan, whose given name is a German masculine name, comes remotely close to seeming like he fits in as a German citizen.
  • Adaptational Protagonist: This feature adapts Bram Stoker's novel Dracula with some changes. While the book has an Ensemble Cast (with Mina and Jonathan being the two most central protagonists), the film elevates Dr. Van Helsing from Eccentric Mentor to the star of the whole motion picture. Everyone else is demoted to minor roles and it even kills off Jonathan in the first act.
  • Adaptational Wimp:
    • Dracula doesn't have ability here to transform into wolf, bat, mist, or anything, because the scriptwriter decided those elements made the story seem more like a fairy tale and wanted to ground the film in realism. (And if Scars of Dracula was any indication, Hammer couldn't pull the effects off anyway.) In comparison with his counterpart from Universal, Hammer's Dracula doesn't possess superhuman strength, as even a normal human as Van Helsing can fight directly against him. Compare this with Dracula killing easily the super strong Renfield in Dracula (1931).
    • Dr. Seward, thanks to being Demoted to Extra, is largely useless.
  • 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 of Dracula's journey to England on the ship Demeter was cut. Instead Dracula travels in his coffin in a carriage to Karlstadt, which is in Germany. Despite the change of locale, all of the characters from the novel keep their original names with only Jonathan, whose given name is a German masculine name, seeming to fit in.
  • Age Lift:
    • In the novel, Dracula is an old man at the beginning of the story and becomes younger as he feeds on blood, while in this movie he stays the same age throughout.
    • Dr. Seward was in his twenties in the original novel. In the film he is portrayed much older, being played by a fifty-six year old Charles Lloyd-Pack.
    • Cushing was in his forties when he played Van Helsing, who's quite old in the book.
  • 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.
  • The Artifact: Despite the change from England to Germany, none of the characters besides the Wallachian Dracula or the Dutch Van Helsing have undergone Adaptation Name Change resulting in only Jonathan, whose given name is a masculine German name, coming across as being German.
  • 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 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.
  • Ax-Crazy: Dracula usually acts like a calm and collected gentleman. However once his true nature is revealed he turns into a feral and blood-sucking monster with a love of carnage.
  • Badass Bookworm: Dr. Van Helsing, scholar and vampire hunter who has Dracula running by the end of the film.
  • Badass Cape: Very traditionally, Dracula wears a very good looking black and red cape.
  • Big Bad: Count Dracula, the vampire lord Van Helsing 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. Arthur later regrets his choice after Dracula targets Mina.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Composite Character: Dracula had three brides in the novel. In the film, they're combined into one.
  • 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 actually working with Van Helsing, 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 Harker 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, Van Helsing was the one who killed Dracula's brides. In the film, Harker kills the one bride.
    • 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.
  • Due to the Dead: Discussed. When breaking the news regarding Jonathan Harker's sudden death to Arthur and Mina, Van Helsing is initially hesitant to give them the full details. And so, when asked where Harker was buried, he claims to have burned the body in accordance with the wishes of the deceased.
  • 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.
    • Tania notes how cold Lucy (post-turning) is when they meet up in the forest, unaware 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 have known better than to trust a woman living in 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 stakes the bride first, paying no notice of Dracula's coffin, or how much (or how little) sunlight is left. Dracula revives once the sun sets and proceeds to kill Harker.
    • Tania when she goes to meet up with Lucy. Despite knowing that she died not too long ago, she somehow doesn't find it odd that Lucy is up and walking around, has a pale complexion and two fangs sticking out of her mouth, isn't talking like the Lucy she should know, and 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.
  • Fangs Are Evil: Possibly the Trope Codifier, as least as far as English-language Dracula films are concerned.
  • 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 a hysterical 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.
  • Honorary Uncle: Tania is actually Gerda's daughter rather than Arthur and Mina's, but she considers Lucy to be her aunt.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Little Tania is rescued just before she becomes the vampirized Lucy's victim. Oddly, this ends up happening twice, with the first instance coming before the characters are even aware of Lucy's having risen as a vampire. The only reason she doesn't bite Tania that time is because she gets scared off by a passing policeman. This leads to Tania being brought home and dropping Lucy's name to Arthur, who proceeds to check out the crypt – putting him right where he needs to be when Lucy manages to lure Tania to the graveyard to try feeding on her a second time.
  • Improvised Cross: During the climactic confrontation, Van Helsing keeps Dracula at distance by putting two candlesticks together.
  • 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 followed 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.
  • Mythology Gag: Several to Dracula.
    • Van Helsing uses a phonograph to record his observations like Dr. Seward in the novel.
    • Arthur Holmwood gives his blood to save his love interest.
    • Dr. Seward is Lucy's physician.
    • Mina is given a burn mark by a holy object (a Eucharist wafer in the book, a cross in the movie) that disappears when Dracula is destroyed.
  • 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.
  • Opening Monologue: Jonathan Harker narrates from his diary, describing his arrival at Castle Dracula and (eventually) his real reason for being there.
  • 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.
  • Ransacked Room: While searching Castle Dracula, Van Helsing finds Harker's room in this condition, presumably ransacked by the Count himself.
  • 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... as her face acquires 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; he will have Harker's fiancee replace her.
  • Scenery Porn: Jack Asher's Technicolor photography, Bernard Robinson's sets, and the autumnal exteriors shot in the Berkshire woods look fantastic.
  • Setting Update: Inverted; the film is set in 1885, 12 years earlier than the novel.
  • 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.
  • 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 Van 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.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Dracula is this. A feral but very good looking tall and dark haired vampire.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Harker. Having arrived, as we discover, fully informed that Dracula is our vampire, he politely eats the food that the vamps have prepared for him, then flirts with Dracula's concubine while completely failing to draw the obvious conclusion as to her nature. He appears to carry no life-saving wards such as crosses or garlic. (Even the totally uninformed Harker from the novel had this angle covered.) For an encore, he attempts hand-to-hand combat with Dracula in order to defend the concubine, even though she had attacked him just moments earlier, then horribly botches the staking out of evident squeamishness and hesitancy. As a vampire hunter, he comes across as a hopeless rookie, not reflecting particularly well on Van Helsing for sending him alone against such a powerful foe.
    • 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 Jonathan 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 Hickey:
    • Harker finds the puncture wounds the following morning after an encounter with Dracula and his bride (the latter having bitten him), which in the movie, is bad as it means he'll turn if Dracula isn't killed. Unfortunately, he doesn't get the chance to stake him as Dracula finishes him off before he can. When Helsing comes to the castle later, he finds Harker's turned body in Dracula's coffin, the count having exacerbated the wound, and most of his neck is dried in blood from the marks where it drained out of.
    • Lucy reveals the mark on her neck to the audience when she waits for Dracula to visit her after she's left alone.
    • Mina has marks on her neck when Dracula attacks her a second time.
  • Vampire Hunter: Harker (who's not successful) and Van Helsing (who is).
  • Vampire Refugee:
    • Harker, when he sees the bite marks after Dracula's bride bites him, despairs and 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 and kills him. When Helsing later finds Harker, the vampirism has long since claimed him.
    • Lucy in the middle of the film.
    • 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 the vampirized Harker in Dracula's crypt. The camera even goes in for a closeup to confirm his turning, as Harker is now deathly pale and 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. Probably 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 the 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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: When Van Helsing approaches the castle, a carriage with Dracula's coffin passes him, with a driver! This is the only time that this one is seen in the movie, not even in the end when Dracula hurries back to his home he drives a carriage himself. Presumably it was a familiar like "Klove" in the next movie, but his disappearence isn't resolved.
  • 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, the 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 little Tania, 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?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / VampiresSleepInCoffins

Media sources: