Dracula (1958) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Dracula (1958) Directed by Terence Fisher. With Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling and Carol Marsh.

DRACULA (1958)

Inspired by Bram Stoker’s seminal novel, Dracula, Terence Fisher’s film is the first in a line of Count Dracula Hammer Horror productions adapted for the silver screen. It also marks the first screen appearance of Christopher Lee in the role he would become most famous for.

In a sense, Hammer films are a genre unto themselves. There is a look, a tone, a ‘quality’ of acting that sets them aside. They have their own ingredients, and they aren’t afraid to keep using them. There seems to be an “if it ‘aint broke” approach to the film-making. This approach can equally divide and unite an audience. They are, however, a product of their time. It would be foolhardy to attempt to compare this to Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 offering, as they inhabit a different place in the vast celluloid expanse of time and space.

My biggest problem reviewing Dracula, is that I’m finding it hard not to sit on the fence. This is a film that is revered. It is brimming with imagery that has become part of film history, yet I wouldn’t be the first in class to put my hand up to say that I enjoyed it. That said, you can’t help but admire Christopher Lee’s gracefully sinister turn. His performance is aided by some striking visual compositions by cinematographer, Jack Asher. The foreboding presence of Dracula, standing menacingly still in a doorway contrasts memorably with close-ups of his demonic face, complete with blood-stained fangs.

Despite all of this, I couldn’t help but wish that Lee’s turn belonged to a more sophisticated film. A film that had the time on its hands to pitch a little more depth of character, instead of one that chooses to sweep the fine details under the carpet. Despite the recognised positives, there remains something wholly insubstantial about this interpretation. I’m not doubting its enduring appeal to aficionado’s of the era, or more specifically, the genre – but to a new audience in 2015, it has lost much of its horror prowess and exists now as more of a film history lesson than something that continues to evolve and stay relevant. 2.5/5

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About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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5 Responses to Dracula (1958) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. I’ll say I love this film Christopher Lee who is ageless and is 92 years old can’t stop working. But I love that the fact is they put him in Dracula perfect casting in this one. It has been a long time that I have seen this film.

  2. cevans1982 says:

    True, it’s revered by many but not necessarily all and doesn’t a make your point of view less vaild than the ‘masses’ (just like I actually liked the Amazing Spider-Man 2 but everyone else seems to hate it).

    I saw this recently on television for the first time, enjoyed it mostly for Lee and Peter Cushing but their best ‘Hammer’ partnership has to be in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.

  3. Kris B. says:

    Who would play the blood loving Count Dracula better than amazing Christopher Lee? I think that nobody!!! I really admire his acting skills, he is absolutely brilliant in roles which require some kind of evil and horror. To me, Dracula is not typically sinister character, though. It was one of the first “serious” books I read when I was a kid and I loved it so my expectations of the movie were big – but Lee was good enough and even better.
    And it was already the second movie about the famous vampire. There was Dracula from the 30s and it was the first horror story from Hollywood. Before, it was on Broadway almost 80years ago! It would be great to be there in late 20s and see it – with no effect, just playing on the stage 🙂

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you for commenting Kris. It’s great to hear how the character has been such a source of entertainment for you. Christopher Lee is excellent as Dracula. Some of the shot compositions of him were very menacing too. The overall film didn’t have the impact I was hoping for, though. But I can see why it is held in such high esteem.

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