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