Saturday, 17 September 2011

Meet The Wives

Hammer’s sequel to the hugely successful ‘Dracula’ (1958) proved problematic to put together, not least because star Christopher Lee refused to participate, not wanting to be typecast (don’t worry, he’ll be back). As a result, the script was reshaped to feature a new vampire menace, Baron Meinster, as well as a coterie of busty female acolytes. Happily, Peter Cushing returned as the steely Van Helsing. I absolutely love Peter Cushing.

‘Brides of Dracula’ is actually terribly good, building an atmosphere of pure gothic and throwing up some darkly interesting ideas about dysfunctional families and the sex appeal of evil. Baron Meinster is noticeably younger, more vulnerable and better looking than Count Dracula, for instance, and cat nip to the ladies, which makes him a frequent and welcome visitor to the conveniently situated girls school next to his castle.

Meinster (played by the slightly camp David Peel, who made one more film appearance and then went off to become an antiques dealer) makes vampirism seem part of a cycle of abuse – a victim compelled to do to others what was done to him; to exploit trust and love to satisfy his own perverted lusts; to use his curse as a punishment (he tries to turn Van Helsing into a vampire, but VH cauterises the wound with a combination of molten silver and holy water).

Full of toothy ladies, looming shadows, gloomy woods and some striking set pieces (the finale, with a flaming windmill used as a giant crucifix, is superb) ‘Brides of Dracula’ is an absolute classic and a credit to all concerned.

Just in case you were wondering what important and demanding project Christopher Lee decided to lend his talent to instead of ‘Brides of Dracula’, I can tell you: he played a bit part in the Jayne Mansfield chestploitation flick ‘Too Hot to Handle’. What a tit.

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