One must always take care when travelling in Hammer's version of Transylvania. 1960's The Brides of Dracula
is no exception, an entertaining and slightly lurid vampire film which, despite the title, has nothing to do with the vampire women who live with Dracula in Bram Stoker's novel.
Dracula's not in the movie either, the title apparently meant to be taken somewhat figuratively. The chief vampire here is David Peel as Baron Meinster.
The film essentially consists of two acts, the first having a wonderfully sinister build up to the Baron's introduction. Following the point of view of a beautiful young French schoolteacher named Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur), we're first introduced to the Baron's mother and servant, played by Martita Hunt and Freda Jackson respectively.
Marianne accepts the Baroness' invitation to stay at the castle despite warnings from the tavern keeper when she misses her coach. We can sense early that the Baroness keeps some terrible secret but it's not until after nightfall that Marianne discovers the older woman's son chained in another room.
The second half of the film introduced Peter Cushing reprising his role as Van Helsing from Hammer's Dracula
. He investigates the vampires with cool precision, this segment of the film being enjoyable for far different reasons, mainly for Cushing's chemistry with Miles Malleson as a country doctor named Tobler who somewhat inadvertently becomes Watson to Van Helsing's Holmes.
Van Helsing goes about the vampire hunting with composure, gracefully indulging Tobler's unselfconscious superstition alongside his disbelief in vampires.
This is another movie where the vampires are extraordinarily weak, in this case being all but neutralised by a couple wooden poles held up to form a makeshift cross. This is also by far the shiniest Hammer movie I've seen, cinematographer Jack Asher seems to have really liked highlights.
Among other things, it makes the fresh paint on sets look very apparent. It gives the film a sort of Disneyland quality, though, that I kind of liked. It makes the wallpaper in Marianne's room in the castle look nice even though it looks like a prison yard spotlight is being shown through her window.