For many, I’m sure The Brides of Dracula is remembered as ‘one of those Hammer vampire flicks Christopher Lee isn’t in’.

But to dismiss this film would be a grave mistake, as this 1960 effort turns out to be a cracking yarn, with Peter Cushing in stunning form as Van Helsing.

Set years after the escapades of the original Hammer Dracula, the story centres on teacher Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur), traveling through Transylvania to take up a new position.

Left stranded in a small village after her carriage makes a break for it, Marianne is offered shelter by the imposing Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt) at her mountaintop chateau.

Everything seems fine, until the teacher happens upon the Baroness’ son, the dashing Baron Meinster (played by David Peel).

Why would this be a problem? Well, the fact that he is chained up is why.

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Naturally Marianne decides to release him, but wouldn’t you know he turns out to be a vampire, ravaging the area’s women and building his army of the undead.

The village needs help and before long the call goes out for the particular skills of Van Helsing, and Cushing’s character is only too happy to oblige, along with his bag of crucifixes, stakes and other paraphernalia.

Everything is set up neatly for a showdown between Van Helsing and the vampire horde, and I think we all know how that will go down.

Directed by the accomplished Hammer helmer Terence Fisher, there is a tremendous amount to recommend here.

For starters the story fairly rattles along and the introduction of Van Helsing 20 minutes or so into the film merely ups things a notch.

Performances wise everybody is on top form – Monlaur makes an attractive lead, Peel a charismatic villain and Cushing is simply superb.

In fact, it is only when you rewatch these films that you fully appreciate just how much the great man threw himself into these roles – yes, there are a couple of moments which are clearly a stunt double in action, but equally a lot of the fight scenes and action sequences are quite clearly Cushing at play.

Fisher evokes the atmosphere and period detail that was the hallmark of so many Hammer flicks, but The Brides Of Dracula also contains a handful of memorable, standout cinematic moments.

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For starters, there is a genuinely effective scene which sees creepy servant Greta (Freda Jackson) successfully coaxing a recently-bitten/recently-buried local girl (played by buxom Hammer fave Marie Devereux) back from the grave – emerging from the ground ‘Carrie ’style.

Then there is a neat piece of effects work (for the time) which sees Van Helsing cure himself of a vampire bite thanks to administering some holy water and then cauterizing the wound with a branding iron.

To top things off, we also get a slam-bang finale which sees Cushing face off against the Baron and some of his vampire horde in a windmill, with a satisfying resolution.

In fact, the only thing I could really fault with this entry is the woeful use of a ‘bat on a wire’ in a number of scenes, which looks painfully crass.

Lee was obviously to return for a host of later Dracula flicks (in fact, I should also mention I have no real idea when this is called The Brides of Dracula – perhaps The Brides Of The Baron wouldn’t have had the same impact), but in many ways this effort is a true Hammer standout and certainly one of Cushing’s finest hours.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.