With six more horror-related movies under my belt, I’m up to 22 for the month. Making the full 31 is possible though iffy.
I started out with a pair of Christopher Lee’s Dracula movies through Hammer. Having watchedHorror of Dracula last week, I felt like working my way through the rest of the sequence.
The actual sequel to Horror is Brides of Dracula in which Peter Cushing reprises his role as Van Helsing, but Lee (and Dracula) are actually never seen. For Cushing, this would be the last Van Helsing role for a while. My viewing started with the next movie, Dracula: Prince of Darkness. In this film, four English tourists wind up in the Carpathian countryside and through a combination of accident and bad judgment, wind up at Dracula’s castle. For the older couple, this is bad news indeed: he is sacrificed to raise Dracula from his ashes, and she becomes a vampire. It is the younger couple who must contend with the resurrected Dracula.
This is a decent enough movie except for one thing: Dracula never speaks. With no lines, Lee still does a good job, but it’s hard to tell if Dracula is anything other than a feral bloodsucking beast. As with most of these movies, the virtues of Christianity are always promoted, with crosses being used as protection. Quality: 6/10, Fun 6/10.
Since you can’t keep a good vampire down, Lee is back in Dracula Has Risen From the Grave. Raised again by accident (or is it?), Dracula seeks revenge against the priest who has locked him out of his own castle. Of course, the priest has a beautiful niece to be victimized along with a barmaid (generally, redheads get the worst of it in these movies, while blondes tend to survive). It’s up to the boyfriend of the niece to try and set things right; will he be able to overcome his atheism and find the faith necessary to defeat Dracula? Quality: 6/10, Fun: 6/10.
Since I was on a vampire kick, I went with some other vampire movies I had picked up on a combo pack. First up, Vampire Wars: Battle for the Universe. This clunker of a movie is really sci-fi, not horror. Sometime in the future, humanity has expanded beyond Earth, only to find that every other alien race is a type of vampire. Battling the vamps are a rag-tag bunch of mercenaries (is there any other sort) who don’t speak English as much as cliche. The story is utterly formulaic and with little star-power (Michael Ironside is easily the biggest name, followed by one of the lesser Deluises), this should be avoided. Quality 2/10, Fun 2/10.
The first hint that The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire may not be very horrific comes with the opening words “Hallmark Presents”. Sure enough, this is actually a Sherlock Holmes story with Matt Frewer as the detective piecing together the clues in a murder mystery supposedly perpetrated by a vampire. This is actually a Scooby Doo mystery with someone disguised as a vampire for his own nefarious goals. This one is too talky and with action as tame as a kitten, though not gratingly bad. Quality 4/10, Fun 3/10.
After these two disappointments, it was nice to come upon a more interesting movie: Nadja. Produced by David Lynch, this daughter-of-Dracula story has a definite Lynchian weirdness to it. Dracula’s daughter Nadja learns of her father’s death and seeks out her twin brother. In the process, she seduces a woman who happens to be married to Van Helsing’s nephew. The nephew’s sister is meanwhile acting as nurse to Nadja’s brother. As with Lynch’s films, this one is strange enough that you have a hard time telling if it’s any good. I tend to give it the benefit of the doubt: Quality: 5/10, Fun 6/10.
I ended the string of movies with a non-vampire tale, the classic B-movie Carnival of Souls. This movie follows a young woman who survives a car accident only to be haunted by mysterious figures. It is essentially a reworking of the Twilight Zone episode “The Hitchhiker” but done better. There are minimal special effects, but they aren’t needed. Throughout the movie, there is an element of mystery that leaves a lot to the imagination. Are the figures ghosts or demons? Are they evil, merely mischievous or actually somehow benevolent (probably not the last one)? Add to that the fact that the main character is too icy to be likeable and you have a horror film that breaks out of some of the early 1960s genre cliches. Quality: 6/10, Fun: 8/10. (By the way, my DVD version has a commentary by MST3K’s Mike Nelson. If you have it too, save it till after you watch it unadorned, or you’ll have a hard time enjoying the creepy qualities. Also, watch it in black & white, not the colorized version.)