Hammer horror comes back from the dead with this toothsome re-release of Dracula, starring Christopher Lee as the neck-nipping Count. Lovingly restored by the British Film Institute just in time for its fiftieth birthday, it's a film that deserves recognition as one of this country's finest horror movies, a sexually charged Gothic nightmare featuring standout performances from Hammer stalwarts Lee and Peter Cushing, who stars as vampire hunter Van Helsing.
Re-rated with a paltry 12A certificate, it's easy to forget the fuss that Dracula caused on its first release in 1958. The nation's critics were appalled - "One of the most revolting horror films I have seen in years," lamented the Daily Express' reviewer - prompting the censors to snip, snip, snip. Much of that missing material is restored here (culled from the US version, Horror of Dracula) along with the original British title sequence. Disappointingly, though, the restoration team couldn't confirm fan rumours about an even gorier Japanese print; if it ever existed, it's apparently now lost.
"SHOCKING BURSTS OF VIOLENCE"
Dracula's power lies in its bubbling sexual frission. Lee's towering performance turns the Count into a seductive monster, who sinks his fangs into the porcelain necks of his pretty co-stars as their bosoms pant with excited abandon. Director Terence Fisher definitely knew what his young audience wanted and mixes the salacious undercurrents with shocking bursts of violence (crucifixes burnt into foreheads, stakes plunged into undead hearts) and lashings of vampire lore. Meanwhile, Jack Asher's lush cinematography transcends the production's plywood sets. His colour film stock hammers home the horror: bright red blood dripping from Dracula's white fangs; eyes flashing crimson with bloodshot menace. Now gorgeously restored to its former glory, this is a British horror movie to die for. Welcome back Drac.
Dracula is out in the UK on 2nd November 2007.