I have been intrigued by the Hammer Film Productions output for a long time and so, now that I am a proud member of a postal video rental club, I decided to find out more. The name actually derived from the stage name of the studio's original founder. I duly put the first title that came to mind onto the rental list and sat back to wait for the magic.
I wasn't disappointed. The Brides of Dracula arrived several days later, just in time for a Friday night in front of the laptop. It is probably the best film I have seen all year, if not of all time, and no hyperbole intended.
The film, short by today's standards at approximately 85 minutes, begins by introducing us to Marianne, a young woman who is travelling to a finishing school to take up an appointment as a tutor. After her coach stops at an inn, the driver suddenly takes fright and leaves the poor young girl inside the inn by herself. The story then proceeds quickly, as Marianne winds up at the castle and stupidly frees a blood sucking Baron. Fair play to her though as he did look rather dashing at the time; it's all in the eyes, you know.
So he escapes, she escapes, she falls in the woods, he starts creating a harem of Brides in the old windmill. Then, drum roll please, enters the star of the proceedings, the wonderful Mr Peter Cushing. What brilliance, what intelligence, what skill. Nothing will get in the way of this Van Helsing protecting the beautiful innocent Marianne. Put your guns away and show some respect for the holy water, crosses and just plain fisticuff methods of the 1960s-pretending-to-be-late-19th-century vampiric war.
Let's face it, if Dracula couldn't kill him, then what chance does this young disciple in an obviously plasic cape have? He could at least have got hold of a velvet one, he is supposed to be a Baron after all. But then that is the beauty of this film: the sets that look like they're one breath away from keeling over, the plot lines that don't fully run together, the fact that there is a church quite conveniently in the back room of the village inn. And yet, they still manage to chill, to excite and most of all to make you laugh and shriek in the same breath. I shall definitely be renting more. I can't believe it's taken me this long to find out about them.
One last thing: Marianne, if Dr Van Helsing gives you a rosary, it's not a necklace love, don't take it off before bedtime! Silly girl.