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Recently, an article appeared in Paste, an award winning online zine devoted to “music, film and culture”. It was entitled “Bela Lugosi’s Dead: Vampire History From Scary Monster to Sexy Beast” and claimed to be a definitive history of vampires in books and films. It was an interesting article save for one problem. There was an omission… a glaring omission. The article failed to mention the most influential vampire film of all time, Horror of Dracula. What made the article particularly ludicrous was the inclusion of Count Chocula breakfast cereal. I was so appalled that I wrote several scathing replies.
Made in 1957 by Britain’s Hammer Films, Horror of Dracula singlehandedly reinvented the vampire genre, establishing criteria that exists to this very day. It was the first vampire film shot in color and the first to feature fangs. The film was considered extremely shocking for its time with a level of violence never before seen. I’ve read many reviews of the film that were written upon its initial release and most of them deemed the film utterly barbaric. In addition, the film introduced a bold sexuality that was as shocking as the violence. Vampirism was likened to an addiction akin to drug addiction. Dracula’s beautiful female victims clearly welcomed his hungry advances and with Christopher Lee portraying Dracula, it was hard to blame them.
Bela Lugosi gave a memorable interpretation of Count Dracula in the 1931 film, Dracula, but Christopher Lee truly took the character to a stunning new level. He was both frighteningly homicidal and irresistibly charismatic, the epitome of a sexy beast. Lee’s portrayal was an astonishing tour de force. The great Peter Cushing was Lee’s equal and he set the standard for what a vampire hunter should be. The film was directed by the vastly underrated Terrence Fisher who gave the film a moody, stylized look that remains breathtaking even today.
Horror of Dracula is easily the greatest vampire film of all time.