When Christopher Lee declined to reprise his role as Count Dracula in a sequel to the enormously popular The Horror of Dracula, Hammer went another direction and instead followed the investigations of vampire hunter Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). He doesn’t actually appear until the second act, after French schoolteacher Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur, a big eyed, thick-lipped, curvy young beauty in the Bardot mold) inadvertently releases Baron Meinster (David Peel), a young disciple of Dracula, from his castle prison in a cursed mountain village. This handsome vampire bites his way through a bevy of glamorous beauties in low-cut blouses and frilly nightgowns as he woos his sexy savior, while Van Helsing relentlessly tracks him back to Marianne. Director Terence Fisher, working from a rather convoluted (and at times incomprehensible) script, makes his mark through a series of marvelous set pieces. In one of the most memorable, a twisted old woman plays midwife to a reborn undead, coaxing her out of the ground as hands push through the earth. In one harrowing moment Van Helsing sears his neck with a branding iron and treats it with holy water after being bitten. Cushing is his usual dashing self, more than making up for the handsome but hardly commanding Peel, and you might recognize Marita Hunt, who plays the withered Baroness, as Miss Haversham from David Lean’s classic Great Expectations. —Sean Axmaker, Amazon
Terence Fisher was born in Maida Vale, England, in 1904. Raised by his grandmother in a strict Christian Scientist environment. Fisher left school while still in his teens to join the Merchant Marine. By his own account, he soon discovered that a life at sea was not for him, so he left the service and tried his hand at various jobs landside. It was during this time that he discovered the cinema. Entering the film industry as “the oldest clapper boy in the business,” he eventually worked his way up to film editor. Almost as a lark, he applied to Rank to become a film editor. Unexpectedly, he was accepted. In 1947, at the age of 43, he made his directorial debut with a supernatural comedy called Colonel Bogey — a foreshadwing of things to come.
For the next few years, he vacillated between A-film assignments (Noel Coward’s The Astonished Heart, So Long at the Fair with Jean Simmons and Dirk Bogarde, and The Girl in the Painting with Herbert Lom… read more
Gets better with each viewing. Jack Asher's impeccable technicolor photography, sumptuous Hammer sets, Cushing's perfect Van Helsing. Who else can put a hot iron to his neck and continue, gracefully, battling the undead? "I've been asked to make a study of a strange sickness, partly physical, partly spiritual. Have you heard of the cult of the undead?" - Van Helsing, doctor of philosophy, theology and metaphysics.
The second and easily one of the best of Hammer's Dracula series (though Christopher Lee's undead count is conspicuously missing). The usual lavish Hammer production values and photography, and another great, intense performance by Peter Cushing returning as Van Helsing, but what really sets it above the rest is its compelling, fast-paced story. A must for fans of Hammer horror.