- Written by malco
This is the followup to Hammer's The Horror of Dracula, which debuted the classic team of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as Professor Van Helsing and Count Dracula, respectively. Only one problem with The Brides as a sequel: there's no Count Dracula! Lee was unwilling to reprise his role (although in 1966 he relented and starred in Hammer's Dracula Has Risen from the Grave). So a new angle was devised: Dracula has been killed, but one of his progeny survived in the form of Baron Meinster, the now (undead) son of a wealthy landowner. The Baron, however, was being held captive by dear old mother because (1) mommy was scared to death of him, and (2) after daddy died, mommy got all the gold and didn't like to share. As a fill-in for Dracula, the Baron, played by David Peel is quite good, but the stars of this show are the "brides." After the Baron is set free in act 2, he quickly lunches on several beauties from the nearby finishing school and starts building his fanged harem. His bevy of newly turned vampiresses are pretty, but thirsty, and if not for the always brilliant Van Helsing, all would have been lost in a fem-vamp feeding frenzy. Dracula (or Dracula pro tem) dies a different way in each of the dozen or so vampire films that Hammer released from 1958 to 1974, but I'll let you rent this one to find out how the Baron meets his end.
Hammer perfected the Gothic horror film, and this is certainly one of their best. Despite the lack of a Count Drac, it's a great vampire movie. The ending, with Van Helsing battling the Baron and his two brides in a burning barn, is a horror flick classic. These pre-1970's Hammer films are wonderfully low on gore, featuring a much more subtle but equally sinister treatment of the vampire archetype. And Brides, like the best Hammer films, are nail-biters to the very end. I suppose you could look at the Dracula story as a morality tale, where good always triumphs, but to me it's just good old-fashioned Saturday-afternoon-at-the-movies horror. After all, people went to the movies to see Dracula, not for a lesson on societal ethics. On some level, we actually want the vampire to win, although our safety valve is the knowledge that he never does.