“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!”
Dracula is probably one of the most terrifying characters ever created, I say terrifying, but, at the same time the story of Dracula is not merely another tale of horror, it is a romance, an adventure, a drama and a struggle between good and evil. Many of us grew up hiding from the images of the infamous Count when the many motion pictures or Tv productions were shown on the small screen in the corner of the living room. I personally thought that Dracula as portrayed by Christopher Lee was and still is the most unnerving depiction of the Count, and although not exactly true to the novel by Bram Stoker it certainly affected me as a teenager and was responsible for starting my lifelong interest in Gothic horror and the vampire in-particular. Vampires (if they existed-maybe they do) are fascinating creatures, we are told they can live forever and during their lives amass a great deal of knowledge and wisdom, sadly most vampires are depicted as evil, servants of the Devil and search for humans to feed on their blood. I suppose anything or anyone that seeks out living beings to drink their blood cannot really be nice or good. The story of Dracula is linked to the tales of Vlad the Impaler in fact e are told that Vlad and Dracula are one and the same.
Vlad being the human form of Dracula before he was transformed into a vampire or one of the undead. This part of the history of the Count has on a number of occasions been incorporated in movies, surprisingly though not the Hammer films that I would think were the most popular examples of films that were made with the Count as their subject matter. But, let us leave the technicolour world of Hammer and the many spin offs and sequels and prequels that have been produced not only by Hammer but by Hollywood, Cinecitta and other cinematic centres throughout the world.
Let us go back to 1920, and to Russia, DRAKULA was reportedly released in 1920, which would be before the Hungarian production DRACULA’S DEATH that is dated as being released early in 1921. Both of the films are reported to be lost, and there is little or no information about the Russian movie, apart from the date of its release, therefore many seem to be of the opinion that the film was probably never made or at least its existence is questionable.
So, the Hungarian movie which was seen by a handful of people and also a production where there is at least evidence of stills that possibly came from the movie is considered to be the first cinematic version of Stokers novel. But, if you want hard evidence of version of Dracula that was committed to film then look at the 1922 silent film, NOSFERATU A SYMPHONY OF HORROR. Directed by F, W, MURNAU, this is a film that was not Dracula in the true sense, but a version of the story, that had been adapted and re-written, the films producers, writers and Director, changing names to disguise the fact that they had borrowed heavily(or stolen) the ideas of Bram Stoker without crediting the author, this was something that they would regret as it ended in a lawsuit being brought by the Stoker family estate, a lawsuit that was successful and resulted in prints of the movie being destroyed. Thankfully for film buffs and fans of horror a few copies were hidden away and in later years were restored and screened in both cinemas and on the TV. The film changed the location of the story to Transylvania and Germany, and the evil Count was re-christened (if that’s the right word) Count Orlok. The character of the Count looked very different to the Dracula in the novel, and was portrayed magnificently by actor, Max Schrek. In later years the movie was hailed as a masterpiece of cinema and was restored to its former glory complete with a specially composed score written by British composer James Bernard during the 1990’s.
The original music for the film was he work of Hans Erdmann, which was performed by an orchestra in the theatre as the movie was screened, sadly many parts of the score were lost or destroyed, and only a portion of the score was re-constructed. Nosferatu, was produced by Prana films in Germany and the studio set out to produce films that had an occult connection, one of the studio executives Albin Grau was said to have wanted to make a vampire movie because, during the second year of WWl in which he served, was told by a Serbian Farmer that his father was one of the undead a Vampire and lived off of the blood of humans that he would stalk and attack. The studio only produced one movie and went into bankruptcy to avoid having to pay a vast amount of compensation to the Stoker estate. Its interesting to note that the gaunt and shocking appearance of Count Orlok in the movie was a great influence upon the make up that was created for the TV movie SALEMS LOT nearly sixty years later. NOSFERATU was re-made in 1979 and released as NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE. Directed by Werner Herzog, the film was released in Germany as NOSFERATU; PHANTOM DER NACHT (PHANTOM OF THE NIGHT). Set in the Germany/Transylvania of the 19th Century it was seen as a more stylish version of the original silent movie, the central character being portrayed by the excellent Klaus Kinski, with supporting roles being taken by Isabelle Adjani as Lucy Harker and Bruno Ganz as Johnathan Harker.
There was also a convincing portrayal of the Reinfield character by French artist and writer Roland Topor. The movie was released in English and German versions and given a warm reception by critics and became popular with audiences predominantly in Europe, ie Italy, France and Germany. Kinski repeated his role in the 1988 movie, NOSFERATU IN VENICE. The music for Hertoz’s film was by the German band Popol Vuh, who adapted music from their album, BROTHERS OF THE SHADOWS-SONS OF THE LIGHT which was the bands tenth release to suit the movie. Hertoz and Popol Vuh had collaborated many times before achieving memorable moments, the films soundtrack also featured Wagner’s DAS RHEINGOLD and SANCTUS by Charles Gounod with Georgian traditional folk songs also being utilised.
The first official film to be based on the Stoker story, was as far as I know, the Universal Pictures version from 1931 which starred Bela Lugosi as the Count. Directed by Tod Browning the part of the films central character proved somewhat difficult to cast. Bela Lugosi had already played the infamous Count on stage and had been given rave reviews from theatre critics. But this did not assure Lugosi the part in the movie as Universal were already looking at several actors who they thought were more suited to the part and possibly would bring more to it. However, Lugosi was not one for giving up, he was on tour with the stage play in Los Angeles at the time that the studio was casting for the film and presented himself to the producer continuously putting himself forward for the part. Against all the odds, including the actor not being fluent in English, Lugosi was given the part, it was probably something to do with the actor taking a pay cut and agreeing to be paid just 500 dollars a week for the duration of filming.
The film’s producer Carl Laemmie Jnr instructed his writers to take their lead from the stage play and based most of the films screenplay upon it, he also told them to study the unofficial silent movie from nine years previous and create sets similar and get inspiration for the script from this. He wanted his vision of DRACULA to be something of a sensation when it was released, however things did not quite turn out that way, the normally meticulous and highly organised director Tod Browning seemed to be devoid of any of his normal down to earth organisational skills and also was rather lack lustre in his approach and attitude towards the project often passing directing duties to Karl Freund who was Cinematographer on the movie, Freund more or less took over the directorial duties and it was more like Browning was his assistant. The film never had an original score instead it was tracked with classical music, which was at that time nothing unusual, but seeing as this was supposed to be a landmark film, maybe the studio should have at least considered investing in an original score. It did however get an original soundtrack when it was restored and re-issued in 1998 when composer Philip Glass wrote music to accompany the movie.
The movie was premiered in 1931, but the studio arranged a showing two days previous to its official release, again nothing unusual as studios did this from time to time to get reactions of the audience, but this was something that was done more in advance of the films premiere, Universal used the early showing as an opportunity to orchestrate a publicity campaign, convincing certain reporters to say that members of the audience fainted in shock from the horror they were witnessing on screen. This of course was a shrewd PR move and it created a lot of interest in the movie, with many people deciding to go and see it out of curiosity rather than out of wanting to see the film. Whilst DRACULA was in production an alternative Spanish version of the story was being filmed at the same time as Browning was shooting his. The Lugosi version was being filmed during the day time, the Spanish version of the film being made during the twilight and night time hours. It was nothing unusual for an alternative foreign language version to be made in Hollywood at that time, often in Spanish, but also there were versions of certain films made in German, French and Italian. Directed by George Melford, again it is an adaptation of the Stoker novel and also based upon the same stage play which starred Lugosi in the role of the infamous Count. Carl Laemmie Jnr was also one of the producers for this alternative version, with the screenplay being provided by Baltasar Fernandez and assisted by writer Garrett Ford who was not credited for his efforts. The part of Dracula was taken by Carlos Villarias who arguably delivered a more believable performance in the role, the actor being encouraged to look at the rushes from the English language film and to study Lugosi in the role and also to imitate his mannerisms.
Director Melford too out-classed Browning in the directing department with the movie containing impressive cinematography from Arturo Tavares. One or two scenes in the Spanish version were that of Lugosi but from afar with a few alternate scenes from the Browning version which had been discarded being utilised in the alternate version. I think the reason that I personally prefer the Spanish version is because it has a longer running time and this gives the story more time to develop and be taken in by watching audiences, also think of this, the Spanish crew were filming their scenes after Browning and company had finished filming theirs, so the Spanish crew had the advantage of being able to watch the Browning scenes, and were also able to see what worked and what did not, thus being able to adjust camera angles or lighting etc, which helped greatly because the film had a much smaller budget than the English language movie. The film was thought to have been lost but it was unearthed in the 1970’s. when it was restored and was preserved by the NFR in 2015.
Notice in these early versions of the DRACULA story, no mention is made of Vlad the Impaler, that is because Stoker did not actualy say in his novel that Count Dracula and Vlad were one and the same. The Turks were mentioned, but that is as far as it went. In fact, it was not until a Turkish version of the story was committed to film that the connection with the Impaler was invented and after this as with most stories it has after a time become an important and integral part of the legend that is DRACULA. Universal did not return to the DRACULA theme until 1936, but there was no sign of Lugosi, or indeed the Count himself. Instead enter DRACULAS DAUGHTER.
In the 1931 film we saw the Count destroyed by Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) and in this next movie he is on trial for the murder of the Vampire. Dracula’s Daughter played by Gloria Holden is still very much alive and is The Countess Marya Zaleska, the death of her Father has not been instrumental in her refraining from drinking the blood of humans. She even seeks help from a psychiatrist played by Otto Kruger to help her stop her thirst, but so strong is her desire for blood that she soon finds herself trying to turn him into one of the undead. Directed by Lambert Hillyer, who has been credited with directing 167 films and TV programmes, his last being seven episodes of the popular American TV series HIGHWAY PATROL in 1955 to 1956. Hillyer was responsible for directing numerous westerns during his career such as HAUNTED TRAILS (1949), THE FIGHTING RANGER (1948), GUN TALK (1947) and BORDER BANDITS (1946), Hillyer often working on 11 movies in 1941 all of which were westerns. He was also responsible for a scattering of dramas including, THE BATMAN (1943), BOMBADIER also in 1943, GANG BULLETS (1938), CONVICTS CODE (1939) and THE GIRL FROM RIO (1940). To say his output was prolific is something of an understatement.
DRACULA’S DAUGHTER was written by no less than 5 contributors, one of them being David O Selznick, who went under the name of Oliver Jeffries, of course as we know Selznick went onto bigger and greater things as a producer in the form of GONE WITH THE WIND, KING KONG, DUEL IN THE SUN and REBECCA. The film also boasted a musical score which was written specifically for the movie by Heinz Roemheld but for some reason the composer was not credited for his efforts. Roemheld worked on over 400 film scores either as a composer or conductor these included IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955), JUNGLE MOON MEN (1956), FORT TI (1953), JACK AND THE BEAN STALK (1952) and SILVER CANYON (1951), plus he was responsible for the additional music and some of the orchestration on GONE WITH THE WIND the main score being the work of Max Steiner.
Roemheld, was also responsible for the orchestrating on CAPTAIN BLOOD for Erich Wolfgang Korngold again receiving no credit. In 1936 the same year that DRACULA’S DAUGHTER was released the composer has been credited to have worked on over 60 films, many of these were scored with library or stock music that the composer had written and not written specifically for the films. The score for DRACULA’S DAUGHTER was orchestrated by Clifford Vaughan and conducted and supervised by Edward Ward. Universal continued its DRACULA cycle in 1943 with SON OF DRACULA, starring Lon Chaney Jnr, THE HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN in 1944, with John Carradine as Dracula, THE HOUSE OF DRACULA in 1945, which was to be the final Universal Dracula with Carradine in the title role again. In 1948, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN hit the screens in cinema’s and Bela Lugosi made his second appearance as the Count. After this Universal did not return to Dracula until their inspired version of the story in 1979, with Frank Langella in the title role.
In 1953, DRAKULA ISTANBUL’DA (DRACULA IN ISTANBUL) was released. This rarely screened Turkish production. The films script was based upon Stoker’s Dracula and incorporated elements of IMPALER VOLVODE which was a novel that Ali Riza Seyfi published in 1928. The story is the same as Stokers but the character of Reinfield does not make an appearance and Mina is portrayed as an actress or theatre performer, who seems to like to parade around being a little economic with her clothing. The title role is taken by Atif Kaptan and is noted for being the first time that we see Dracula with fangs, The, story also was the first to make the connection between Dracula and Vlad the Impaler, who was the Prince of Wallachia and fought the Turks often impaling his captives on stakes, the legend says he also would drink the blood of his victims and from here onwards in movies especially it seems that Vlad and Dracula are as one forever.
We are all well aware that Bram Stokers DRACULA was indeed a work of fiction, apparently conceived in a nightmare that the author had, but the story does have references and also connections with the area known as Transylvania or the country of Romania, this is probably due to the fact that Stoker had researched the folklore of the country and indeed Eastern Europe for a number of years before putting pen to paper and creating the blood-sucking the Count. VLAD lll DRACULA of Wallachia is a reference used a lot but hardly referred to in the novel. As I have already mentioned the connection between Count Dracula and Vlad is something that has happened since the 1950, s and mostly within filmic versions of the story.
The reign of Vlad the Impaler as he was often called, was from 1456 to 1462, the ruler/warrior is said to have been responsible for killing nearly 100.000 people in Europe, these not only included civilians and soldiers on opposing sides from him, but also his rivals, both personally and politically. The story is a gruesome but also a fascinating one, Vlad often impaling his victims on stakes and leaving them to hang there till they had died, their blood draining from their bodies, it was a slow and painful death and a method that was also used by Shaka the Zulu King during his rise to power in the 18th Century. Vlad is much applauded and held in high esteem by Romanians who give him credit for driving out the Ottoman Turks from their homelands, the incidents of impaling are well documented by Saxon farmers and settlers who took up residence in neighbouring Transylvania and had often battled with the forces of Vlad. So, there is no real evidence that Stoker based his lead character of Dracula upon Vlad, and it is probably only the name of Dracula that the author utilised, plus a few minor hints of historic details from Romania as Stoker was originally going to name his lead character Count Wampyr. Going back a little further in time and uncovering a little more information on the background of the Dracula name, we see that it comes from a Chivairic order which took the name ORDER OF THE DRAGON, this was founded by the King of Hungary and it was supposed to fight to uphold the Christian faith and Church and defend it against the Ottoman Turks, Vlad ii, Father of Vlad lll, was a member of the order, and as the ruler of Wallachia he ordered that his coins should bear the image of a dragon. Dragon is “Dracul” in Romanian. It is said by many experts on the subject that Stoker was not that familiar with the history surrounding Vlad, apart from the name Dracula, but does mention in the book that his character did fight against the Turks and was deceived by his own brother, so maybe Stoker had it in mind all the time?
Dracula has been the subject of numerous films, and now we continue to look at some of the many examples of those movies. THE RETURN OF DRACULA was an attempt to bring the Count into the 20th Century, released in 1958, I say attempt because the film was essentially good, with fair performances and an interesting storyline, but unfortunately for the movie, Hammer films in the UK decided to release their colourful looking version of DRACULA in the same year and subsequently THE RETURN OF DRACULA was somewhat overlooked and relegated to something that resembled a B movie status. The film is in my opinion worth looking at and contained an excellent musical score by Gerald Fried, some of which was released on a recording a few years ago. Directed by Paul Landres, THE RETURN OF DRACULA or CURSE OF DRACULA in the U.S. or THE FANTASTIC DISAPPEARING MAN in UK cinemas starred Francis Lederer as Count Dracula, with the romantic interest taking the form of Norma Eberhardt who took the part of Rachel Mayberry.
Filmed in black and white apart from a small shot that was in colour showing a splash of blood, in my opinion it was a pretty credible attempt to update the story of Dracula, but maybe audiences were not ready for it, but saying that, Dracula was seen in contemporary settings in the Universal movie that involved Abbot and Costello, so I say again maybe audiences were not yet ready for the Count to land in modern settings, The film was shown as part of a double bill with a movie called THE FLAME BARRIER.
The music by Gerald Fried is a fairly typical horror/drama sounding score from the 1950’s with composer Fried utilising strings and brass to the maximum to inject a sense of tension and mystery. Fried, who become one of the busiest men in film and TV music at one point, writing some memorable scores for movies such as TOO LATE THE HERO, PATHS OF GLORY, THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE, THE CABINET OF CALIGARI and a plethora of TV series such as STAR TREK, THE MAN FROM UNCLE, BEN CASEY, JERICHO, WAGON TRAIN and so many more. Fried based his central theme upon THE DIES ARIES and built the remainder of his score around this strong and vibrant core. The Overture from Fried’s score which was included on a Silva Screen compilation CD is brief but is totally effective and affecting piece. From a sleepy American backwater town as a setting we go to the greenery and bubbling mountain streams of Transylvania, or at least to Bray Studios in the UK looking convincingly like it. This was Hammer films first foray into the story of DRACULA, and what a way to begin your involvement with the Vampiric Lord of the Undead. They had been successful with their previous production THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN in which they put their own mark upon the Mary Shelley classic, director Terence Fisher who became the director most associated with the Hammer horrors in years to come, helmed that movie and was again firmly back in the driving seat for DRACULA.
DRACULA or THE HORROR OF DRACULA as it was re-titled in the SA to avoid confusion with the Universal release (1958), is for many the ultimate DRACULA movie, because of its settings, the storyline and of course because of CHRSTOPHER LEE as DRACULA and PETER CUSHING as VAN HELSING, it had many plus factors, and if I say it was a luxurious looking movie for a horror would you understand what I was trying to say? It was in vibrant colour, something that had not been done before, the settings were well done and the costumes and make up were convincing, There, are so many outstanding elements of this classy and iconic production, that they are probably too many to detail. But I will try.
One of the elements that is important to me is the fearsome and unnerving musical score, it is fear in music it oozes a virulent persona, that strikes dread into anyone who hears it. James Bernard who was responsible for penning the music is without a doubt the composer who is mostly associated with Hammer Films, his scores for the DRACULA cycle being the most prominent. Actor Christopher Lee was to make many an entrance as the Prince of darkness accompanied and heralded by James Bernard’s vibrantly chilling chords. The Dracula theme as it is now widely known is a simple three chord phrase that musically actually spells out DRA-CU-LA. The three chords conjure up perfectly the atmosphere of dark foreboding, and a tense and urgent sense of impending doom. The music composed by Bernard is fearful, and the simple but effective and affecting theme is as familiar to collectors of film music and cinema goers as Rosza’s haunting ‘Paranoia’ theme from SPELLBOUND and almost as famous as Bernard Herrmann’s shrieking and manic strings from PSYCHO. I can recall when first discovering the DRACULA story as retold by Hammer being far more anxious by the music playing on the soundtrack, as opposed to the film itself.
The sight of Christopher Lee as the infamous and evil Count standing at the top of a flight of stairs with piercing, blood-shot eyes and bloody lips was frightening on its own, but with the music of James Bernard punctuating and enhancing the scene it reached another level, that literally scared the life out of you. James Bernard was to Hammer what John Barry was to James Bond and what Ennio Morricone was to the movies of Sergio Leone. Bernard had already scored THE QUATERMASS movies and THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN for Hammer and had been mentored by Sir Benjamin Britten often working with him as a copyist for the composer, allowing Britten to progress more swiftly especially on his opera BILLY BUDD, when he began to compose Bernard worked on many radio plays for the BBC, which included THE DEATH OF HECTOR and DOCTOR FAUSTUS, but one in-particular THE DUCHESS OF MALFI stood him in good stead for writing for a Gothic horror. The composer recalled how he became involved with Hammer. “It was through conductor John Hollingsworth that I received my first film scoring assignment, John had conducted a number of my works for radio, he was also at this time musical director and supervisor for Hammer films. The film company had just produced a picture called THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, a composer had already been signed, but unfortunately John Hotchkiss had been taken ill and was unable to provide the score. John Hollingsworth played a tape of my music from The Duchess of Malfi to the director of QUATERMASS, Anthony Hinds, and he agreed to let me write the score. This was my first project for Hammer and more importantly I think my first film score”.
Director Terence Fisher worked on a handful of movies for Hammer before stepping into the world of the Gothic horror. Six years before DRACULA he had directed THE LAST PAGE and in the ensuing half a decade the filmmaker was involved with several productions, STOLEN FACE, BLOOD ORANGE, THE FOUR-SIDED TRIANGLE, MANTRAP and MASK OF DUST to highlight just a few. After the success of both FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA the director was to become a mainstay director with Hammer. Fisher went to sea as a young man, it was thought by his Mother that after the death of his father in 1908 this career would be the making of him and stand him in good stead for what life might throw at him, however Fisher never stayed at sea and after a period of some eight years he decided to return to dry land. He began to work in the textile or clothing industry and became an assistant display manager at Peter Jones. Whilst pursuing this career Fisher began to think of going into films at first, he could not decide in what area he wanted to work but eventually became a film editor working his way up the ladder at Shepherds Bush film studios from clapper board operative to the editing room where he began to work on the films of Will Hay. Fisher then changed studios and went to the Teddington Studios which were run by Warner Brothers. In 1947 Fisher was invited to take up a position at the Highbury studios by the rank organisation who were offering an apprenticeship of sorts for aspiring young filmmakers. Fisher made a handful of shorts whilst there and was picked out by Sidney Box, who gave him a chance to try his hand at directing a full-length feature. The rest as they say is history. Born in Maida vale, London on February 23rd, 1904, Terence Fisher passed away on June 18th, 1980, I know that we will never see his like again in the British film industry.
Hammer returned to the story of DRACULA many times, the first sequel being THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, this time however the central character was portrayed by actor David Peel, to be fair Peel made a very convincing Vampire, he was debonair and soft spoken with an air of sophistication, which one would expect from a Baron, yes, a Baron not a Count, David Peel’s character is actually a victim of Dracula and is now one of the undead himself and is now himself looking for victims. I think that this 1960 movie was every bit as good as it predecessor, and in some respects maybe better, it was more refined and also had better pacing. It was not only the leading actor that changed for this release, but also the composer, James Bernard was not able to work on the movie due to other commitments ironically for Hammer on THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES and TERROR OF THE TONGS. So, Hammer’s musical director John Hollingsworth commissioned Malcolm Williamson to write the score.
Williamson is probably better known as The Master of The Queens Music and not as a film music composer, however, Williamson fashioned a wonderful soundtrack for the movie, and where as Bernard’s Dracula music was fearsome and foreboding, Williamson’s was at times melodic but remained dramatic having a suitable sense and atmosphere of apprehension and excitement.
BRIDES OF DRACULA is one of my favourite scores for a Hammer film, it is quite lavish and has to it an air of opulence, the composer underlining the action without overpowering the scene and providing the more downbeat sequences with a sensitive and unassuming score. Williamson went onto score THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN and CRESCENDO for Hammer and scored NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT and MASKS OF DEATH for Charlemagne and Tyburn studios respectively. He was also responsible for sections of the WATERSHIP DOWN score. BRIDES OF DRACULA is a class act, Hammer enabling The Baron and his Vampires to do far more than Lee and his brides were able to in the first Hammer production. Hammer were going to call the movie, DRACULA 2, but this was probably just too predictable, so the studio came up with, DISCIPLE OF DRACULA, because Dracula does not actually make an appearance in the movie but settled on THE BRIDES OF DRACULA.
The films ending is superb with the normal fight between the Vampire and the Vampire hunter (again Van Helsing, played by the magnificent Peter Cushing). The confrontation between Peel and Cushing was quite a violent and vicious one even for an X rated movie from that period, both actors giving a convincing performance. At the end the Baron being destroyed by the sails of a windmill positioned into a crucifix shape. I think it is a great shame that Peel did not return as Baron Meinster, it would have been an interesting alternative to Dracula and another avenue for Hammer to explore, in fact Peel only made one more movie after BRIDES OF DRACULA, which was THE HANDS OF ORLOC, in which he took a very small part of an airplane pilot. He retired from acting in 1961 to become an antiques dealer. The movie was directed by Terence Fisher.
Hammer did not return to DRACULA until 1966, when Christopher Lee rose from his coffin and once again donned the black cloak, fangs and blood-filled eyes. DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS also meant the return of director Terence Fisher and composer James Bernard. Dracula does not speak in the film, but hisses lots. Actor Lee refused to speak as he apparently looked at the script and was supposed to say “I didn’t speak in that picture. The reason was very simple. I read the script and saw the dialogue! I said to Hammer, if you think I’m going to say any of these lines, you’re very much mistaken”. Well that’s one story, the other is script writer Jimmy Sangster said that he wrote no lines for the actor to speak as he felt that the Count did not need to speak. The story line is a simple one, two couples become stranded in the forest at a crossroads and are given refuge at a nearby Castle, yes, its Castle Dracula. The cast was strong, with Francis Matthews, Thorley Walters, Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley and Charles Tingwell. Although it was quite a run of the mill storyline it is considered one of Hammer’s best and the quintessential Dracula movie, I actualy disagree and believe the first Dracula was the best in the cycle produced by Hammer. Dracula’s rival in this production is Father Sandor played by Andrew Keir, who despatches the Count by shooting at a frozen moat which he is standing on, the Vampire being sent to a watery grave disappearing below the freezing water.
James Bernard again utilised his DRA-CU-LA motif to accompany the Count, but this time it seemed even more menacing. The theme or at least variations of it were used throughout the cycle of movies even when Bernard was not scoring them. Two years later in 1968, Hammer returned to DRACULA, this time director Freddie Francis helmed the movie after Terence Fisher had to bow out due to ill health. DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, starred Christopher Lee, Rupert Davies, Veronica Carlsson, Barry Andrews and Ewan Hooper. It was the fourth Dracula film in the Hammer studios cycle and the third appearance of Christopher Lee as the Count. In one of Hammers many excellent pre-credits sequences, we see a young altar lad making his way up a hill towards the Bell tower of the village Church, he starts to ring the bell but as he does there is no sound but drips of blood fall on him from above, he decides to investigate and climbs up into the bell chamber where he finds the body of a young woman inside the bell a victim of a vampire attack. Hammer were good at setting the scene via these pre-credit sequences, they were in effect mini movies that introduced the actual film and wetted the audience’s appetite for more of the same, which invariably followed. (one of the most impressive must be for VAMPIRE CIRCUS, not a Dracula movie but one of Hammer’s finest). Composer James Bernard once again provided the Count with his macabre musical accompaniment, growling brass. racing timpani, booming percussion and tense sounding strings combined to create a suitably taught and at the same time sombre musical affair.
DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE is probably not one of Hammer’s better DRACULA movies, but it has to it a stylish persona which is largely due to the directing skills of Freddie Francis and the cinematography of Arthur Grant, which do well, considering the standard of the films storyline by Anthony Hinds. The Count is reduced to ashes once more at the end of the film, this time being impaled on a large crucifix which was thrown down the mountainside earlier in the movie, and it the scene with Dracula impaled on the cross that brings the movie to its close, but that as we all know is not the end of the Dark Lord, in fact the closing scene of DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE,
becomes the opening of TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA which was released in 1970 and directed by Peter Sasdy. Again, in the pre-credits sequence, we see a businessman called Weller (Roy Kinnear) who has been travelling through Europe being thrown from a carriage after being involved in an altercation, he is knocked unconscious and awakes at night time not knowing where he is he begins to wander aimlessly and panic. His fears are heightened when he hears terrible screaming and he begins to run in the darkness until he falls down a slope, he gathers he thoughts and looks around to see a caped figure screaming and writhing in agony with a large crucifix implanted in his back. The frightened man watches in horror as the figure begins to disintegrate before his eyes, his blood turning to a red dust.
After he is sure that the caped figure is dead Weller nervously approaches the pile of red dust and studies the remains, in the dust he finds a ring, a cape and a brooch, he cleans away the reddish dust which reveals the name of Dracula on the brooch. A little cheesy to be honest, but still a compelling opening for the movie. TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, was originally not going to feature the Count at all, actor Christopher Lee was becoming more and more anti to the role, so Hammer decided to replace the Dracula character and Lee the actor with an alternative Vampire character, played by Ralph Bates, who portrayed Lord Courtney in the movie, it was planned that he would return from the dead as a vampire and wreak revenge on a group of characters in the movie. But, the distributor for Hammer in the United States were not pleased about this decision and refused to promote or distribute the film without Dracula in the lead role. Which forced Hammer to re-consider and go back to Lee to persuade him to reprise his role, which he did. The score by James Bernard, is probably the most romantic and melodic score for a Dracula movie, in fact the composer was asked by the films producer to tone the music down a little, as the composer recalled, when I interviewed him.
“I am always pleased if there is a chance for me to write something that is romantic, it comes as a pleasant break from all the horror stuff. Although I can remember being asked to take a softer approach on one of the Hammer Dracula movies. TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA was produced by Aida Young and she told Phil Martell that she felt that the score that I had composed was far too discordant. She thought that a more romantic approach was required. At first, I was very cross indeed. I thought how dare she, but one carries on. So, I wrote a love theme called ‘The Young Lovers’, and I must admit it worked very well indeed, and it is one of my personal favourites, along with SHE and THE DEVIL RIDES OUT”.
The theme that the composer discusses is indeed one of the most simple but beautiful themes written for a Hammer Dracula, it is I suppose quintessentially English in its style and hauntingly fragile and delicate sounding but transforms into a triumphant and affirming musical statement as the movie reaches its conclusion, as once again the Count is reduced to dust in a blaze of heavenly glory as he falls through a stain glass window. In the same year 1970, Hammer released its sixth Dracula movie SCARS OF DRACULA was directed by Roy Ward Baker, with Christopher Lee as Dracula. The film was greeted with mixed feelings and negative reviews from the critics, but I have to say that Hammer should be applauded for restoring some of the elements from the original Stoker novel into the proceedings. The film also starred Dennis Waterman, Jenny Hanley, Michael Gwynn and Patrick Troughton who was excellent as the Counts faithful servant Klove.
The movie re-introduced Dracula as being a charming and polite host and gave Lee more to do and say than any of the previous films in the cycle apart from the original Dracula of 1958. One strange occurrence is that SCARS does step out of sync slightly with its predecessor, in TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, the Count was sent to his death through a window in a church in England, SCARS opens in Castle Dracula in Transylvania, why? Well no-one knows why, and the story does not offer any explanations. SCARS ran into trouble with the distributors for America Warner Brothers who refused to release the movie, it was at this point that EMI stepped in and took over the distribution, it was also the first of a few Hammer films to be given the R rating. Again, the film ends with the death of the Count, and Hammer did not disappoint with yet another method of killing him off, the hero of the story played by Dennis Waterman, throws an iron spike at the Count who is standing on the battlements of a castle. The spike hits the Vampire but in the wrong side of the chest, Dracula pulls the spike out and holds it aloft to throw back at the Waterman character, but it is struck by lightning and straight away the Count bursts into flames and falls from the battlements to the ground below where there is a lingering shot as his body burns.
The next Dracula movie was released in 1972, hence the title, DRACULA AD 1972, set in 1970’s London as realised by Hammer, the film opens in 100 years previous for the pre-credit sequence which is an impressive one. Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) is fighting with Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) on the top of a runaway carriage, the carriage turns over throwing both off, but they continue to fight, Dracula eventually staked with a spoke of a broken wheel on the carriage, the vampire lies dying and as he does Van Helsing watches but then collapses and also dies As the vampire and the hunter die a disciple of Dracula arrives and scoops up the Counts remains, later returning to bury them next to the grave of Van Helsing at St Bartolph’s Church. Directed by Alan Gibson, DRACULA AD 1972, marked the return of Peter Cushing in the role of Van Helsing, well at least a descendant of his who was living in London.
This would be the first time that Lee and Cushing were back together in a Dracula movie since the original in 1958. When this movie first hit the cinemas, it was slated and put down by critics, it was seen as a vehicle for Hammer films to try and become hip with the younger generation, which in fact it was, but sadly at the time it failed miserably and was to be honest a laugh a minute, with all its so called trendy and groovy talk from the younger members of the cast, if one had lived during the 1970s one would know this, as it more like the sixties than the 1970’s. But it has in recent years become something of a cult film, and on viewing it a couple of times more recently I too have warmed to it. OK, I don’t think it’s a classic and is probably remembered for a lot of the wrong reasons, but it contains some interesting and suitably horrific moments. Lee delivering an even more evil and fearful Dracula if that is at all possible.
Music composing duties altered on this production, Hammer, not commissioning James Bernard, but instead turning to Mike Vickers, the score does its job and supports and enhances where it needs to, the former Manfred Mann group member provided the film with a funky sounding pop orientated score which although many said was inappropriate at the time, works very well in the context of the film adding much atmosphere to the proceedings. It certainly was a modern sounding work for a Hammer movie but also contains some of the elements that are familiar from the preceding Hammer gothic sound, and even has references and nods of acknowledgement to the familiar Dracula theme or a deviation of it at least by James Bernard, the composer incorporating it into the fabric of the score. It includes some other composing traits that Bernard employed, these are more prominent within the opening cue, as Vickers utilises growling brass and rumbling percussion to depict the Counts demise in the pre-credits sequence. This was probably under the instruction of Hammers MD at the time Phil Martell, who greatly admired Bernard’s music, and was said to be reluctant to have Vickers as composer on the picture. It was also rumoured that some of the composing duties were given to Don Banks who had worked on several vintage Hammer productions because Vickers was behind in the composing schedule. Vickers was not offered the next instalment of the Hammer Dracula cycle, which was THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973).
But, neither was James Bernard, again Hammer wanted a more contemporary sound for the soundtrack, so American composer John Cacavas was assigned to the picture. The composer had scored HORROR EXPRESS the year before and his music had received a great deal of interest and praise. Cacavas formed a friendship with actor Telly Savalas whilst working on the movie in London, and it was Savalas that asked him to provide the theme and scores for the popular TV series KOJAK for which he become known for, providing the scores and alternate opening themes between 1973 and 1978. The composer soon established himself after re-locating to Los Angeles, and soon began to write music for films as well as TV projects.
Cacavas was born in Aberdeen South Dakota USA in 1930. He was the Son of a Greek immigrant his Mother an American. Cacavas displayed an aptitude for music at an early age and began his career at the age of 14, when he formed a band. He went onto study music formally at The North Western University. During the 1970’s Cacavas, worked on several popular TV series which included, HAWAII FIVE-0, BIONIC WOMAN, MRS COLUMBO and BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY. He also scored a handful of TV Movies, such as SUPERDOME and THE TIME MACHINE. The composer did also work for the cinema but his work for the silver screen was overshadowed by his television work, films he composed for included AIRPORT 75 and 77, HANGAR 18, GANGSTER WARS and THEY’RE PLAYING WITH FIRE.
The composer wrote an upbeat and serviceable score for THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, the music still sounding like a Hammer score but containing a more modern and fresher sound that audiences had become accustomed to. The film too I felt was an absorbing one, full of action and certainly an interesting slant on the story of Dracula, it had an impressive cast, this included, Christopher Lee as Count Dracula, Peter Cushing as Lorrimer Van Helsing, Michael Coles as Inspector Murray, William Franklyn as Peter Torrence, Joanna Lumley as Jessica Van Helsing, Richard Vernon as Colonel Mathews, Barbara Yu Ling as Chin Yang and Freddie Jones as Dr Julian Keeley. It was a violent film in places even by Hammer’s standards, but Hammer were attempting to attract younger audiences, and the House of Horror were finding it difficult with rival studios attracting the audiences that Hammer wanted with films such as COUNT YORGA VAMPIRE and THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA both of which were set in contemporary times. THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA was to be the last Hammer Dracula film that starred Christopher Lee, the actor had become disillusioned with the way in which the studio was heading with the stories and for Hammers last Dracula outing Lee was sorely missed, but the appearance of the Count in THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974) was a fleeting one,
the production was a joint venture between Hammer in the UK and Shaw Brothers in China, because the appeal of Hammer horror’s seemed to be diminishing the studio thought that they would attempt to attract attention via combining the story of Dracula with the genre of Martial Arts which was at that time popular with British cinema audiences after a glut of Chinese movies were dubbed into English and began to do the rounds at the cinema’s. Peter Cushing played Van Helsing and the glamour was provided by Julie Ege, with Robin Stewart as Leyland Van Helsing, but the Count was portrayed by actor John Forbes-Robertson, with the voice of the Count being provided by David de Keyser.
The movie did not get a release in America until 1979, and was re-titled THE 7 BROTHERS MEET DRACULA, which really does not have the same hook as the original title. Composer James Bernard was brought back to write the score which had a distinct Chinese style to it. It is probably one of the lengthiest scores for a Dracula movie, the composer writing over an hour of music for the film. He then composed a Chinese sounding March for an album that was released that included dialogue from the movie or at least a story based upon the movie.
Directed by Roy Ward Baker, Hammer’s final foray into the Dracula legend was met with mixed reactions and is probably not the studios finest moment. Four years before THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES and in the same year as both TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA and SCARS OF DRACULA Christopher Lee travelled to Spain to film a version of DRACULA directed by filmmaker Jesus Franco, the actor is said to have regarded this to be the best version of Stokers story committed to film, as it was true to the original novel.
The production was rather slow compared to the Hammer movies, but it did have a certain appeal to it, Franco’s direction and Lee’s portrayal of the Count working wonderfully together. Herbert Lom too was brilliant as Van Helsing, and there is a memorable moment where Dracula visits Van Helsing to be repelled by a cross being burnt into the wooden floor of Van Helsing’s study by a red-hot poker. The musical score was by Italian Maestro Bruno Nicolai. Nicolai had worked with the director on several projects and provided IL CONTE DRACULA with an atmospheric soundtrack, utilising organ, strings, percussion and cymbalom. Lee also worked with director Franco on THE BLOODY JUDGE or IL TRONO DI FUCO also in 1970.
I found IL CONTE DRACULA to be a badly it movie and yes in places the action was lethargic and uninspired, but it did stay true to Stoker’s novel for which I for one am grateful.
Another film that was faithful to Stoker’s novel to a degree was Dracula circa 1979 directed by John Badham. Dracula was played by Frank Langella and he certainly made the part his own, cutting an impressive and striking figure as the Count. This is probably my own personal favourite of all Dracula movies, there is just something about the film that is believable, plus it has good performances from all the supporting cast with stand out performances from Sir Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing and Trevor Eve as Johnathan Harker and Donald Pleasance as Dr. Seward, this was a Dracula film that was not only horrific and graphic in places but it was all underlined with a sub plot that was filled with romance, and I for one was on the side of the Count more often than not as the story unfolded on screen. This is an impressive production that I never tire of. The music is by film music royalty, in the form of John Williams.
The composer providing a windswept sound that is filled with flyaway flutes, booming percussion, snarling brass and surging strings that punctuate, enhance, envelope and ingratiate each frame of the film. The music is filled with a lavish and romantic sound that is urgent but at the same time mesmerising, beguiling and attractive. I cannot recommend the film and score enough. The films screenplay was based on the Stokers novel but also took inspiration from the stage play that had been so successful back in the 1930’s. The storyline was altered as the makers of the film wanted this to be a story that revolved around romance and a love lost, the films tagline, A LOVE STORY says it all and this stylish offering is still enthralling and attractive when viewed today. The locations were also ruggedly beautiful and added much to the overall impact of the picture. The movie won The Saturn Award for best horror film in 1979, with Badham being nominated as best Director and Langella also being nominated as best actor. The film is photographed by Gilbert Taylor who camera at times caresses the characters and locations. The movie also has convincing make up created by Peter Robb-King.
It is probably because the film was a serious and highly dramatic version of the Dracula story that it was successful and highly regarded by most, as audiences had become tired of the Hammer deviations and examples such as LOVE AT FIRST BITE, NOCTURNA and MONSTER SQUAD which were also released in 1979.
But there, worse examples of the story of Dracula, BLOOD FOR DRACULA, DRACULA’S DOG, DRACULA DEAD AND LOVING IT, the list goes on. Three notable versions of the story were made for television, the first being one starring Denholm Elliot as Dracula in 1968, which was produced by Thames Television in the UK and featured a young Susan George who created a haunting performance in the role of Lucy Weston. Then there was the Louis Jordan version, which is detailed in the Small Screen Horrors article on this blog/website.
The third is DRACULA as realised by the BBC and Granada television in 2006, starring Marc Warren in the role of the Count. Critics were not keen on this production, saying that it was somewhat Anemic, it focused more upon the sexual side of the story, rather than the horror or the romantic elements. The music was provided by composer Dominik Scherrer a composer that is much in demand and has worked on several successful TV series including, MONROE, MISS MARPLE and PRIMEVAL. I spoke to the composer about the score.
You scored an interpretation of DRACULA in 2006, it was slightly more focused upon the sexual connotations of vampirism and I think that this was reflected within your score, the more intimate scenes between Mina and Harker were scored by a particularly romantic cello piece. What size orchestra did you utilize for this score?
“It was quite a small ensemble of around 25 players, the cello solos were played on a Stradivarius by the great Josephine Knight, and there were three vocal soloists, including the counter tenor Christopher Robson with whom I’d worked with a few occasions before. For example, he was “the voice of god” in my opera Hell for Leather. While the interpretation focused on the sexual connotations, it also introduced the idea that Dracula was invited at the centre of an occult who invited him to England. The script-writer, Steward Harcourt, developed his own language for the members of the cult, a kind of twisted Romanian, and he supplied with me with lyrics to set to music. So, the solo voices, sometimes used as a trio, came to represent the cult-ish side of the story”.
Staying with television and going back to 1973 for British adaptation of the Dracula story directed by Dan Curtis of DARK SHADOWS fame, the film cast Jack Palance in the title role, with Nigel Davenport as Van Helsing, Simon Ward in the role of Arthur Holmwood and Murray Brown as Johnathan Harker. Maybe Palance was an unlikely candidate to play the Count or so one would think, but he should not be dismissed as Palance is a fine character actor and turned his hand to many varying roles during his career.
Nigel Davenport was also well suited to the role of the Vampire hunter, the movie had atmospheric photography and wonderful direction and for the most part stayed true to the Stoker novel. Music was by Curtis long time collaborator Robert (Bob) Colbert, the score was superb and acclaimed by many critics and collectors alike.
From 1973 and the small screen we go forward to a production that is seen by many to be the ultimate re-telling of Stokers nightmarish vision. BRAM STOKER’S COUNT DRACULA was released in 1992, with Gary Oldman as Count Dracula, this was a stylish and classy act that had high production values and a musical score to die for.
Produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola the film also starred Winona Ryder as Mina Harker, Keanu Reeves as Johnathan Harker and contained a fiery performance from Sir Anthony Hopkins as Professor Abraham Van Helsing. The cast was I thought impressive aside from the performance given by Reeves which after a while I found annoying rather than entertaining.
The score by composer Wojciech Kilar is in a word Magnificent, it is a powerhouse of a soundtrack that is fearsome and melodic, again the music was like the John Williams Dracula score Romantic at heart and the composer built his dark and bittersweet melodies upon a foundation of a lavishly romantic theme. The soundtrack also included a song written and performed by Annie Lennox, LOVE SONG FOR A VAMPIRE become an international hit.
The closing scene from the movie was impressive, we see Dracula lying in a chapel where he had renounced his faith in a form that is not human. Mina is with him, and at this point one sees that the vampire truly loves his Mina (Elizabeta), the couple kiss and as they do the candles in the chapel ignite and the cross that was destroyed becomes one again. Dracula returns to human form but a young incarnation of himself, he asks Mina to give him peace Mina is grief stricken but manages to thrust the knife in Dracula’s chest through his heart, and as the Count dies the curse of Dracula is lifted, Mina chops off his head and looks skyward towards the fresco on te ceiling of the Chapel to see Vlad and his love Elizabeta re-united and ascending in a blaze of glory to heaven. This and the John Badham version of Dracula for me rank as the best versions made. There have been so many versions of DRACULA that it would be impossible to list and analyse them all, I hope that I have scratched the surface enough for this article to be of some interest.