THE BRIDES OF DRACULA
THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN
Two more Hammers arrive on Blu-ray. No need to shutter the houses or hush the tavern, though – these are distinctly middling entries from Britain’s beloved chill mill.
The Brides Of Dracula is a cheeky piece of bait and switch: the Count is nowhere to be seen, replaced by one of his understudies. David Peel brings a hint of Liberace the Impaler to Baron Meinster, a crisply spoken, strangely waxy cad with serious mother issues. And yes, you feel the absence of Christopher Lee’s charismatic smoulder. It’s a stagey affair that tips into lurid melodrama but it’s also one of Hammer’s most opulent efforts, richly lit and ornately dressed, with some fabulously atmospheric shots of “Transylvania, land of dark forests, dread mountains and black, unfathomed lakes…”
Co-financed by Universal, The Evil Of Frankenstein finds the Bray Studio boys finally allowed to riff on the classic Karloff iconography of the ‘30s. This incarnation of the creature keeps the boxy head and boots but brings a touch of the Golem with its lumpen, half-formed features, seemingly crudely gouged from clay. Blessed with gorgeous cinematography, it’s a colourful but oddly low-key tale whose highlight is a long, wordless replay of the creature’s birth, a startlingly cinematic collision of primitive tech and primal nature.
Uniting – and igniting – both films is Peter Cushing, whose impeccable sincerity was always Hammer’s greatest resource, a blue-eyed powerline of pure conviction that kept all around him from collapsing into camp (and these excellent Blu-ray transfers let you see every bead of perspiration on his brow). Confronted by a fake bat, he can still persuade you that a limp scrap of fur and latex is an unutterable abomination against God.
Both releases boast thorough, candid retrospectives on their respective films (31 minutes/28 minutes), populated by Hammer historians and original cast and crew, along with trailers and photo galleries. Evil adds a bonus interview with actress Caron Gardner (two minutes).
A quick word on image quality: both films obviously far superior in high def, although if you’re expecting the sort of expensive, time-intensive frame-by-frame clean-ups which digitally remove every small spot of damage you may be disappointed – there are still a fair few artifacts. This is particularly noticeable during the climactic sequence in The Evil Of Frankenstein where the Baron’s castle blows up (screengrab below - click to enlarge), but shouldn’t ruin your viewing pleasure.
Nick Setchfield twitter.com/NickSetchfield
Interested in the picture quality? To see some Blu-ray screengrabs, click on "Next".
For the benefit of all you high-def image quality purists here's a series of Blu-ray screengrabs. Click on any image to see a larger version.