From Nosferatu to Thirst, films have tried to capture the shadowy, seductive figure of the vampire. Writer Anne Billson chronicles the creature’s evolution.
Slide Five: Dracula/Horror of Dracula (1958)
Horror of Dracula, Hammer's first vampire movie, brought Stoker's villain home to the British Isles where he was conceived, and gave the Universal myth a Technicolor twist; Christopher Lee wears red contact lenses and his chin is stained, post-feed, with trickles of bright scarlet blood. Other fresh elements include fangs, more explicit biting and staking and, emphasizing Dracula's erotic effect on his victims, heaving bosoms bursting out of low-cut décollétage. Lee talks with a posh English accent and is sexier and more urbane than Lugosi; the vampire has some way to go before he morphs into the romantic anti-hero of Anne Rice's imaginings, but one can see the beginnings of the transformation here. Terence Fisher's stately, atmospheric direction, Jimmy Sangster's screenplay and Bernard Robinson's lush production design established a blueprint for all subsequent Hammer vampire yarns, dark but ultimately reassuring fairy-tales that invariably take place in mittel-European settings that look suspiciously similar to the parkland surrounding Bray Studios, Hammer's Home Counties HQ, and in which the vampire's evil influence is countered by learned patriarchal figures such as Peter Cushing's Van Helsing who, backed up by church and family, restores order when virtuous English women are turned into wanton floosies who are just asking for a good staking.