Yep, here's one last classic Hammer horror film to close out my recent series of reviews on the British studio's output from the 50s through the 70s. The Brides of Dracula (1960) was the immediate followup to 1958's Horror of Dracula, but audiences were a little surprised when they discovered that while Brides is a legitimate sequel, Dracula (Christopher Lee) himself doesn't appear!
Peter Cushing reprises his role as vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing from the previous film and finds himself up against an apparent disciple of Dracula, one Baron Meinster (David Peel), a very aristocratic and nasty vampire who's terrorizing a girls' finishing school on land owned by his family. Specifically, Meinster's also after sexy French student teacher Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) who had unwittingly set Meinster free early on. (The Baron's mother, fearful of appearances, kept the young Baron chained in his room and procured victims for him to satisfy his thrist. Marianne removed the chain out of misplaced pity.) Meanwhile the number of victims -and converted vampires- continue to grow. And what happens when Van Heising suddenly finds himself helpless before Meinster...?!?
Despite the presence of many hands on the script (three screenwriters, including Horror of Dracula 's Jimmy Sangster,are credited, plus there was some unacknowledged contributions by producer Anthony Hinds), director Terence Fisher (The Curse of Frankenstein) manages to keep things moving at a rapid clip. That fast pace helps to keep the audience from pondering some of the unresolved plot points in the film (the henchman who disappears after making sure Marianne can't leave the tavern at the beginning of the film; the unexplained power of the chain that somehow kept Meinster, who's later shown to be able to turn into a flying bat, imprisoned, and so on.). Yet Fisher, Cushing (terrific as usual) and the above average cast (which includes Martita Hunt as the Baroness Meinster) and crew (igmore the fake-looking bats) manage to deliver the most in shocks and chills. Scenes such as one of Meinster's first victims rising from the grave or Van Heising having to come up with a quick on-the-spot cure for vampirism before it's too late will stick in the audience's memories long after the exciting climax! (And who knew windmills could be so effective in destroying vampires?)