Day 25: Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966)
Every time I watch one of Hammer’s Dracula films I’m surprised at how much they remind me of the Friday the 13th series. Some yahoos wander where they shoudn’t, wake up Dracula, Dracula does his thing, and then he dies. I haven’t seen all of them to corroborate that trend, but that’s definitely what happens in Dracula, Prince of Darkness.
Ten years after the death of Count Dracula, a group of wayward travelers wander into Dracula’s castle into the open arms of one of the Count’s human servants. After foolishly staying at the castle despite a mountain of warning signs pointing them to hit the road, one of them gets lured into Dracula’s crypt and wakes the old man up to do his vampire song and dance.
The best part of these Hammer horror movies are how slyly trashy they are. Once Dracula hits the scene it’s all unlaced bodices and heaving bosoms. Then there’s the violence—in one particularly gruesome scene, a man gets bled like livestock.
Prince of Darkness is breezy and fun, a classic vampire tale with the sex and violence cranked up a few degrees. Also, who knew that vampires were weak against running water? I didn’t know that.
Day 26: Son of Frankenstein (1939)
Son of Frankenstein marks the last time that Boris Karloff donned the Frankenstein make-up for Universal. A sequel to Bride of Frankenstein, the film picks up a number of years after the apparent deaths of Dr. Henry Frankenstein and his creations when Wolf von Frankenstein, Victor’s son, returns to his father’s homestead to take charge of the castle.
While there, Wolf meets with his father’s former assistant Ygor (this time played by Bela Lugosi) who shows him that his father’s creation isn’t dead, just sleeping.
Well-acted and with some stellar production design, Son of Frankenstein may be the best of Universal’s A-level Frankenstein pictures. While the first films often felt a bit too stagey, the castle in Son of Frankenstein is all odd angles and smoke with great big doors and long, featureless hallways. The castle is more German than Old Hollywood, like Frankenstein and Dr. Caligari had a kid. Even though Frankenstein’s Lab is a classic piece of set design, his lab in Son of Frankenstein is more vibrant and strange—it’s a nice change of pace for a genre than can get held up on what’s fast and cheap.