Release Date(s)1960 (November 10, 2020)
Studio(s)Hammer Film Productions/Universal International (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A
Taking place after the events of Dracula (known as Horror of Dracula to US audiences), 1960’s The Brides of Dracula sees Peter Cushing returning to his iconic role as Doctor Van Helsing. It unfortunately loses Christoper Lee as the villainous Count Dracula, gaining David Peel as the fang-adorned Baron Meinster instead. The film also pushes the envelope in terms of vampire lore, perhaps more aggressively than any of its follow-ups. Though it wasn’t immediately praised upon its initial release (paired theatrically alongside the less than stellar The Leech Woman), it has since grown in estimation as one Hammer’s finest entries in the Dracula series overall.
Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) is a young and beautiful French schoolteacher on her way to her new assignment at a school for young girls in Transylvania. After being abandoned by her coach driver in a small village, she is taken in by the Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt), an older and unsual woman whom the townspeople seem to fear, subsequently warning Marianne that it would be ill-advised to stay with the Baroness at her castle. Ignoring them, she travels there with her, meeting her odd servant Greta (Freda Jackson). She also soon learns that the Baroness is attempting to hide her son Baron Meinster (David Peel) from the world, insisting that he is mad and keeping him chained up in his room. Encountering him on the balcony from afar, Marianne opts to help him escape, not realizing that she has inadvertantly let loose a caged vampire. Soon the imminent Doctor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) arrives in the nearby village and upon learning of what has transpired, makes it his new mission to find the Baron and destroy him.
Scream Factory brings The Brides of Dracula to Region A Blu-ray for a third time, following the UK Region B Final Cut and Universal Region A Hammer Horror: 8-Film Collection releases. The presentation has been sourced from a new 2K scan of the film’s interpositive and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Judging by screencaps of the previous releases, it’s clear that the Scream disc is the more vibrant of the three. It’s definitely softer, partly due to the generation of the element used. A mild bit of noise removal appears to have been applied to what was likely a very grainy presentation. In motion, the film looks phenomenal. The color palette, a highly important facet of a film like this, is lush with bold swatches of red, blue, green, and purple. Skin tones aren’t rosy pink, but they never appear pallid. Blacks are fairly solid, though with a tiny bit of negligble crush. Contrast and brightness levels are ideal and the overall image is stable throughout. The only leftover damage to speak of is occasional speckling.
The audio is provided in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s an adequate, if not excellent, listening experience. Dialogue exchanges ring clear while Malcolm Williamson’s score provides ample support without overcrowding the track. Sound effects have decent heft, though they to show their age. A mild hiss is present, but it’s unobtrusive. The overall track is free of any obvious instances of dropouts or distortion.
The following extras are also included:
- Audio Commentary with Constantine Nasr and Steve Haberman
- The Men Who Made Hammer: Terence Fisher (HD – 58:21)
- The Men Who Made Hammer: Jack Asher (HD – 16:24)
- The Eternal and the Damned: Malcolm Williamson and The Brides of Dracula (HD – 15:22)
- The Brides of Dracula – 1.66:1 Version (HD – 85:34)
- The Making of The Brides of Dracula (HD – 31:10)
- The Haunted History of Oakley Court (HD – 15:13)
- Theatrical Trailers (SD – 2 in all – 4:06)
- Image Gallery (HD – 101 in all – 7:26)
- Radio Spot (HD – 1:03)
The new audio commentary with Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr is a discussion of the film’s many facets while viewing it. They converse on the cast and crew, particularly Terence Fisher and Peter Cushing, while also contextualizing the film’s place within the Dracula series and Hammer’s oeuvre. Constantine Nasr also reads interviews given by director Terence Fisher and director of photography Jack Asher, the latter of whom Haberman praises highly as the film goes on (and with good reason). As is always the case with these two gentlemen, it’s an interesting and entertaining listen. The Men Who Made Hammer segments feature an interview with magazine editor and publisher Richard Klemensen speaking about Terence Fisher and Jack Asher, discussing their life and work in rich detail with great reverence, but also offering his personal connection to them. The Eternal and the Damned interviews Hammer film score historian David Huckvale about the work of composer Malcolm Williamson. The film is also presented in the alternate aspect ratio of 1.66:1, which utilizes tha same presentation, but is included here in the extras. The Making of The Brides of Dracula features interviews with the cast, crew, and film historians about the history and making of the film, including Richard Golen, Jimmy Sangster, Hugh Harlow, Anthony Hinds, Pauline Harlow, Wayne Kinsey, Yvonne Monlaur, Don Mingaye, and Margaret Robinson. Narration is also provided by Edward de Souza. The Haunted History of Oakley Court features authors David Flint and Allan Bryce taking a tour of the famous film landmark and talking about its history (which was previously included on the Severin Films Blu-ray release of And Now the Screaming Starts). The image gallery contains 101 images of on-set stills, promotional photos, premiere photos, posters, lobby cards, book covers, and other promotional materials. This release also features reversible artwork, with the US theatrical art on one side and new artwork on the other by Mark Maddox. It also features a slipcover with the same new artwork on the front.
Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition release of The Brides of Dracula is another welcome addition to their growing library of Hammer releases. It’s a solid package and a great upgrade over previous releases with marginally improved picture quality and a terrific extras package.
- Tim Salmons