Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre deserves a vote of fangs for a tricksy Halloween treat this week – a screening of Hammer’s classic Dracula in a real castle.
Tuesday night’s (29th October) sell-out show in the spooky undercroft of Cardiff Castle gave us a rare chance to see this revered 1958 production as it was intended – on the big screen.
This was the first – and some say best – in Hammer’s famous catalogue of horrors, which revived and reimagined the monsters of Universal Studios from the 1930s and ’40s.
It pits Christopher Lee as the eponymous count against Peter Cushing as the vampire hunter, Van Helsing. (See their final confrontation here)
Until now, I had only ever seen this film (known as Horror of Dracula in the US) on TV, when I was struck by the garish colour and the action, contrasting with the more static (and, of course, black and white) 1931 version of the Bram Stoker novel (via a popular stage production), which starred Bela Lugosi and Edward Van Sloan as the protagonists.
On the big screen, it was – predictably – even more impressive. As a bonus, this print was restored by the BFI and included extra footage, which had been censored on its original release.
It has been imitated so many times, the film seems slightly clichéd now, but Terence Fisher’s direction and Jimmy Sangster’s screenplay set a new standard for quality horror, which has seldom been matched.
The eery (and cold – we were warned to wear warm clothes) surroundings added to the atmosphere, and made this a cinematic evening to remember, as part of the Chapter Goes Dark season.
Marred only by some misplaced sniggers from certain parts of the audience, this was very cool, Chapter. Dra-cool.