A few kilometres outside fair Klausenberg, where we set our scene, intensely self-confident Jonathan Harker arrives at Castle Dracula to start his new job. He’s an academic, and has been hired as a librarian by Count Dracula. Harker starts his visit by running into a lovely woman in the dining room who begs for his help escaping and then flits off.Harker is intrigued, although in an entirely scientific way, I’m sure.
Count Dracula arrives to show Jonathan Harker to his room. The Count is courteous and genteel, but I wonder if there might be more to him than meets the eye. Call me crazy if you like, but I’m not sure this Count Dracula fella is on the level. Anyway, nobody talks about Dining Room Woman, because that was a perfectly normal thing in 19th century Klausenberg, apparently.
Alone in his room, Jonathan Harker settles in and writes in his diary, revealing that he is a secret assassin on a mission who should definitely NOT be keeping a written record of his activities. Harker is at Castle Dracula to end Count Dracula’s reign of terror (I knew it! It’s a gift I have) and make the world safe for angelic curly-haired book nerds. Harker is actually ACTION FOLKLORIST.
Later that night, Jonathan Harker is lured into the library by Dining Room Woman, whose area of influence has expanded to two rooms and a corridor. She begs him to help her, and he agrees, not displeased to have a strange dining room/library/corridor woman trembling in his arms. Dining Room Woman bites him on the neck, which ruins the mood, and a furious Count Dracula appears in full vampire mode to break heads. The music goes DRAAACULAAA.
Jonathan Harker is understandably distressed to realize he has been bitten by a vampire. He hides his journal outside Castle Dracula in a little religious shrine (good idea) but once inside the crypt with the vampires he decides to stake Dining Room Woman first (bad idea). Count Dracula is justified in being a bit annoyed that somebody staked his bride, to be fair, and maybe Harker recognizes that as his life flashes before his eyes. DRAAACULAAA.
Peter Cushing is everything
Concerned because Jonathan Harker hasn’t been in touch, SENIOR ACTION FOLKLORIST Doctor Van Helsing arrives at the inn in Klausenburg. The landlord is obviously afraid of vampires and not feeling chatty, but his daughter was charmed enough by Harker that she slips his re-discovered journal to Van Helsing. Every word and gesture Peter Cushing performs is perfection. The world needs more Peter Cushing.
Doctor Van Helsing visits Castle Dracula and is forced to dive out of the way of a hearse racing away down the road. He lets himself in and finds Jonathan Harker asleep in the crypt, fanged and grinning. Van Helsing hardly puckers as he does what is necessary and stakes his vamped friend in the heart to save his soul. I am officially in love with Peter Cushing.
Dinner with the Count
Back in Karlstadt, Doctor Van Helsing (nobody ever calls him Abraham, so I’ve decided his given name is “Van”) visits Arthur and Mina Holmwood to tell them that Jonathan Harker is dead. They refuse to allow him to see to Lucy Holmwood, Harker’s fiancée and also her own person. Lucy is sick and Doctor Seward (not as young and rich as the one from the novel Dracula, sadly) is at a loss to help her. Arthur worries that she is too weak to hear the news, and Mina tries to talk him down from the commanding heights of 19th-century patriarchy.
Lucy Holmwood, however, has nighttime activities she’s not telling the family about. Once left alone, she removes the cross around her neck, opens the French doors in her bedroom, and arranges herself appealingly on the bed. Her after-hours visitor arrives and dines in the manner to which he is accustomed. DRAAACULAAA.
Mina Holmwood, the voice of reason, invites Doctor Van Helsing back to the house to examine Lucy Holmwood. Van Helsing is disturbed by the progression of Lucy’s illness and issues an urgent prescription for lots of garlic flowers and firmly closed windows. Lucy, not a supporter of this plan, convinces the family’s indulgent housekeeper Gerda to open the windows and take away the flowers. Lucy is dead in the morning.
I love the nightlife
Doctor Van Helsing tells Arthur Holmwood the truth about Jonathan Harker and Count Dracula. Van Helsing’s theory is that the Count’s revenge/matrimony combo plan is to take Jonathan Harker’s bride to replace the one Harker destroyed. (You remember Dining Room Woman, right?) Meanwhile, Gerda’s young daughter Tania reports having been invited to play by Aunt Lucy. DRAAACULAAA.
Arthur Holmwood, whose upbringing didn’t prepare him for any of this shit, stakes out his sister’s tomb. Aunt Lucy manages to lure Tania all the way to the cemetery on her second try, where she greets her brother as warmly as anybody would greet a warm snack on a cold night. Doctor Van Helsing intervenes dramatically, but Arthur vetos the idea of using Lucy as bait to catch Count Dracula. They stake the vamp instead, Lucy Holmwood’s soul is saved, and little Tania will be just fine with anti-anxiety medication and years of psychotherapy.
Art and Van form a vampire-hunting double team and try to find Count Dracula’s lair in Karlstadt. There is a tedious comic turn by an actor who has his scene stolen with elegant precision by Michael Gough. A visit to the undertaker that received the hearse from Act I turns up another tedious comic turn and an empty space where the coffin from Castle Dracula used to be. DRAAACULAAA.
Art and Van regroup, not realizing yet that the movie has gotten ahead of them a bit. Count Dracula’s pursuit of Lucy Holmwood met a dead (ha!) end, but he’s nothing if not persistent. The Count lures Mina Holmwood out of the house and gives her the business, something the boys would like to prevent happening again in the future, for obvious reasons.
Art and Van guard the Holmwood home through the night, ready to pounce when Count Dracula visits Mina. But the Count doesn’t oblige them by coming to the house. The boys go in and find Mina a bit the worse for wear after a night of vampire loving. DRAAACULAAA.
The calls are coming from inside the house
Art and Van kick around the question of how the holy hell Count Dracula got inside the house. They order more wine, as any of us would, and poor housekeeper Gerda begs off going to the cellar. Gerda is only too aware that the last time she disobeyed Mrs Holmwood somebody died, and Mrs Holmwood was very clear that Gerda should stay out of the cellar. The cellar! In this very home!
Peter Cushing runs—I say “runs,” he scampers, and it’s a wonderful thing—to the cellar, but Count Dracula gives him the slip. The Count kidnaps Mina Holmwood. Art and Van chase them all the way back to Castle Dracula, where they catch The Count burying Mina in a shallow grave.
(We found that moment a bit odd here at Chateau Monster of Arts. Is he trying to hide Mina? Stuffing her into a cupboard would be quicker. Does topsoil improve the flavour of a vampire bride? The best guess we have is that he wanted to suffocate her in the hope she’d rise as a vampire. Which he could have done with his huge hands. Also, even in her weakened condition, Mina could still scramble her way out of a loosely filled divot in the lawn. Whatever. It doesn’t matter.)
Arthur Holmwood rescues Mina and Dr Van Helsing chases the Count into Castle Dracula. They fight, and Count Dracula is incinerated by the rising run. The forces of good, science, and Christian marriage have triumphed over predatory evil.
And that was Horror of Dracula.❤ You should read my review too.