5. The Brides of Dracula (1960) – Terence Fisher
It’s impossible to imagine the history of Hammer horror without tantalizing movie titles like this. Catchy names are nothing new to the movie industry, but this studio reliably matched quality content with sensational descriptions – especially ones relating to Dracula.
The Brides of Dracula is an excellent, though unusual, Hammer horror film which proves that a Dracula movie can succeed even without the great Christopher Lee. But though Dracula isn’t in the picture, Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing still has to battle with the Count – through his victims and his brides. The conflict is no less thrilling, and this Hammer classic easily makes this top 10 list.
4. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) – Terence Fisher
It was inevitable that a legendary horror studio would want to put their unique stamp on the Frankenstein story, and Hammer did so in legendary fashion. The first in a series of films featuring Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein, The Curse of Frankenstein is a classic of the horror genre.
This initial installment in the Frankenstein series is the closest to the original literary story. In it, Peter Cushing is Victor Frankenstein, who becomes obsessed with creating new life from various parts from dead bodies. When his monstrous creation (played by Christopher Lee) comes to life, Frankenstein loses all control over it, and the newborn monster discovers its power to kill and destroy.
3. The Devil Rides Out (1968) – Terence Fisher
The best occult horror film in the Hammer series is also one of the best of its kind in movie history. Frequent villain Christopher Lee finds himself on the right side of The Force in The Devil Rides Out, and is not one whit less effective in his unorthodox role.
Lee plays Duc de Richleau, who learns that a young woman has fallen into the clutches of a Satanic cult; they have plans to initiate her very soon, and Duc de Richleau is determined to stop them. Lee’s character knows how to fight on the same level as the Satanic cult, and a battle of spells ensues. Beautifully executed and brilliantly acted, The Devil Rides Out is a classic for good reason.
2. The Mummy (1959) – Terence Fisher
Hammer’s The Mummy is a classic time capsule of horror perfectly preserved for future generations to admire. Peter Cushing’s performance is as fresh as ever no matter how many times we unwrap it, and though Christopher Lee’s face is largely kept under wraps, his talent is undisguisable.
While this story is a familiar one, Hammer’s take on it is fresh and exciting. Aided by dynamic acting and beautiful photography, The Mummy is an irreplaceable entry in the horror movie canon. Cushing plays archaeologist John Banning, who unwittingly unleashes a killer mummy on the world while in search of ancient Egyptian secrets. Christopher Lee plays the mummy, producing a chilling effect on the audience even through his layers of bandages. It’s a must-see for horror fans.
1. Horror of Dracula (1958) – Terence Fisher
While giving Christopher Lee a role for which he would forever be famous, Horror of Dracula also made an invaluable contribution to the catalog of great vampire movies. While this isn’t the most extravagant production of Dracula ever made, it’s nonetheless unforgettable – largely due to the larger-than-life personalities of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
Cushing is Doctor Van Helsing, Lee is Count Dracula, and the two face off in epic fashion. Hammer has no shortage of takes on the Dracula story, but this is the classic original tale. Having set his sights on Jonathan Harker and his poor fiancée Lucy, Dracula himself soon becomes the target of Van Helsing’s cunning experience. The Doctor must use all his powers to defeat Dracula before Lucy’s life is lost. Horror of Dracula is a bona fide classic for so many reasons.
Author Bio: Martin Wilson is as enamored of great films as he is of tennis and classic literature. As often as possible, he slips the surly bonds of North Carolina to go galavanting around Europe with his lovely wife, who correctly reminds him that addressing his audience as “gentle reader” is not as clever as he thinks it is.