Greenbriar Horror Of Dracula Week --- Part One
Like Jonathan Harker with his diary, I want to get all this down while there are daylight hours and memory maintains. There's first need to confess imposter status discussing Horror Of Dracula without ever having seen it theatrically, a believe me great regret despite childhood/adolescent effort spent toward that frustrated goal. Here I'll go again on how lucky viewers are today. Click on Amazon, stream the thing, borrow from a friend, and Horror Of Dracula is yours, along with everything else extant. Was fruit the sweeter then for having to climb so high to pick it? I'd refer you to a photo-telling of both Curse Of Frankenstein and Horror Of Dracula (above) published by Jim Warren in March 1965, two Hammer grails shown and re-shown everywhere but the Liberty ... Warren's black-and-white frame blow-ups a poor substitute for blood-color these were noted for, but a best you'd do along with gum cards and whatever Ackerman/Beck put between (or on) covers of respective monster monthlies. Knowing it had come out in 1958, an impossibly long reach across time when you're ten, made Horror Of Dracula seem all the more unlikely a hope to be realized. Maybe I'd just have to go a life not seeing it and make best of that ...
Universal had done a one-picture deal with Seven Arts and Hammer for Dracula with color and sleek scares in line with 1957's Curse Of Frankenstein. The fangs-ter show was shot in a UK winter of '57 and turned over to domestic-distributing U-I for school's out 1958, Universal having rushed in-house companion, The Thing That Couldn't Die, a black-and-white passenger more likely to raise shudders from boredom than fright, its existence justified by need of something on bills with Dracula. Trade ads began in March, well ahead of later in Spring opening. U-I's optimism was evident in mid-May announcement of an expanded deal with Seven Arts/Hammer for a multiple-picture distribution pact, as reported by Variety, including a sequel to not-yet-released Horror Of Dracula, the pic re-named to differentiate same from oldies on TV and Drac-glut filling theatres over a past season. Confusion with these would result in Horror Of Dracula going out minus a crucial Production Code Administration seal (U-I's first to do so), that snafu occurring due to earlier registration by independent Gramercy Pictures of their Return Of Dracula and the PCA's Title Bureau not having yet given clearance. Did such confusion alert Universal to importance of separating their deluxe Dracula from chaff offered by rivals?
U Swarms Over Field, said Variety of the company's move on behalf of three for summer selling. These were A Time to Love and A Time to Die, This Happy Feeling, and the Horror Of Dracula/The Thing That Couldn't Die package. Ten field reps would cover eighteen openings for the chiller duo, including New York's Mayfair Theatre open set for midnight, May 28, with stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to appear and sign autographs a following day. Hammer head (did that come out right?) James Carreras accompanied the two as guests at a Uni headquarters luncheon held the 27th, press and columnists on hand to greet UK visitors. I found but a pair of images (both above) from that august meet, but can imagine cheer among this group only hours away from Horror Of Dracula's epochal Mayfair bow. Christopher Lee was presented with a surprise birthday cake, icing of appropriate blood-dripping variety. Expressions here are priceless ... Cushing nonplussed as expansive Chris plunges a knife into the pastry, the post-dining cigar suggestive of a man well pleased by America's embrace of his Dracula. If ever I were to meet Sir Christopher, this luncheon would be first item on my asking agenda.
James Carreras had reason to go proud. His Hammer firm had contributed seven out of sixty-three features made in England during 1957, few among total scoring like his Curse of Frankenstein or generating buzz to equal Dracula's. There were already US distribution deals with Columbia and United Artists for Hammer product, Carreras putting trade press on notice that his next would be Frankenstein Created Woman for Universal release, plus a new Hound Of The Baskervilles. He reveled in "top-notch production values" Hammer films boasted, adding that horror cheapies won't last and would garner unintended laughs. This wasn't to say Carreras was stuck on chiller subjects, being ready enough to shift production elsewhere once interest lagged in genre pics. I'm prepared to make Strauss waltzes tomorrow if they'll make money, said he to Variety. What the producer wanted was deals with US companies and access thus provided to worldwide markets American product reached. There is no British distributor who can match it, Carreras concluded. He was pleased enough cooperating with Universal in bringing Cushing and Lee to raise awareness of the Hammer brand, though Universal's advertising on Horror Of Dracula missed targets Carreras aimed for and hit back in England, namely sex lure exemplified in this newest Dracula. Emphasis on graveyards and bats Universal used to sell the film was outmoded and wide of erotic potential HoD offered, patrons hard put getting past notion this was just another monster movie.