Dracula (UK, 1958)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling
There are many reasons why a given film's reputation may be inflated or exaggerated in light of subsequent events. Whether through the impact it has on the aesthetic of other films in its genre, the acting careers it may launch, or the audience hysteria it may cause, there are numerous examples of films which are praised to the hilt on these grounds but don't entirely deserve their hype upon closer examination.
a Q&A session at University College Dublin, Lee was asked about his work on the Hammer films and what he wanted to bring to the character of Dracula. He responded that he had always tried to play the character as it was written in the novel - namely an old man becoming younger, dressed "entirely in black from head to foot without a single speck of colour". Lee's disatisfation with the various departures from the character became apparent in later films in the series: his character doesn't speak in Dracula: Prince of Darkness because he refused to say any of the lines that were written for him.
Andy Warhol's Dracula, directed by Warhol's close collaborator Paul Morrissey. The latter film is something of a Marxist work, depicting Dracula as an upper-class parasite who deprives working women of both their souls and their labour: the eternal servitude of the proletariat to the landed gentry and bourgeoisie is analogous to the deathless fate of Dracula's brides. Dracula, by contrast, is more reverential towards its aristocratic villain, refusing to condone his crimes but having a grudging respect or admiration for the manner in which he goes about commiting them.
Black Narcissus levels of craft, you won't quite find it here, but crucially the setting and trappings are effective and evocative enough that you aren't constantly obsessing over where money was saved or how a particular effect was achieved.
You can read my WhatCulture! article on Christopher Lee's career, including Dracula, here. I also wrote a couple of articles on Hammer, related to The Woman in Black, which you can read here and here.
NEXT REVIEW: Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013)