From the late ‘50s through the ‘70s, no one did horror like England’s Hammer studios, and the crown jewels in their terrifying oeuvre were the gothic Dracula pictures starring the incomparable Christopher Lee as the blood-sucking prince of darkness. Horror of Dracula (also known simply as Dracula) marks Lee’s first turn as the Count, as well as Peter Cushing’s initial performance as the indefatigable vampire hunter Van Helsing, and it’s likely the most tantalizingly creepy entry in this series of cinematic nightmares. The story, only loosely adhering to Bram Stoker’s plot, has Van Helsing going in search of John Harker (John Van Eyssen), who has infiltrated Dracula’s castle in order to destroy him but has instead fallen victim to the devilish villain’s undead curse. Van Helsing liberates Harker’s soul, but soon realizes that the Count has designs on Harker’s fiancé Mina Holmwood (Melissa Stribling), and teams up with Mina’s brother Arthur (Michael Gough) to finally do away with Dracula. Lee’s silky deep voice, severe wide-eyed glares and imposing stature make him a formidable Dracula, although it’s hardly befitting a centuries-old monster like the Count to be running around scared as much as he does in this Hammer film. Nonetheless, director Terence Fisher elegantly shrouds the film in worn, muted tones that stand in disconcerting contrast to the film’s copious amount of ketchup-red blood. The film sometimes seems like it was set in Austria rather than Transylvania, what with Van Helsing’s bushy fur-collared coat, the opulently designed castles, and Arthur drinking from a hefty beer stein, and the good doctor’s advice to Arthur after he’s undergone a blood transfusion – that he should drink wine to alleviate his lightheadedness! – seems misguided unless he intends Arthur to get absolutely wasted. Still, the always-magisterial Cushing has a dignified British graveness that perfectly fits Van Helsing’s somber determination, and his climactic battle against the dastardly Dracula culminates in a thrillingly acrobatic killing that none of the subsequent Hammer films ever truly matched.