Sunday, 26 October 2014

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS: DRACULA (1958)



L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS

37. DRACULA (1958, dir. Terence Fisher)

26/10/2014


I don't like horror films. I feel I can do without the fright and gore, especially when the films I do like already involve tension and threat, with a couple of laughs thrown in to show the filmmakers weren't inhuman - that's Alfred Hitchcock's career clumsily summarised in one sentence. However, would I watch a film if it is has turned out to be not as scary as originally thought?

When the British Film Institute released a restored version of Hammer Studios' "Dracula," starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, in 2007, it made headlines, but for the wrong reasons. A classic British horror film, one that made as good use of Technicolor as Powell and Pressburger made in "The Red Shoes" (1948) and "Black Narcissus" (1949), and traded itself on its X rating in cinemas, was given a 12A by the British Board of Film Classification, so even small children could see it with an adult. Does that make it harmless, then?

It is worth having a look at bbfc.org.uk to find what you can get away with, and what is advised to audiences with each film. "Dracula" is marked out as containing "mild bloody horror," while "Mr. Bean's Holiday" (2007), gets a PG rating and the advice, "Contains irresponsible behaviour," which has stuck in my mind since seeing it on the poster. 

Anyway, the BBFC gives the following explanation for a 12A rating - "Violence must not dwell on detail. There should be no emphasis on injuries or blood. Sustained moderate threat and menace are permitted." There is certainly blood in "Dracula," the Technicolor making it obvious, but you move on very quickly, mainly because there is no time, the film itself being only 82 minutes in length. However, the BBFC note the sustained threat, and the overall atmosphere, is given distance by two factors - its period setting, and that "Dracula" is a very familiar story. Based on that, you can presume that "Psycho" (1960) gets a "15" rating because it is more contemporary, and "The Human Centipede" (2009) gets an "18" because nothing is held back.

"Dracula," as presented by Hammer, is a very good film, but I felt I could watch it all the way to the end because I followed the advice of the BBFC, for which I am glad? Does it make me want to watch another horror film? No, unless I hear it has a good story as well...


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