“Picasso had his pink period and his blue period. I’m in my blonde period.”
-- Hugh Hefner
I had two things when I was kid, blonde hair, and an affinity for all things British. The blonde hair came from my mother. The love of the Britons from my father, who had lived there for a few months on a mission trip. I wrote poems about England, informed my fiends of their driving on the “wrong” side of the road, and played the British version of Monopoly. So much so that I didn’t know the names of the properties on the original Monopoly board. It was all Fleet Street and Mayfair in my eyes. But it wasn’t until I went to grad school in GB that I discovered one of my British loves, Hammer.
Although my love of all things Python may be greater, Hammer holds a special place in my heart. Gothic horror in general being one of my favorite genres, the films of Hammer Studios speak to me.
Having watched and rewatched, for the most part, all of Hammer’s films I began to notice similarities. No, not that they have the same actors, or set pieces. Other similarities, one of which I would like to talk about here.
Firstly, let’s get one thing straight, Dracula is a lover, not a fighter. He loves women, but mostly he loves the chase. He reminds us to not hate the player, hate the game. Also, Dracula loves blondes. Sure he will definitely chomp on a brunnette and has been known to neck with a redhead or two, but blondes are his main course.
In five Dracula films produced by Hammer from 1966 to 1972; Dracula Prince of Darkness(1966), Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula(1970), Scars of Dracula (1970) and Dracula A.D.1972 (1972) we see Dracula’s love for fair haired beauties come in many forms. Although this list does not cover the entire Hammer Dracula series, nor does it delve into the vampire offshoots such as the Carmilla trilogy or Vampire Circus (1972). These five films cover the height of Dracula canon produced by Hammer after it’s attempt to break away from the normal Dracula plot lines in Brides of Dracula (1960) and before its complete demise with Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973). Although Horror of Dracula does feature a a blonde Mina, and would perhaps fit the criteria I am describing below I have omitted it from this list given it's chronological distance to the other films and its stricter adherence to the Stoker novel.
Blonde hair is sometimes associated with innocence. Many people have blonde hair as children, eventually developing darker shades as they grow older. This can also be a reflection of purity. White is pure, therefore, blonde is pure. Or some would have us to believe. Alfred Hitchcock once stated “Blondes make the best victims. They’re like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints.” He is speaking to a blonde’s visual purity. Something psychological that the audience subconsciously picks up on and the director knows. Innocence is what every good victim in a horror film has. It’s what needs to be corrupted. And who better to corrupt it than the “Prince” of darkness, Dracula. This innocence is what separates the blonde in these films from the other women.
Blondes are also associated with having low intelligence. A “blonde” moment, a ditsy blonde, and bimbo carry connotations of stupidity with lighter hair. The first "dumb blonde" is thought to be an blonde French prostitute named Rosalie Duthé who had a reputation of being beautiful but dumb inspired a play about her called Les Curiosites de la Foire (Paris 1775). Again, who makes the best victim, stupid people. So it would be logical that Dracula would want someone docile who he could control as his main squeeze. Granted he seems to have no trouble controlling anyone with his mesmerizing stare.
Oddly enough, it has been noted that gentlemen do in fact prefer blondes as title of the book, play and films suggest. Scientific studies have delved into this theory. Placing evolutionary biology for one of the possible causes of this phenomenon. Or simply is it, as Clairol put it, blondes just have more fun? A subject Darwin actually was known to have studied at some point during the the 1860’s. As we shall see, perhaps deep down Dracula is just a normal guy like the rest of us. Just undead.
In 1966 Hammer was attempting to bring back a formula that had previously worked for them so well. The duo of Cushing and Lee. Cushing’s intelligent, but flawed Van Helsing paired well to Lee’s silent but sensual Dracula. Skipping the previous film, Brides of Dracula, as a one off this new film picks up where Horror of Dracula left off. Once again Drac is terrorizing a group of individuals who just wanted to stay in a warm castle for free over night, maybe a few nights, or a week, while they were in Eastern Europe on holiday. As with the many other Dracula movies that follow this, a trusty servant aids in Dracula’s rebirth. Prince of Darkness also follows the idea set forth in Horror of Dracula, with one woman initially being bitten giving Drac access to the second woman in the group who also falls under Dracula's spell. As with most of the films this has something to do with revenge. Dracula may be a lover, but he can hold a grudge. Unlike forthcoming films, which often portray a more sinful woman juxtapositional to the pure woman, Prince of Darkness has two lead women who are both pure in nature. One who is almost prudish, Helen, who is corrupted by Dracula to become something of a vixen. And the other who is good hearted, has her husband make a lot of decisions for her, and blonde; becomes the object of Drac's desire. Diana posses qualities all of the main women in these films have in common. Flaxen hair, beauty, and perhaps a nativity of the outside world.
He did it again, Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968) brings the lover of the dark back from the dead Encino Man (1992) style. And he is pissed that someone put a cross on the front door of his castle. This leads him to the home of the perpetrator, the Monsignor. To get his revenge Drac will have the help of a priest, and a red haired bar maid. Eventually though he disposes of his first girl for the Monsignor's niece Maria. Maria is a good girl. Raised by her uncle and her mother after her father died, she is much different from Zena the bar maid. And Paul her boyfriend knows it. Given a choice he chooses Maria, even when in a drunken super after his "meet the parents" dinner didn't go so well. While Dracula is really just out for revenge, he can easily appreciate the beauty and purity of Maria. A purity he attempts to corrupt. But alas, he is thwarted again. At least this time he didn't fall in some thin ice.
In Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) the prince of darkness is brought back to life in doing just that, tasting his blood. Well, only one person had the guts to do it, the other three chickened out and therefore had to die. It's just how it works. How best to get this revenge? By praying on the relatives of those men. Alice is a young woman in love. She doesn't quite yet understand the way the world works. You can't marry someone below your station. Unfortunately for her father, it is the man she loves, Paul, who will be her savior. Alice is convinced to take a shovel to her father's head by Dracula. He uses Alice to lure Lucy, her father, and the others to the abandoned chapel where they are killed. Unfortunately for Dracula he discards Alice just before his is about to win, claiming he has no more use for her. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorn Drac. You should have just kept her hanging a little longer playa.
Alice is not the brightest bulb in the lamp. Her father's tight grip on her has left her without a knowledge of how the world outside works. She has a childlike innocence to her, even when killing. She is corrupted by Dracula, into killing her father, dooming her best friend, and almost killing the man she loves.
In the same year as Taste, Hammer produced Scars of Dracula (1970). This may be the best reanimation of Drac in the series of films I am writing about. If only blood would stop mixing with the ashes of Dracula the world would be a better place. And if only villagers could kill Dracula, well, then this movie wouldn't exist so. Sarah is having a birthday, but the one person she wants to be at the party isn't there. Paul is to busy being picked up by a driver's coach. Are you catching on that all these guys are named Paul? Anyway, after Paul has gone missing Sarah and his brother Simon decide to try and find him. This is of course after an entire village population is decimated by bats, but never mind that.
Sarah and Simon meet Dracula, who is unfortunately having trouble finding good help. Klove is in love with Sarah. She is so beautiful that her picture alone makes men fall for her. He is punished this, and Dracula must now have her for his own. Unfortunately for him, he forgot the cardinal rule of playing out in a thunderstorm. Never raise your metal spike in the air. Always, always, play with the spike on the ground. Sarah is like that of Alice and Maria. She posses a nativity of the world around her. She also has a purity that the other women posses. Unlike Tania who jumps right into bed with Paul. Granted she tries to kill him after.
The final film in our look at Dracula's blonde obsession is Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972). Set in the 19th century at the beginning of the film, it jumps forward to the year 1972. Hence the title. Much like that of Taste the Blood of Dracula, the arrival of Dracula is due to a ritual gone bad. This time its with a group of swinging kids. One of which is the great, great granddaughter of the famous Van Helsing. She is just a buxom blonde looking to have a good time. She is lured into the hands of Drac by her boyfriend, who has been turned. All her girlfriends are pretty much dead. If not for her anthropologist grandfather, who knows all about vampire lore, she would have been Drac's bride for sure. Like the other women in these films, in the end she is saved by a man. In this case it is her grandpa, who has set up a jungle style booby trap for Dracula outside of the church.
Blondes are synonymous with being dumb, naive, oblivious to the world around them, and lots of fun. We see in these films blondes represented as naive, simple, and pure. Perhaps Dracula was looking for a good time, and not knowing the area, he went for what he assumed was the closest available source of fun. Kill the barmaid, the prude, or the slutty eager girl. They don't know how to have a good time. Keep the good girl, she’s blonde. Or perhaps Dracula was pinning throughout all of these films for his first blonde love, Mina. Trying to replace her with new women and getting his heart broke every time.
The Distracted Blogger
I watch movies. I write about them here. I watch more movies. I get nothing else done.
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