Today is the 116th anniversary of the birth of the British director, Terence Fisher.
Though Fisher had a long career as both an editor and a director and he worked in almost every genre, he achieved immortality with the horror films that he directed for Hammer Films. Fisher’s horror films took the monsters that had previously been made famous by Universal Studios and resurrected them with a pop art spin. Regardless of whether the subject matter was Frankenstein, the Mummy, Dracula, or some other fearsome creature, Fisher brought a vibrant splash of color to their stories. (Often that color was blood red.) At a time when American horror films were still hobbled by the production code and tended to hide their themes under several heavy layers of subtext, Terence Fisher brought Hammer’s stories to life with explicit violence and unapologetic sexuality. When Christopher Lee’s Dracula stared at a victim with lustful eyes, there was little doubt about what was actually happening. Once Fisher started working for Hammer, he never left the horror genre. Personally, I would have liked to have seen what he could have done with a Bond film.
Today’s scene that I love comes from one of the first of the Fisher-directed Hammer horror films, 1958’s Horror of Dracula. (In the UK, it was simply know as Dracula.) Christopher Lee may not appear in this scene but it’s still one of the creepiest moments in the film. In this scene, Lucy (Carol Marsh) returns from the dead and, sporting a new set of fangs, attempts to get her former maid’s daughter, Tania, to come for a walk with her. Thanks to both Fisher’s direction and Marsh’s unforgettable performance, this is a scene that sticks with you even after the film ends. Whenever I see Lucy peeking out from behind that tree and calling out to little Tania, my mind flashes back to when I was in the 1st grade and a police officer stopped by the classroom to ask if we all knew what to do if an adult who we didn’t know tried to get us to go off with them. This scene definitely gives off stranger danger vibes and it’s all the more creepy as a result.