30 MAY 1958, Page 17

Cinem a

Ketchup, Anybody?

By ISABEL QUIGLY Dracula. (Gaumont.) Orva of my fellow film-critics, finding me green and gasping on a sofa after the press show of Dracula (director : Terence Fisher, `X' certificate), hastened to restore me with tales of her own un- squeamish stomach, toughened, she said, on an early diet of Poe and Isabella, or the Pot of Basil (Keats, she explained, at my startled look). Well, my literary background included those, but it hasn't helped me to face, since I became a film- ed ; t.c, compulsory visible horrors, on the screen. There still seems to me an unbridgeable gap between horrors heard and horrors seen. At the very simplest level, that of the ghoulish limerick, one can swallow (as it were) the young man of Bosham who .took out his eyeballs to wash 'em, or the youtig man. of Blackheath who sat down on a Pair of false teeth, or .the young lady of Twickenham who took off her boots, and was sick ; - -n 'em, or the young monk of Siberia who of fasting grew wearier and wearier (and, in the last line, - - ate .up his father superior), or the most gastronomically Lronomically unfOrtunate of them all, the young man of Bengal who went to a fancy-dress all (he went just for fun dressed up as a bun and a dog ate him up in the hall). But just try seeing any of them and imagination, at least Tine, fairly boggles. In just the same way, I have no objection to reading about werewolves, vampires, robots, mummies, monsters, ghosts, Poltergeists, Things of all kidds; but I do object to seeing them in action.

rake vampires, this week's cheerful subject. We all know the vampire sucks blood and don't, on the e whole, lose much sleep about it. But seeing a vampire sucking at its victims' necks, seeing the wounds it makes in close-up, the blood round its lips and teeth, the exhaustion of its dying victims, etc. etc., is not my idea of a jolly evening, Whose notion. is it? Dracula is clearly aimed at adults, as its `){' certificate proves. With- out trying to make too heavy weather out of it, 11 just murmur in passing that I hate to think What sort of adults.

In fact, this Dracula is a lot less nasty than its Frankenstein predecessor last year, which ended by gleefullY dissolving its creature, alive and kicking, in a bath of acid. Count Dracula merely turns leprous and then decomposes under the in- fluence of a crucifix, limb by limb slowly cor- rupting under our very noses, that's all. This is known as good clean fun in the morgue and gets a pat on the head filial & Manchester Guardian fourth leader. There is one genuinely pleasant thing about the film, though—its occasional gleams of the authentic Gothic-comic-ironic ghoulishness, which is the only proper .attitude to take with horrors. A great bleak hearse with nodding feathers ,on every available knob and beribboned black horses charging about an un- specified Alpine landscape; an undertaker (Miles Malleson for about two glorious minutes) ,laughing uproariously at his own funeral, jokes before an unamused audience.: these have the right tone, the deadpan tone of : Willie, in one of his nice new sashes,

Fell in the fire and was burnt to ashes,

And now, although the room grows chilly, I haven't the heart to poke poor Willie.

But they are rare gleams in the long, dark, blood- splashed business. Blood, the vampire's nourish- ment, is the film's obsessional symbol—dripping over the credits, squirting up over the hero's hands as he bangs a stake into a screaming vam pire's heart, hanging voluptuously about the sated. vampire's lips like traces of chocolate cake on a stuffed schoolboy. Now this must require a pretty specialised audience, for the general film audience can be surprisingly squeamish. Four years ago an excellent Red Cross film was made to attract blood donors. Its tone was quiet and clinical: it simply showed the donor arriving at the hos- pital, having his blood taken (a not very dreadful business, as anyone who has had it done knows) and going away again; not a drop of visible blood around and all in black and white anyway. But at its first showing in a public, non-specialised cinema so many people fainted that it had to be taken off. Well, here you have it red and juicy and over-lifesize as ketchup. Who wants it? Someone, I suppose.