Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hammer Horror and the Mists of Ravenloft

I have a confession to make.

Until this past Saturday, I had never seen any horror movies from Hammer Films.

I know, right?

Now that I have (I haven't seen Horror of Dracula, but I did see Prince of Darkness and Dracula A.D. 1972), I can better appreciate some of the set pieces from Ravenloft.  There are two that are really important:

(1) Only the protagonists see the horror.  The outside world might be superstitious, and might live in Transylvania, but they still don't know that Dracula is anything more than a creepy old tyrant.  Note that this is perfect for D&D, because the PCs are frequently written as visitors to the Dread Domains rather than natives (though either option is certainly possible).

(2) It's not spooooooky; it's actually rather pretty.  Ravenloft (and several of the other core Dread Domains) is noted as being rather pretty.  In Hammer, the land doesn't give any indication that anything is wrong.  The trees aren't twisted and gnarled, and the whole place doesn't sag under the weight of its age or evil.  Actually, the beauty is part of the draw to Hammer Films.

The only real downside I can see is that Hammer Films don't have enough burgomasters wearing pickelhauben.  Maybe that's not how things are in your Ravenloft, but my Ravenloft totally has pickelhauben.

Oh, and one more thing.  The obligatory photographic comparison:

This is Christopher Lee as Dracula from Hammer Films.

This is Count Strahd, one of the most iconic villains from Ravenloft (he first appeared in the I6 module and even persists through fourth edition's Open Grave supplement).  He has a bit of a Mick Jagger or Tim Curry vibe, but the hair (at the very least) reinforces the Christopher Lee origin.

This is Peter Cushing as Abraham van Helsing from Hammer Films.

This is Rudolph van Richten, a van Helsing expy from Ravenloft.  Note the cheekbones and hairline and then compare to Peter Cushing.

If somebody ever makes a Ravenloft movie, the casting director would have to get Wayne Pygram to play van Richten.  Obviously.

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