Yes, a tie… these are two very minor vampires who don’t get to do too much with their powers, but they grab you (the audience) really hard emotionally, and make you feel sorry for them. It’s an emotional depth you don’t often get with vampires of that vintage (1960s) or at all, really.
First up is the Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt), from the movie Brides of Dracula (1960). The title is something of a misnomer, since Christopher Lee refused to do a Dracula sequel, and though Peter Cushing reprises his role as van Helsing, the vampire is the blond Baron Meinster. The movie opens with a naive young French teacher, Marianne, going to the school for girls where she has just been hired. When the coach stops for a rest, she meets the elderly Baronness, who invites her to stay for the night.
At the castle, the old woman reveals that her son is a lunatic and locked up in the tower. Horrified, Marianne goes to speak with him, and he convinces her to unlock his silver chains. The Baroness intervenes before her can bite the girl, but instead the Baron turns his attentions to his mother– enraged at being locked up for so many years. Later, van Helsing arrives at the castle and is greeted by the now vampiric Baroness. She rages at her inability to destroy her son– the complacency which doomed her to becoming a vampire herself. She asks him to release her from her curse. Van Helsing hesitates a moment (obviously this is well outside his comfort-zone) but then agrees. The look of joy and relief on her face is searing.
The viewer and van Helsing both feel like they got a kick in the guts. Mercy (unless they look to Portia as their source) isn’t a theme usually tossed around with much seriousness in horror movies, yet here is a character asking to be dealt with mercifully, and the other characters are as rattled as the audience. And that’s reason enough to take out this movie and watch it.
However, be as unmerciful with the comedy relief as you want. That is truly unredeemable.