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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

There are far worse things awaiting man than death

Author: GoodBen from United States
2 October 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I found this movie to be better than some of the vampire movies today. Compared to more contemporary vampire films, this one had more suspense than gore, but still manages to be very effective.

I like how there was a good vs. evil theme between Dracula and Dr.Van Helsing. It seemed to elevate the story beyond just a simple series of slasher scenes. Also, it was interesting to hear Van Helsing's knowledge on vampires and how to protect yourself from them.

I thought Bela Lugosi was perfect as Dracula. His movements, with his exaggerated gestures and his dialogue really get you into the character. His acting is quite amazing that he almost seems like his is Dracula, rather than just playing Dracula.

The only problem I had with the film was the ending. I though Dracula should have put up a better fight, rather than running and hiding in his coffin awaiting his demise as Dr. Van Helsing takes his time to get a stake to stab him in the heart with. After the buildup through out the whole movie, I was expecting a longer more dramatic ending. Overall, however, I enjoyed the film and understand why it's a classic.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Lugosi Adds His Seductive Charisma to the Otherworldly Count

6/10
Author: Brian Hadsell from Illinois
16 September 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This canonical adaptation of Stoker's 1897 novel owes surprisingly little to its antecedent. Its primary source of inspiration was a 1924 stage play loosely based on the novel. Renfield (Dwight Frye) finds himself Transylvania to finalize the sale of Carfax Abby to Count Dracula, who the locals believe (correctly) is a vampire. Despite their desperate warnings, Renfield continues on to Castle Dracula, where he is enslaved and made insane by the vampiric count. They make their way to England, where Dracula sets his appetite on Mina (Helen Chandler). It's up to her fiancé (David Manners), her father (Herbert Bunston) and the illustrious Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan).

Produced in 1931 - shortly after the advent of sound (1927) - this early talkie bears the marks of its technological limitations. Non-diagetic sound (such as background music) is entirely absent from the film (save for the excerpt from "Swan Lake" that's played over the opening credits). While this sets the grave tone of the film, it leaves something missing to the contemporary viewer (which is why I would recommend the version of the film that features an astounding score by Philip Glass).

Likewise, the acting is non-stylistically stiff; actors tend to not move around very much while speaking (due to the difficulty in capturing their dialog at the time). While this might add to the effect of the count being an upper-class gentleman, it mostly just prevents the actors from getting too into their roles.

That said, however, the film features the finest early-sound acting I've yet to see. Bela Lugosi is absolutely hypnotic as Dracula, adding a romantic charm to the character that Max Shreck (Count Orlok in 1922's Nosferatu) could never give to the role. He presents a suave, sophisticated killer that, unlike Orlok, can blend into a society (both attending the theater and earning social invitations). As such, Lugosi's Dracula is a much more covert threat than his cinematic predecessor. Edward Van Sloan gives a terse performance as the stoic Professor Van Helsing, foiling Dracula's seductive charisma with reserved tones and jilting movement. The scene in which both characters square off against one another is the most memorable in the film.

Dwight Frye positively scene-stealing as Renfield. He is able to articulate the proper young Victorian gent while also expressing his deepest levels of insanity later in the film. His wild-eyed stares (set against his maddening laughter) surpasses even Lugosi's own hypnotic close-ups. Despite playing the third-banana character, Frye gives the film's most unsettling and memorable performance.

Enough cannot be set for the film's art direction as, aside from "Frankenstein" (1931), it gives us the most singularly enchanting settings of the decade. Castle Dracula is filled with vivid Gothic detail and lush extravagance. The stone stairwell where Dracula greets Renfield is haunting, even by today's standards. Standing in stark contrast to the decrepit ruins of the castle is the manor of Dr. Seward (Mina's father), which is clean, bright and modern (standing as the cultural foil of Dracula's Old World origins).

While contemporary viewers might find the action a bit tame and the lack of background music a little frustrating, this canonical film deserves its status in the popular mindset. Fans of classic horror (1931-1941), vampires and the incredible creative talents that worked on this feature will find little to dislike with "Dracula."

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Dracula (1931)

6/10
Author: Cameron Rivers (crivers123) from United States
13 May 2011

Dracula (1931) is most definitely a classic, but that doesn't necessarily make it all that good. I personally found the film to be somewhat boring. I feel that this movie had a disadvantage as being the first film adaptation of the Dracula story, the later adaptations had a better grip on how to make Dracula his scariest. Movies during this time didn't use much realistic violence, but I feel that the film could have used more gore. The lighting is definitely unique throughout the film and sets the dreary mood for Castle Dracula as well as the boat trip and other scenes. I feel they did too many close-ups on Dracula's eyes, the effect started to get old. Overall it was an okay film.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Horror in Subtlety

8/10
Author: Julianne Ruff from United States
16 February 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Unlike most movies of the vampire genre in today's society, this one, the original, is truly frightening. There is no color, almost no romance, and the sets are a tad dull, but the audience will be more terrified by the effects of this movie than anything, which is what a movie should be able to do. The lighting was superb whenever the camera was on Bela Lugosi. The light in and around his eyes and nothing else gave the audience the sense of true and pure evil. The movie created an oxymoron in the light. Light is supposed to represent goodness and safety, but with the light on Dracula's eyes, the audience felt no such security. While lights helped to magnify the horror of the of the movie, the way Reinfeld stared became just as unnerving. There is something about insanity and craziness to an audience that frightens them even more. Perhaps it is not being able to understand what is going through their mind, but as audience members, we knew exactly what was going through Reinfeld's mind. Truly a subtly horrifying movie.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Like its anti-hero, this film keeps getting older but refuses to die.

Author: JoeytheBrit from www.2020-movie-reviews.com
23 August 2010

How much, I wonder, does a film's reputation influence its user rating on IMDb? Quite a lot, I reckon, judging by the 7.7 out of 10 this one enjoyed in August 2010. The fact is this isn't a 7.7 film – it's a 5.5 to 6.0 film at best. Back in 1931 it caused a sensation in the States, but when you look back at the vastly superior Nosferatu, made nearly a decade earlier, you have to wonder why audiences thought it was so terrific.

The film does start with some appropriately atmospheric scenes – particularly the ones in Dracula's cellar with the low-vaulted ceiling and the three brides awakening from their daylight sleep. Bela Lugosi looks elegant in a slight dissolute way, but is as far removed from the vampire Nosferatu (and Bram Stoker's image of him) as you could imagine. Nevertheless, his appearance here served as the template for all vampires right through to the eighties. He never blinks, apparently, and director Tod Browning often focuses on this unblinking gaze to good effect.

The story, however, moves as fast as a one-legged man in a sea of molasses. Professor van Helsing, who looks more like a cuddly old uncle than his last incarnation as vampire hunter cum action hero, spends too much of his time talking about the fate that befalls anyone who comes under Dracula's control rather than actually doing anything about it, and the horrific element of the film amounts to a few shots of Lugosi closing in on a sleeping maiden's throat - hardly enough to give you nightmares. It's left to Dwight Frye, giving the performance of his career as the ill-fated Renfield, to inject some life into the story, but sadly he can't prevent the film from showing its age.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The real Dracula....

7/10
Author: jadedalex from United States
8 June 2010

The classic Bram Stoker novel has been filmed many times, and the count has undergone various transformations. But when all is said and done, there is only one Dracula, and that is Bela Lugosi. His "Dracula" portrayal is classic.

Dracula, after all, is one of the "undead", and the pasty look of Lugosi, coupled with his theatricality (one might say "hamminess"), pretty much defines the character.

"Dracula" has its moments. The brief scene with his brides (it's a shame they didn't get a little sexier here. This was after all, pre-code Hollywood). Dwight Frye as the pathetic Reinfeld gives an inspired demented performance.

Unfortunately, for all of its visual style, this original "Dracula" bores me. But there's been something wrong with just about every version of "Dracula" ever made.

Possibly delivering the horror (and the sexual theme) most adroitly is Hammer Film's "Horror of Dracula" in 1958. Christoper Lee makes a terrifying count. But, for one who is "undead", Lee's Dracula is a creature of immense strength and powerful libido. In short, he's a far cry from anyone looking "undead".

Frank Langella's virile Dracula features a vampire with a George Hamilton tan. There are some eerie moments in this "Dracula", but Frank is simply too "studly" to be believed as one of the undead.

Gary Oldham's 1992 take in "Bram Stoker's Dracula" was amusing to me. Forget any of the legends of the vampire, Gary's count can walk around in daylight, but only if he wears his Foster Grants.

I recall Jack Palance doing a television performance of the count. Frankly, I can't really remember it very well.

The vampire myth is wonderfully spooky. I remember when I was a kid, I wanted to be a rock star. Nowadays, kids want to grow up to be vampires. The myth has a powerful hold on our subconscious that no other monster has. A vampire is pretty much sex and death in one fell swoop.

The story has been done to death and the many vampire movies are for the most part silly. I have too much respect for the original book (which, by the way, is even more boring than Lugosi's movie) to see the classic story done comically and with so much license taken with the "real" legend.

I must confess a liking for "Nosferatu the Vampire" with Klaus Kinski. This has Kinski looking quite like the original "Nosferatu". There is much humor, which for me works.

I have the restored version of the original "Nosferatu" on tape but I have not viewed it as yet. Even the edited version of this silent seems spookier than Lugosi's.

But as I am a purist, and an ancient one at that, my first glimpse of the character of Count Dracula was at a young age when the TV networks would slip in a horror movie before the six o'clock news. And it was the face of Lugosi that was indelibly imprinted in my mind as "Dracula". Too bad that every time I watch it, I do get dulled by the movie's talkiness.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Listen to them. Armadillos of the night. What snuffling sounds they make.

6/10
Author: BA_Harrison from Hampshire, England
31 March 2010

Despite bearing little physical resemblance to Bram Stoker's literary character, Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula defined the look and feel of the vampire for decades; from countless black and white horrors, to George Hamilton's bloodsucker in Love At First Bite, to Sesame Street's number loving Count, Lugosi's influence is everywhere.

The unfortunate result of such an iconic performance is that Tod Browning's 1931 cinematic adaptation of the book—in which Lugosi played the infamous count— now feels like a work of self parody. This fact, combined with Browning's rather naive direction (cinema was in its infancy, the art of storytelling was still evolving, and some shots are extremely clumsy), plus a noticeable lack of soundtrack, makes Dracula an often embarrassingly dated affair that is hard to take seriously at times.

Thank heavens for the superb Gothic atmosphere, impressive set designs, a few classic lines guaranteed to warm the heart of any avid horror geek ("Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make."), and a chilling turn from Dwight Frye as Dracula's loyal slave Renfield, all of which go to ensure that, even though the film isn't the flawless masterpiece many claim it to be, it still offers enough for fans of vintage horror to enjoy.

After all, if the cinematography, acting, and direction fail to impress, there's always the rubber bats, vampire wasp (?!?!), clockwork spider and family of Transylvanian armadillos to keep the viewer amused.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Part of our common cultural iconography.

9/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
8 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A couple of things always occur to me during the opening scenes. One is that Renfield is a moron for ignoring the villagers' pleas for him to stay off the Borgo Pass on Walpurgisnacht. "Dah CASTLE? Castle DRAH-coo-la????" Why take chances? Especially when Renfield notices that his carriage has no driver and the horses are being led by a bat. Isn't THAT reason enough to bail out? Then there's the castle itself. I frankly admire the decor and maintenance of the interior. It's got genuine atmosphere, not the fake atmosphere of, say, the Taj Mahal Motel in Los Angeles or the Kansas City Tiki.

But the surroundings and the host are spooky enough that when Count Dracula says, "I am Dracula. I bid you velcome." And, "Da spider -- spinnink his vamp faw da unvary fly. Da blood is da LIFE, Meester Renfield," that would do the job for most people.

But then Renfield is a little peculiar to begin with, if you ask me. An effete wimpy character, shorter than anyone else in the film, ladies included. And offered that drugged wine by Dracula. I feel the same protective way towards him as I do towards Janet Leigh when she's stepping naked into the shower in "Psycho." No matter how many times I've seen it I always want to shout out a warning. Janet Leigh was a canny and determined woman, whereas Renfield seems to earn a kind of Darwinian extinction for his wanton trust.

What a weird flick. It moves with lethal slowness. I don't mean the pace is slack or that anything lasts too long. I mean that the dialog and the action within scenes seem to take place at almost glacial tempo. The only abrupt motions are when Dracula jerks away from wolf bane or a crucifix or slaps a mirror out of Van Helsing's hands. Now if this were a comedy, or anything other than a horror film, that deliberate pace would be the kiss of death. But it suits "Dracula." Things, even the most awful, strike us as taking place in slow motion the way they sometimes do in a dream -- not just a nightmare but an oneiristic catastrophe.

I don't think anyone could have handled the part of Dracula as well as Lugosi. There is his cadaverous makeup, for one thing, and his manner -- always polite, always smiling, reeking of moral corruption. And his speech! God, it's exquisite! The rhythm, the pauses, the inflections that inform his lines. In a battle of wills, he points his curled and claw-like fingers towards Van Helsing and says, "Come here." When Van Helsing hesitates Lugosi extends his arm, lowers his voice, and commands him, "Come . . . HER." ("Her", not "here.") I don't know whether these stylistic touches were witting or not on Lugosi's part because, as I understand it, he learned to speak English phonetically for his first performances. At any rate he gives his lines the most curious contours heard on any screen.

The whole movie is really an exercise in style because the plot doesn't make any sense. Example. Is Renfield turned into a vampire or no? If not, why does he thirst only for blood, even if it's the blood of flies? If so, why does he run around in the daytime and how does Dracula kill him? Well, as long as we're asking questions, what are armadillos and possums doing in the basement of Dracula's castle in Transylvania? And what did Dracula and his wives eat between visits from English real estate brokers? I wondered the same thing about mosquitoes once when I was in muskeg country in the Yukon, a hundred miles or more from the nearest large warm blooded animal, and found the place was swarming with them.

I must add too that I didn't care much for the way Count Dracula managed his menage in Transylvania. There were at least three wives, which is not a bad idea in itself, but he treated them pretty shabbily, shooing them away from Renfield's unconscious body so he could get first dibs. Did he leave them behind? At least one of them because as he says to Renfield, "I am only taking vit me three, uh -- boxes." I just watched the DVD with the score by Philip Glass, all strings, and all his usual repetitiveness. Glass may over-score the film a little but it's better than the original, and it's in 5.1.

If you haven't seen this yet, you must. And don't get into a battle of wills with me. It's for your own good. "Dracula" has become part of our vernacular culture and if you don't know it, you'll miss some great stuff that will crop up in various contexts from time to time. "I never drink -- vine." Any person who claims to be cultivated knows where that line comes from.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

An inhuman monster, an anti-climatic movie

4/10
Author: drwayne05 from Canada
2 October 2006

Given the advances that film-making made between the original Nosferatu and Browning's Dracula, I expected more. We get good but under-utilized Gothic sets, spooky close-ups of Lagosi's eyes, and acceptable performances from most of the cast, but the cinematography and effects are flat. I didn't expect a 90s-style editing pace to pick up the tension and the music does more to motivate anxiety than this pre-Psycho film is credited with. Nonetheless, even the director seems to lose interest with the story once Dracula leaves his castle in Transylvania and he ends the film, perhaps thankfully, prematurely quick.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Classic Bela before the Ed Wood years.

10/10
Author: jed-estes from United States Kentucky Hancock
30 August 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is beautiful. I love how it has so little dialog but yet says so much. And there's Bela, one of the best actors of his time. Bela could give anyone working today a run for there money. Tod Brownings direction is wondrous as well. How he manged to do what he did when he did it will always amaze me. The matte paintings look so real and detailed that you almost feel like your there. They will always beat out CGI. You have to go no further than the 1992 remake to see that. Look how horrible that film is. These two films should be shown side by side for film students to show how much better it is to show so little. In this Bela gives his career performance and you can see that he has not degenerated to his lowest points that would later consume him. Even though the Ed Wood films that Bela would partake in later are good movies you can see that he has lost his spirit in those films. Not so with this movie, his integrity is intact all through this film. Watch this film as it will probably not scare you, but it will show you that there is a better way to make films.

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