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Bela Lugosi is my all-time fav horror actor and this is HIS film! It is a
masterpiece! While not based on Stoker's novel ("Nosferatu" is much
closer), it is an interesting story, none-the-less!
Almost every line that Bela utters has become a classic ("Children of the night".... etc).
The only fault is that the acting of the hero/heroine is EXTREMELY "wooden", and the "romance" isn't convincing.
Having seen both this film AND the Spanish version, I have to say that (in THIS aspect) the Spanish version is MUCH better; the characters are move "believeable"....BUT.....they didn't have LUGOSI!
BTW...there's an interesting "blooper" in this film, that not many people know about. About 37 mins in, Lugosi leans down on Nina's bed (to bite her in the neck) -- if you look on the RIGHT side of the screen, you'll see a PIECE OF CARDBOARD that was attached to the lampshade, to take the glare off her face! (You've never seen it 'cos Lugosi's acting is RIVETING!). Look for it!
The Transylvanian sequences in this film are a superbly atmospheric,
cobwebbed delight and Lugosi's vampire has a presence unmatched by any other
screen Count with the possible exception of Christopher Lee.
The theatrical origins of the screenplay (it was an adaption of a stageplay based on Stoker's novel) are more apparent in the second half. Unlike the book Dracula at first conceals his vampiric nature from his English victims, which echoes Jeckyll and Hyde somewhat.
Nevertheless I feel the spirit of the book survives in this version better than it does in closer adaptions. Along with 'Vampyr' (1932)and 'Nosferatu'(1922) - also a loose adaption of Stoker - it is probably the best vampire movie ever made.
One kind of film that Universal Studios did better than any other was
the Gothic horror story. Carl Laemmle practically took out a patent on
those films. The sets were already on the lot, he just kept making
Frankenstein, Wolfman, and Dracula films at minimal cost and they made
money for Universal. In fact until Deanna Durbin started singing for
this studio and Abbott&Costello brought over their vaudeville routines,
these horror films were the bread butter of Universal Pictures.
Interestingly enough though Bela Lugosi only played the role of Count Dracula twice on film, he became so overwhelmingly identified with the part that Lugosi's whole life was taken over by the undead Count. He was buried in fact in his Dracula costume.
Lugosi however did portray the vampire Count on Broadway in a play adapted from the Bram Stoker novel three years before he did the screen version for Universal. It was on Broadway that Lugosi first got acclaim for Dracula. Carl Laemmle bought the screen rights to the play after seeing Lugosi on stage and just in time for sound. Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing and Herbert Bunston as Dr. Seward also came over from the Broadway cast.
Although Bela got his career role from this film, Edward Van Sloan as the vampire killer Van Helsing also got the role that people identify him with. Van Sloan practically duplicated his role in The Mummy which also became another series of horror films for Universal.
Oddly enough Lugosi himself killed the Universal horror genre by that second appearance as Count Dracula in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. When those mythic horror monsters became comic foils for Bud and Lou, the demand ceased for these kind of films. It only started again when British Hammer films revived the genre by making them far more explicit and bloody.
Still with that Hungarian accented voice of cultured menace, Bela Lugosi remains for purists the only real Dracula ever put on screen, Christopher Lee notwithstanding.
Like in The Mummy which I've also reviewed good use is made of themes by Tschaikovsky as background music by Director Tod Browning. But it's Bela Lugosi who makes this film a horror picture for the age.
Dracula will be still frightening viewers centuries from now. After all vampires are eternal.
The one that started it all for me all those years ago back in 1987. I first saw Dracula at the age of five and it scared me with fear, especially those eyes. Bela Lugosi's best movie of his career and really brought out the monster in his character. Edward Von Sloan also did a superb job as Van Helsing, the hunter sent to kill the dreaded Dracula. Dwight Frye also did a wonderful job as the demented Renfield, Dracula's faithful servant. Universal hit it on the nail by making this movie and an entire collection involving the Dracula character. Though tame by today's standards in horror movies, Dracula remains as one of the best horror movies of all time and I agree one bit with that comment. A true masterpiece that will forever fright moviegoers young and old.
"Come Children of the night."
This is one of the few horror films that has withstood time, The original Frankenstein was made to look almost bad, and even The Shining has had some trouble and its one twenty-five years old. But Dracula is still a very, very scary film today in 2005. Dracula may not be a great film but it is sure a classic and one that everyone should see. The story is very, very good but not amazing it has its holes but is nearly perfect. The screenplay has good dialogue and characters but the best thing about it is that it understands two things, things that most horror films forget. 1. We are scared more by what we don't see. 2. Silence is often scarier than a lot of screaming and dialogue about scary stuff. The acting is horrible by most of the cast but Bela Lugosi as the infamous Count Dracula himself is amazing. The direction is very good. The visual effects are a little cheesy but hey it was made in 1930. A amazing and truly terrifying horror film
Bela Lugosi was, is, and shall be the greatest Dracula of all time. No modern performance touches his. A truly underrated talent. If he had lived a few more years, he would have been in high demand. Mr Lugosi is the iconic Dracula of the ages. His performance in this picture and many more set the standard for a suave sophisticated villain of diabolical evil. His problem was that he was so completely convincing as Dracula, that his association with the character became, in the audience's mind, natural and eternal. The legion of fans of Bela Lugosi will remain grateful for his untiring efforts to entertain and enthrall us with his stylish and sincere performances even when confronted with a poor script and low budget. The films in some cases were not up to par, but Mr. Lugosi's performance was always above par and professional. The Spanish version of the 1931 Dracula was very well designed and photographed, but it lacked the main ingredient Bela Lugosi. The comparison of these two film should show anyone the power of Lugosi's Dracula. Bram Stoker's Character Dracula was given eternal life by the great eternal BELA LUGOSI.
When I "hear" the silence of this film, I also hear the noise of most other films. This is to say that movies are increasingly noisy -- not only full of manipulating and unnecessary sounds, but full of film composers' scores which desperately try to fill some role in the visual medium (I am a visual artist and also a musician and feel that these guys should take a break). The silence of this film is pregnant with horror and so eerie. Lugosi is also so frightening that in the scenes in which he is absent (or silent), the fear of his return remains. I also think of Van Helsing's silence in his approach to Dracula: without a word, he opens the cigarette case .... There is power and chi in the stillness of this film which is lacking today. There is also, despite from "antique" acting techniques, a lot of sincerity here.
Dracula opens very well with lavish sets and a genuine spooky
atmosphere as a young lawyer named Reinfield visits the Count's
Transylvanian castle to settle some business. But after this, when the
story takes us to London, it seems more disjointed and vague.
I don't understand what has supposed to have happened to Reinfield, why did he go mad? If Dracula bit him then why didn't he die or become a vampire? And the story is a bit confusing. Did Dracula plan on killing certain women when he came to London or did he just go with the flow? Why did he come to London in the first place? It's never really clarified. Which is a bit odd considering all of the expositional dialogue featured in the movie.
Though it sounds incredibly unpurist, I did enjoy this film much more with Philip Glass's new score. The chewed up Swan Lake music at the start just got on my nerves and I feel Glass's music gave the whole film a new sense of consistency and tied it together a little tighter. I would have liked it more if it showed us the gore and killing rather than simply implying it. I know it was the '30s but they still could have made an effort. I see nothing that would shock even a naive '30s audience.
And surely I am not the only one who thinks that Dracula looks a uncannily like Steven Seagal.
Despite its usual *four star* rating, this movie is poorly directed and
has only adequate acting and a flimsy script. The fact that it was
filmed in 1931 does not excuse it. Film editing and directing was
already advanced at the time of its production (Nosferatu--the German
version of Bram Stoker's novel--is a far superior film), so the only
explanation can be that, despite our fond memories, this film is a
Like the play that inspired it, action often takes place off-screen, with the characters offering expository to tell us what they're seeing. The story is hard to follow and director Tod Browning positions his camera like he's filming a staged play.
Legosi's performance is classic, but the ridiculous close-ups with off-target eye-lights ruin any atmosphere established in the opening scenes. 6/10
Everything imaginable has been said about this film which set the standard forever for every classic vampire portrayal. The suave, continental Hungarian Lugosi is unequalled in his role of a lifetime. Helen Chandler is fetching and supremely lovely as the blonde Mina, his lead victim. Dwight Frye goes deleriously mad in his signature performance as Renfield. The sets are magnificent and the photography (and possibly much of the direction) by Karl Freund is toweringly classic. Detractors are quick to call it static and stagy but its mesmerizing power continues to this day. The tragedy of its DVD release is that the print is ungodly dark & murky and MUST be remastered! Are you listening, Universal? Also accompanied by the Spanish version of this film which is visually and cinematically brilliant. The DVD cover features the breathtaking one-sheet poster for the film. But please, somebody at Universal, please clean up the sound and deliver us a lighter, clearer version of this film. DRACULA deserves the best and we lovers of the Great Lugosi deserve the best too! A masterpiece.
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