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Stilted, Stagey, and yet still Superb.....
BaronBl00d15 February 1999
"I bid you welcome," "I never drink wine," "Children of the night...what music they make," and of course "I am Dracula" are memorable lines that resonate throughout horror films, literature, art, etc... throughout the 20th century because of a landmark film made in 1931 starring Bela Lugosi and directed by Tom Browning. This film was the birth of the horror film as we know it. Its importance can not be underestimated. Dracula is a wonderful film for so many reasons, but first let's look at its many faults.

The film is by today standards very antiquated. It has almost no soundtrack, stage acting for the most part, limited special effects, and a slow pacing. It has long parts of little action and lots of chat. It shows little while leaving much to one's imagination(a plus for those like myself that are good at envisioning what is not shown). With all this not going for it, why is Dracula such a classic? Why is it considered to be such a great film and a great horror film?

The answer is that even with all these flaws (and bear in mind some of these flaws are not flaws for all) the film offers a rich story in an eerie, atmospheric way. Bela Lugosi was Dracula. He was the model for oh so many vampires to come. His gesturing, his deliberation in speech, his facial movements all created a vampire never to be forgotten. Despite Lugosi, however, is the real genius of the film....Tod Browning. Browning created a movie and a setting hitherto imagined and conjured on a screen. Browning was the man behind the camera that created the cob-webbed stairs of the Dracula castle and the squalid emptiness of the crypt. He created the ghoulish female vampires thirsting for blood. Dracula is not just a film to see, it is film history and should be viewed with that in mind and not put under a microscope of today's languishing tastes.
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I am Dracula....I Bid You Welcome
bsmith55522 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
"Dracula" is a true cinematic classic that still hold up well today more than 70 years after its initial release. Bram Stoker's novel had been filmed before, most notably the 1922 German masterpiece "Nosferatu" with Max Schrenk playing the vampire as a monstrous rat like creature with no redeeming qualities.

Bela Lugosi rose to instant fame with his portrayal of Dracula, a part he had been playing on stage for several years. Lugosi's interpretation is that of a suave and sophisticated nobleman with a hypnotic stare and a cultured Hungarian accent. This made the character more appealing to the ladies while at the same time terrifying to the audience when we see the monster revealed beneath.

The story has the tragic Renfield (Dwight Frye) arriving in Transylvania to complete a transaction with the Count which will allow him to lease a English castle. Before they leave for England by ship, Dracula turns Renfield into a quasi-vampire who obeys his master's every command. Upon arriving in England it is discovered that all of the ship's crew have been murdered and only a raving lunatic of a Renfield remain alive.

Renfield is committed to a sanitarium run by Dr. Seward (Herbert Bunston). Dracula seeks him out and discovers Seward's comely daughter Mina (Helen Chandler) and her friend Lucy. Dracula quickly "kills" Lucy and sets his sights upon Mina whose fiance Jonathon Harker (David Manners) is baffled by her sudden change in health and personality. Seward consults with a colleague Dr. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) who quickly identifies the source of the problem as a vampire. They soon expose Dracula for what he is and......

The atmospheric sets of this movie set the tone for the story. Dracula's castle is dark, damp and web filled and his cellar is positively scary. So too is his English manor with the classic winding stair case leading to the cellar. The opening theme I found to be equally foreboding and frightening. I wonder how many of those early film goers realized that it was adapted from the classic ballet "Swan Lake".

Bela Lugosi should have become a major star after this film, but did not. His first mistake was the turning down the role of the monster in "Frankenstein" (1931). He did enjoy moderate success in the first half of the 30s playing various mad scientists and criminal masterminds. But he also accepted roles in several "poverty row" quickies which did little to advance his career. He had a brief return to glory in 1939 when he played "Ygor" in "The Son of Frankenstein" and again in 1948 again as Dracula in "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein". With his well documented personal demons, Lugosi wound up his career in cheap "B' movies ultimately becoming the "star" in some of Ed Wood's "classics". Oddly enough, though he was forever identified with the Dracula character, he only played him on screen twice, in 1931 and 1948 as noted. He did play "Dracula like" characters in MGM's "Mark of the Vampire" (1935) and in Columbia's "Return of the Vampire" (1943).

Dwight Frye almost steals "Dracula" from Lugosi with his portrayal of Renfield. He takes him from a young ambitious businessman to a half crazed lunatic and back again. After this and his role of Fritz the hunchback in "Frankenstein", this great character actor never again achieved such heights. A real tragedy. Oddly enough, Stoker's book portrays Renfield as a minor character and it is Jonathon Harker who makes the unfortunate trip to Transylvania.

Also filmed in a Spanish language version.
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Bela is king! Great Universal classic!
Smells_Like_Cheese10 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Thinking back to 1931, it's hard to imagine what going to the movie theater was like for people. It was something new and exciting; instead of having 6 movies open in one weekend, they were lucky if 6 movies opened in one month. Horror movies were nothing new in 1931, but one's with sound were and Universal Studios cranked out hit after hit after hit, one of the first being was Dracula. Not too many people realize that these films created exactly what we think of the typecast today with the most popular monsters. Dracula, if you've read the book, is nothing like what Bela created: the cape, the accent, the charm, the presence, the looks, etc. This was the first time we ever had a romantic Dracula, the silent film released before called Nosferatu was a monster, Bela created a Dracula that could charm you one second and the next he's draining the life out of you. Dracula is one of the most memorable movies of all time and it's not hard to see why when you watch it.

Renfield, a British solicitor, travels to the Carpathian Mountains. He enters a castle welcomed by charming but odd nobleman Count Dracula, who unbeknownst to Renfield, is a vampire. They discuss Dracula's intention to lease Carfax Abbey in London, where he intends to travel the next day. Dracula's three wives suddenly appear and start to move toward Renfield to attack him, but Dracula waves them away, and he attacks Renfield himself. Aboard the Vesta, bound for England, Renfield has now become a raving lunatic slave to Dracula, who is hidden in a coffin and gets out for feeding on the ship's crew. Some nights later at a London theater, Dracula meets Dr. Seward, who introduces his daughter Mina, her fiancé John Harker, and the family friend Lucy Weston. Lucy is fascinated by Count Dracula, and that night, after Lucy has a talk with Mina and falls asleep in bed, Dracula enters her room as a bat and feasts on her blood. She dies in an autopsy theater the next day after a string of transfusions, and two tiny marks on her throat are discovered. Later on Mina has the same bite marks and now the men call on Professor Van Helsing to take on Dracula and save Mina before she meets the same fate as Lucy.

Despite the fact that it might not be as terrifying as it was back in the day, you have to consider that this movie made people faint in the theater and gave them nightmares for years to come. The film does have flaws, Lucy dies and that's it, she never comes back which was interesting that Mina was becoming a vampire when bitten, but Lucy doesn't. However, the atmosphere of the film still holds up incredibly well, Dracula's castle has the perfect shadows and isolation that could send shivers down anyone's spine. Makes you wonder how the heck Renfield could stay in that place? I would've camped outside, especially when Dracula comes down and says in that creepy voice "I bid you welcome"; would you trust someone like that while looking at your neck like it was a Thanksgiving turkey leg? Bela gave a terrific performance that will be remembered for all time. But also much credit to Dwight Frye who plays Renfield and still has one of the most horrific images of all time when they open the door on the ship to see him laughing manically with his eyes wide open. Not to mention his scene with the maid where he's laughing at her, she faints and he crawls towards her. You know what? I lied; this is still a scary movie and I will continue to watch it every Halloween. Bela is king and made Dracula one of the most terrifying monsters in movie history.

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A horror classic that still thrills and enchants! The most important and influential vampire movie ever made.
Infofreak12 April 2003
It's almost impossible not to love 'Dracula', a horror milestone that is the most important and influential vampire movie ever made. Bela Lugosi became a cinematic legend after this movie, and his portrayal of Dracula basically invented the modern vampire as we know it. Murnau's silent classic 'Nosferatu' was an obvious influence on Todd Browning, but while Browning was no James Whale (the innovative British director who made 'Frankenstein' for Universal a few months after this) he added a lot of his own style and ideas to the project, and Counts Orloff and Dracula are completely different kinds of creatures. Lugosi made his Count sophisticated, attractive and sexy, and this is what made this movie such a sensation at the time, and what helps make it still a wonderful viewing experience. Lugosi's performance is one of the greatest in horror history. Some of the other actors in the cast are a bit shaky but Edward Van Sloan as Van Hesling is excellent and Dwight Frye's Renfield (a different character from the book) is also memorable. Both actors would reappear in 'Frankenstein'. 'Dracula' is an important landmark horror movie, but even better, is still a fantastic viewing experience seventy years later. Don't just watch it because it's a classic, watch it because it's wonderful entertainment!
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For my money,the scariest movie ever.
SmileysWorld31 October 2001
I suppose we all have differing opinions on what is scary and what isn't.For my money though,this film tops my list.I have seen many a horror film,but few have made me shiver as this one did.The creepy silence virtually throughout the movie,coupled with Bela Lugosi's intimidating presence and Dwight Frye's chilling performance as Renfield(remember the eyes and the laughter?)give me chill bumps on top of chill bumps just thinking about it.Yes,the movie has flaws, but they are few and far between.Hey,it was 1931 after all,and movie making was still in it's infancy.I have seen the various opinions on this film,good and bad,and while it may not top a lot of people's list when it comes to scariest movie ever,it sure tops mine.Bone chilling!
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Still the champ
hausrathman11 March 2004
Bela Lugosi forever captures the role of a certain undead Transylvanian count who takes a trip to London in the first legitimate version of the classic Bram Stoker novel. Despite many attempts by many talented film makers, I believe this version, directed by Tod Browning, remains the definitive take on the often-filmed novel. But why? Is it simply nostalgia? Granted, I do fondly remember staying up late as a child watching this film on Ghost Host theater and finding myself suitably frightened. However, if I were the same age today, would I find the film as effective? Would a steady diet of more modern and explicit horror films made me too jaded to enjoy the more subtle charms of this film? I hope not, but I could see how it might. The film is slow, and its slowness is further emphasized by the absence of an under score. It is stagey - being as it was more influenced by the stage play than the novel itself. Also, the story plays itself out too quickly. Van Helsing manages to figure everything out and dispatch the count in about two seconds. There simply isn't much suspense - and even less gore or violence. Yet it remains the champ. Why? The main reason is Lugosi himself. He gives the performance of a lifetime. He truly inhabits the role and is genuinely creepy. The rest of the cast, particularly Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing and Dwight Frye as Renfield, support him admirably. However, when I watch the old Universal horror films nowadays, I find myself really enjoying the atmospheric sets and lighting. Yes, there is still much to love about Dracula today. (As long as you avoid the optional Philip Glass score on the DVD!)
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Bela Lugosi in the role he was born to play!
ACitizenCalledKane4 January 2005
While Tod Browning's Dracula is not the definitive take on the most famous vampire of all time, it is possibly the most memorable one. This is not due to Browning's technical achievements or directorial wizardry, by ANY means. It is due to Bela Lugosi's career-defining portrayal of the title character. Born in what is now Lugoj, Romania, Lugosi brings to the part the flavor of his homeland, making him more believable as Dracula. This other-worldly aesthetic helped to make his performance what many consider the ultimate incarnation of Stoker's Dracula. Having played the Count in Hamilton Deane's Broadway version of Dracula, which started in 1927, Bela Lugosi was more than prepared for the role when it was time to commit it to film. Still struggling with the English language, however, he had to learn his lines phonetically. European accent in tact, he was able to deliver such memorable lines as, "I bid you welcome," "Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make," and, of course, "I am Dracula." His performance alone is reason enough to watch this monster movie classic. If only the rest of the film was as spectacular as Lugosi. Dwight Frye's Renfield, while perhaps a little too over-the-top, is still another highlight to the film, and even Edward Van Sloan's Van Helsing is enough to challenge the might of Count Dracula. The rest of the film is rather flat to me. Now, I know it was made in 1931, and that, at the time, it horrified audiences, but I still stand by my opinion that the overall movie pales in comparison to Bela Lugosi's performance. Everyone else just seemed to be going through the motions, and it seems especially evident while Helen Chandler and David Manners are on screen. They just aren't convincing. I'm not saying that their performances ruin the film. It is still a classic, and certainly worth a viewing, but if you are in the mood for a vampire movie that is worthy of Bram Stoker's name, look no further than F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu. It is much more convincing and even scarier than Tod Browning's Dracula, despite being nine years older and silent. All in all, though, one cannot overlook the stellar performance of Bela Lugosi in the role he was born to play!
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The definitive Dracula
tomgillespie200230 April 2011
One of the most iconic and popular characters in film history, Dracula has taken many forms, in many genres, and performed to various quality. Although not the first film to feature the character of Count Dracula (a couple of lost silent films and F.W. Murnau's unauthorised version Nosferatu came before), Bela Lugosi's portrayal of the menacing and seductive Count is commonly seen as the definitive.

The story is known to most – solicitor Renfield (Dwight Frye) arrives at Count Dracula castle at night, despite prior warnings by the nearby locals. He is greeted by Dracula, who, unknown to Renfield, is a vampire. Upon arrival, he pricks his finger, causing it to bleed which visibly excites Dracula until he spies the crucifix hanging around Renfield's neck. Renfield is drugged by Dracula and the two travel to London the next day by boat. When the ship arrives, only Renfield remains on the boat, now seemingly a lunatic and a slave to the Count. He is hospitalised while Dracula becomes entranced by a woman named Mina (Helen Chandler), who is engaged to John Harker (David Manners). As circumstances grow stranger, Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) becomes convinced that the Count is indeed a vampire, and that he must be destroyed.

The film would be the beginning of a long run of successful horror movies made by Universal, which would be hits critically and commercially, and many are nowadays considered classics of the genre. Although falling short of the outright perfection of James Whale's Frankenstein (also 1931) and its sequel Bride Of Frankenstein (1935), Dracula still proves a great adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel. Lugosi's performance is the definitive Dracula, his minimal movements and slow, pronounced dialogue, spoken with his Hungarian accent proves an unnerving Count. I'm not forgetting Max Schrek's Nosferatu, while amazing for its sheer dedication, it was hardly the Dracula of the book.

Director Tod Browning, who up to the point of making Dracula had made over 50 feature films, controls the film superbly, and opts for slow, menacing darkness rather than loud jump scenes and special effects. It builds up the mood gradually, and with Lugosi's fantastic central performance, makes for an atmospheric experience. It's a pity that Browning would almost end his career the next year with the commercially disastrous Freaks, which I consider a true great of the horror genre.

It's just a shame that the film's final scene is rather soft and anti- climatic, jarring with the brilliance that came before. However, it remains an excellent film overall, and the film that would spawn many memorable films for Universal studious.

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Classic Movie from Universal Studios
claudio_carvalho16 February 2005
The real estate agent Renfield (Dwight Frye) travels to Transilvania for a business meeting with Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi), who is interested in Carfax Abbey in London. Renfield is converted in a servant of Dracula and prepares his master's ship travel to his new a property. While navigating, Dracula sucks the blood and kills all the crew of the vessel. Once in London, Dracula sucks the blood of Lucy Weston (Frances Dade) and she becomes an undead. He feels also a kind of passion for Mina Seward (Helen Chandler), the daughter of Dr. Jack Seward (Herbert Bunston) and fiancé of Jonathan Harker (David Manners). Dracula sucks her blood, Mina has a weird behavior and health problem, and Dr. Seward calls a specialist, Prof. Abraham Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan), to diagnose the mysterious problem with Mina. Although being a scientist, Van Helsing believes in the supernatural, and tries to save Mina from turning into a vampire.

"Dracula" is a spectacular well-known classic vampire story, with a magnificent transposition of the Bram Stoker's novel to the cinema. Although being a 1931 black and white movie, the photography and the camera work are excellent. There are at least two magnificent scenes: the long traveling of the camera in the sanatorium, from the yard to Remfield's room and the long stairway in the end of the movie to Dracula's tomb. The performances are quite theatrical, as usual in that period, and the film does not show any explicit violent scene. I dare to say that probably it is Bela Lugosi's best performance. "Universal Studios" released in Brazil a wonderful box, with the shape of a coffin, called "Classic Monster Collection" with eight classic horror movies on DVD. Maybe "Dracula" is my favorite one. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Drácula"

Note: On 23 November 2013, I saw the Spanish Version of this movie.
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TheLittleSongbird29 May 2011
Dracula(1931) mayn't be the definitive version of the brilliant Bram Stoker novel, but it is still a classic. My only complaints are the abrupt ending and David Manners as John, he tries his best but sometimes his line delivery is awkward and some of his lines are stilted.

I did also think that to a lesser extent the first half is better than the second. The opening scene is absolutely brilliant, but while there are still some compelling and well-done scenes the second half is rather talky. That said, there is a lot I loved about Dracula. The costumes, sets, photography and lighting are suitably atmospheric and grandiose, the story is still the timeless story even with the many changes I love and the screenplay apart from the odd stilted line from John is very good.

I saw Dracula in two versions, one without background music which added to the genuine atmosphere, and one with a suitably hypnotic and haunting score from minimalist composer Phillip Glass. While I loved Glass' score, I do prefer slightly the one without the scoring, the silence further added to the atmosphere I feel. The whole film is beautifully directed too, and while the film is very short at about an hour and a quarter the pace is just right.

The acting is very good, perhaps theatrical in a way but I think it worked. Bela Lugosi has such a magnetic presence in the title role, Edward Van Sloan is perfect as Van Helsing but in a sinister and funny performance Dwight Frye steals the film.

In conclusion, excellent film and a classic. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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Lugosi's Triumph
Arriflex123 July 2004
Tod Browning's film of the Stoker novel didn't so much eclipse Murnau's NOSFERATU (1922) as shove it into antiquity. One big reason was the technological advancement of sound. Roughly three years old by 1930, the public embraced the talking picture wholeheartedly over silents.

The other big reason for Dracula's success was that the star of the stage play had been cast as the star of the film. And movie history was made. Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula is now a eighty-one year old icon, outlasting all other interpretations before or since. The twist is that this Dracula looks nothing like Stoker's creation (read the book). Lugosi, either through his work with the playwrights or later at Universal with Browning, devised the most insidious form the character would ever take- a handsome, courtly, well-groomed, civilized aristocrat, so gracious and attractive that he projected an aura of well-being over the viewer. This was worlds away from the Murnau/Max Schreck approach of head-on abomination in NOSFERATU.

Sensibly, no one in their right mind would stay within viewing distance of Schreck (or Kinski in NOSFERATU, THE VAMPYRE and Dafoe in SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE) after the first glimpse. But Lugosi's Count would have you chatting and drinking wine- until he began to drink of you. That cape and those evening clothes are the perfect deception. Browning's Dracula is sometimes stagy and tentative in its continuity (it feels at times that the director was unsure where to go next in the progression of scenes). But Karl Freund's photography summons up a persistent mood of heavy gloom and enveloping dread.

Two other assets in the film are Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing and Dwight Frye as Renfield. Van Sloan was Universal's resident Learned Man, appearing as an Egyptologist in THE MUMMY (1933), and perhaps most famously as Dr. Waldman in FRANKENSTEIN (1931). A career-long character actor, Dwight Frye was an eccentric talent who appears to have worked exclusively at Universal. He had his best role as Renfield, producing a still blood-curdling, sneering laugh that seemed to come from the depths of a hellish insanity. If you haven't seen this Dracula please do so. The Count awaits.
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The Flawed Masterpiece
Shield-314 September 2001
The 1931 `Dracula' casts an imposing shadow over the horror genre. It is, after all, the movie that launched the classic Universal horror cycle of the 1930s and 1940s. It is also a tremendous influence on the look and atmosphere of horror movies in general (and vampire movies in particular). It gave Dracula a look and a voice, and created a legend.

Okay, so we know it was influential. But how does it work as a movie? Well… the first time I watched it, I was underwhelmed. The pace is slow. While Bela Lugosi's Dracula is menacing, the rest of the cast is colorless to the point of transparency. There are some good gliding camera shots here and there (thank you, Karl Freund!), but the majority of the film is locked into stationary medium and long shots. The film is tightly bound to its theatrical origins – director Browning has his characters look at things out of frame and describe them rather than just showing us, which would be much more effective.

Fortunately, `Dracula' improves with repeated viewings. The glacial pace and lack of sound in many places gives the movie a nightmarish sense of menace. In fact, `Dracula' is somewhere between a nightmare and a piece of classical music – everything proceeds at its own pace, gliding through the motions, gradually building suspense and momentum until the piece reaches climax. The end result is a flawed but haunting, hypnotic masterpiece, and one of the greatest vampire films ever made.
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How can it not be a classic?
meyers48017 March 2003
This is the movie that set the horror genre into action. Sure there may be a few campy scenes that look like they might be out of some high school play production (the rubber bats and armadillos in Dracula's castle come to mind), but there is an unmistakable suspense and eerieness about the film. If you are lucky enough to find the DVD reissue from 1999, you have three great versions: the original 1931 version with basically no background music, the 1999 rescoring of the movie by composer Philip Glass, and the extremely interesting Spanish version, made at the same time as the original (with totally different actors). If you have this DVD, watch the movie twice: once with no soundtrack and once with the Glass rescoring.... totally different movie. Glass' score is great, but it doesn't really help the movie at all (it actually hurts it in many cases). But the utter silence in Browning's original just makes my skin crawl! The acting is actually quite great (Lugosi is, of course, phenomenal as is Dwight Frye as Renfield). The fear, the suspense, and, believe it or not, the sexuality, combines for a great movie that was an unbelievable success in its first release ($700,000 in it first US release, $1.2 million worldwide). Not bad for a movie made 72 years ago!
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Genuine horror classic.
michaelRokeefe30 June 2001
This movie has thrilled and chilled viewers for generations and also serves as a standard for vampire flicks. This is the role that Bela Lugosi was born to play, Count Dracula. His mannerisms and looks make the character masterful and commanding. Based on Bram Stoker's novel, a vampire terrorizes the English countryside searching for sustenance, human blood.

Glorious black and white. The lighting, scenery and mood music should share equal billing with the great direction of Tod Browning. This movie leaves an impression that lasts a lifetime.

Wonderful supporting cast includes: David Manners, Edward Van Sloan, Helen Chandler and Dwight Frye.
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Iconic at the every least
KUAlum2610 December 2007
While the special effects,editing and sound really FEEL like they're over seventy-five years old,the movie itself still has a good,slow,eerie feel to it. I have yet to read Stoker's novel,but I'm quite familiar with the assortment of characters(the Count,VAn Helsing,Mina,JOhn/JOnathan HArker,Renfield,Lucy,Dr.Seward,the sanitarium staff,etc.) Probably more shocking when it was originally released(one story tells of a fainting at a screening of the film),director Tod Browning's movie would be considered quaint by most standards,it still holds up in imagery and in character,with Bela Lugosi able to inject plenty into mere glances and steadily,deliberate movement. The tale of the charismatic,mysterious nobleman from Transylvania who crashes ashore off a shipwrecked cargo vessel onto England,moving into an abandoned estate in sub-urban London's Carfax Abbey feels as common and comfortable as an old slipper. The acting isn't all that exceptional,save Lugosi,Dwight Frye(as the doomed,bug-eating lackey Renfield,whose back-story seems somewhat different than I recall from other versions of the story)and perhaps Edward Van Sloan(As the fiercely incorruptible Van Helsing),but that doesn't hinder this film's message or its mood. It works on a very basic premise,that being that this Dracula sort is one effective and lethal operator.

I think that one who appreciates film legend and lore needs to take a look at this offering,for the sights and sounds are as true and necessary to the progression of film horror and melodrama as any from the "Golden age of film".
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If You Haven't Seen This, You Haven't Seen Dracula
sddavis6326 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This movie might as well be called "Bela Lugosi." Count Dracula was the part of a lifetime for Lugosi – one that both made him a star and destroyed his acting career. He ended up being helplessly and hopelessly typecast as a result of the absolutely brilliant performance he offered as the vampire count. The voice, the eyes, the presence – all Lugosi, all Dracula. From 1931 on, whenever anyone sees or hears Bela Lugosi (no matter what part he's playing) they see or hear Dracula, and – even now, over 75 years later – when someone does an imitation of Dracula, it's done in Lugosi's Hungarian accent. The typecasting is a shame, really – because Lugosi was a superb actor. I've seen him in several films and even in the later work of his career, when many of the movies he was in were less than stellar, Lugosi – when given a meaty enough role as opposed to a cameo – could make even a weak movie worth watching. And it basically all started with Dracula.

The movie itself has some problems – foremost among them, because of the importance they play in the story – are the bat appearances. Bats don't fly like that, and they certainly can't hover! The ending struck me as rather abrupt, and I found myself thinking that there should have been more, and throughout the movie there are still examples of the transition in acting style required by the transition to "talkies" – especially what I consider to be deliberate over-acting, necessary in silent movies but sometimes distracting in "talkies." Having said that, Lugosi even pulls that off well. His overly dramatic turning away from the wolfbane or cross and cowering behind his cape is in fact overly dramatic, and yet – it's also Dracula. That's just what Dracula does when confronted by wolfbane or a cross, because it's how Lugosi played the part, and coming from Lugosi it seems perfectly natural.

The movie isn't especially frightening or suspenseful. Even for someone who had never seen it in 1931, real suspense is lacking. We find out very quickly that Count Dracula is a vampire – just a few minutes in Lugosi pops out of a coffin. The sets are very good though – creating a sense of mystery and fear, even if there's nothing overly frightening about this. Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of the story, though, the movie is made by the performances – Lugosi's obviously, but also Dwight Frye as his hapless victim Renfield, who becomes enamoured of eating flies and spiders and rats as a result of being turned into Dracula's slave. His performance is actually quite funny, and one thing lacking in the movie is any explanation of what happened to Renfield. After Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) "dispatches" Dracula does Renfield return to normal, as Mina (Helen Chandler) did, or does he spend the rest of his life in an insane asylum? That was a loose end that wasn't tied up.

I've never read Bram Stoker's original novel, so can't comment on how this movie relates to Stoker's work, but I have seen many film versions of Dracula, and this is by far the classic version. Many other actors have played the evil count, but none have pulled it off as perfectly as Bela Lugosi. 8/10.
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It may be dusty, but it's still a classic
adamscastlevania225 August 2014
(62%) It is without doubt a classic owing to the fact that it is so well made, and so memorable. The sets are some of the greatest ever to appear on any film, and Lugosi is great as the awful head vamp. It's more than a little dated of course, so there's no blood/biting or on-screen death or murder, plus the acting is very theatrical at times, and there's quite a few long drawn-out sections of total silence that highlight exactly how old and pioneering it is.With that said, all horror fans should watch this at least once, as it does make a great late-night Halloween movie that will live on - just like the old count himself - forever.
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'Educational' More Than 'Exciting'
ccthemovieman-131 December 2006
Younger people who never saw the original here but have seen Dracula movies sometime in the past 30 years will be very disappointed with this original version. I'm not young, and I was disappointed, too, not that it was all bad.

The film does have an eerie feel to it in a primitive way, so kudos for that. Bela Lugosi, the first and most famous Dracula of them all, has eyes that penetrate and are unforgettable. Unfortunately, that's about it as the only things unforgettable about this film.

I said what I said in the first paragraph because there is no blood, not even one scene of Dracula biting anyone. Come on - this is Dracula!! The ending wasn't very dramatic, either: a most disappointing finish.

I did enjoy watching this for the "historical" value, however, because having only known Dracula movies since the '50s I learned a few truths from this film. "Truths," meaning that (1) Dracula had to return to the soil when he went to sleep at night, not particularly in a coffin, and Renfield was institutionalized when he arrived in America and stayed there until Dracula killed him in the end. You don't see these things in latter-day Dracula movies or in Dracula spoofs.
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A Timeless Classic
AngelHonesty18 December 2019
You can never go wrong with the classics! There's a reason why this movie is a legend. The famous Dracula! This piece is spectacular. There is no music and yet the mood can still be perfectly felt. The facial expressions shown in this film will be like nothing you have ever seen before. The way Dracula captures you with his eyes is unnerving. And Dwight Frye's acting is next to perfection. The way he takes his character from one extreme to the next in such a flawless manner is a master piece of its own. Even though this film is in black and white, and has an older feel to it; it's still a marvelous film to watch!
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These images are the base upon which all horror films are built
LanceBrave23 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I've probably written about these films more then any other yet I notice something new every time I watch. This time, I realized "Dracula" is set in the modern day. During the flower girl scene, you hear a car horn and see modern street lamps. Another question I ask for the first time: Why did Dracula disguise himself as the carriage driver? Why hide his face? Despite this question, it is one of the most atmospheric scenes in a film built primarily on atmosphere.

Modern critiques tend to say Lugosi is the sole graceful factor in a stagy film. True but don't undersell. Karl Freund's camera is not stationary. A pan around Renfield's shoulder, a slow move up steps, a panorama of Seward's sanatorium. Renfield leering from the ship or the shadow of the captain lashed to the wheel are just two chilling scenes. The use of shadows is toned down from Universal's silents and it's generally agreed that Freund's artistry was held back by Todd Browning. Wither Browning had trouble adapting to sound or was still grieving for Lon Chaney (and the version of "Dracula" they had planned on making) is debated.

Either way, you can't deny the power of these images. The early shots of Dracula's castle, the brides awaking in the catacombs, the illogical armadillos, beetles in tiny coffins, Lugosi's glaring eyes. These images are the base upon which all American horror films are built. They still send chills up a viewer's spine seventy years later. The set design is incredible, particularly the dusty staircase of Castle Dracula or the ruins of Carfax Abbey. Supporting the sets are fantastic glass painted backgrounds.

I won't waste words on why Lugosi is the iconic Dracula. He exudes an authority over everyone simply with his body language. Shots of him doing nothing but standing in shadow-swept doorways manage to be creepy.

Given Dracula's sway over the opposite sex, it's easy to understand while the vampire is a fantasized character for men. But why is the vampire a sex symbol for women? The film is split on the issue. The scene of Dracula cornering the flower girl brings to mind nothing but sexual assault. I believe Dracula leaning over the sleeping bodies of his prey aren't meant to be provocative but rather to invoke classical nightmare imagery. We are all vulnerable when we sleep and many horror films prey on that innate vulnerably. (Yep, I just traced a line from Dracula to Freddy.) Dracula is feared by his female victims, yet still oddly attractive. Lucy doesn't seem totally asleep when Dracula comes for her. A later scene, where Mina walks into the count's arms, his cape wrapped around her, blending in with the shadows, is undoubtedly romantic. The vampire is a man with complete control over his females, psychic and sexual. Why women would desire such a mate is a topic unsuited for this blog. The seductive female vampire is a horror concept not yet solidified. Mina, once turned, seems less like a willing seductress and more like a drug addict, uncontrollably forced to attack her beloved husband.

The movie is flawed, no doubt. Who the heck is the main character? The count is unknowable. Harker or Seward don't do anything besides wring their hands. Van Helsing comes in too late, Lucy exits too early, while Mina is a damsel in distress. Nope, it's gotta' be Renfield. We follow him from the beginning and he features in most of the scenes. A book must exists that explores his character more. There's a lot of untapped potential there. Dwight Fry had enough range to play a straight-laced businessman perfectly, even if his unhinged insanity is what we remember. When his spider is thrown away, you almost feel for the guy. His monologue about Dracula presenting him with a feast of rats is great and I wonder why no other adaptation has gone into more detail about that. Why does Dracula even keep the guy around? He doesn't serve him much and is even responsible for revealing the count's hiding place.

The pacing drags in the latter half, as the staged qualities take over. There's a number of narrative question marks. Lucy's story arc is oddly abbreviated. We hear about her escapades as the Woman in White but Van Helsing disposes of her off-screen. Why does Dracula have Mina just hanging around the abbey at the very end? What purpose did that serve? Renfield preys on the unconscious maid in one scene but we never find out why. The guy sure gets out of his cell easy. Dr. Seward should probably hire a new staff. Dracula's final confrontation with Van Helsing is anticlimactic. Even the weaker second half of the film has its moments, such as Dracula making eye-contact with Mina's maid or smashing the mirror out of Van Helsing's hand.

I'm not begrudgingly calling it a great movie. It remains the best adaptation of Stoker's novel in many ways and is the most important of the Universal Monster cycle in countless ways.
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Dracula (1931)
skybrick73618 August 2014
Tod Browning put on a complete show that didn't disappoint the least bit in this adaptation of the Dracula novel. It was faithful, had solid characters and a strong presence of Bela Lugosi to carry the way. What I liked about this Universal Picture was that it was fast paced and never really had any dull moments. Classic movies sometimes drag and don't hold my interest entirely but I never really seemed to hit pause. I was glued from the get go from the starting opening scene in Transylvania. Renfield, played by Dwight Frye was very sufficient and creepy. The characters of Van Helsing, Dr. Seward and Mina were terrific and casted perfectly. Bela Lugosi as Dracula was of course the star of the film and spawned a long list of Universal movies for himself. The role of John Harker was annoying at times and didn't have the best dialog written for him. It's obviously a classic that all horror fans have to watch. I would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't like 1931's Dracula despite its few flaws.
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Dull and stagy, but essential viewing
preppy-36 November 2000
The film starts off extremely well with a visit to Dracula's castle in Transylvania. Then the movie moves to London and falls apart. For one thing, they changed the characters from the novel--Jonathan Harker went to Castle Dracula not Reinfield and everybody stands around talking about things. EVERYTHING is talked about, never shown. It's like watching a very static stage play. Also, a woman (Lucy) becomes a vampire early on. She's discussed...then ignored. It seems she's still wandering around after the movie ends! Also David Manners is very very good-looking as Harker, but his acting is bad. It's not entirely his fault--he has few lines and they're all pretty bad. Still, it should be seen for three reasons--Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan. Lugosi is, of course, Dracula. He gives a great performance (hard to believe he was doing the lines phonetically) and his interpretation defined Dracula. Frye is really creepy (and funny) as Reinfeld--that laugh of his is REAL spooky! And Edward Van Sloan plays Van Helsing perfectly. Only Peter Cushing did a better job in the Hammer films. Also, Helen Chandler has one great moment playing Mina. She's under Dracula's spell and is hungrily looking at her boyfriend's neck! So, if you're a horror fan (like me) this is essential viewing, but expect lots of dull stretches when those three aren't on. Let's go listen to the children of the night...
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Horror classic has to be judged by today's standards...
Doylenf29 October 2006
Time changes everything. Once upon a time Dracula, the stage play, was a sensation that starred BELA LUGOSI as the blood-thirsty man in the cape who thrilled theater audiences with his chilling portrayal. He's still chilling in the screen version Tod Browning directed and there's plenty of creepy atmosphere to keep you riveted to the story.

But there are also plenty of faults. The opening scenes are a lot more cinematic than what follows once we leave the castle and the story starts dealing with Mina (HELEN CHANDLER) and Jonathan Harker (DAVID MANNERS) at their residence. It then becomes almost completely stagebound, with static movement of story and characters so that you know you're watching a museum piece from the '30s. The horror is so diluted by the stagey slow-talking dialog (sound was new and actors were told to keep their speeches slow so every word could be heard). It's an almost silent acting approach to the whole thing.

BELA LUGOSI is very menacing in his huge close-ups but is guilty of stage acting all the way through. DWIGHT FRYE makes a very intense and enjoyable Renfield, although he too is guilty of extravagant overacting by today's standards.

The cobweb atmosphere is dark and appropriately scary and the B&W lensing of the story is very impressive. But, as stated above, you have to take it for what it is--a primitive telling of the great story handicapped by its faithfulness to the stage version.

It ends rather abruptly as Harker and Mina ascend the stairs and Van Helsing tells them he'll be along soon. Fadeout. The End. Much too abrupt. Modern audiences are bound to feel cheated by the less than thrilling ending.

Summing up: Flaws and all, still an interesting experience mainly because Lugosi and Frye keep it watchable.
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Dracula may be dead, but the classic horror genre will live for eternity.
mark.waltz23 October 2014
Warning: Spoilers
After almost one hundred years of cinematic macabre nail and neck biting, Dracula still lives on, although his looks have changed enormously over those times. From the monstrous looking thin, bald creature in "Nosferatu" with the elf ears to the changing looks of Gary Oldman in Francis Ford Coppola's 1993 masterpiece (which Leslie Nielsen got to spoof in "Dracula-Dead and Loving It"), Dracula remains an undying un-dead character of fiction, even if there was a real life Vlad the Impaler who was the basis for Bram Stoker's novel of the legend of the vampire.

Even with Oldman's unforgettable performance and other Draculas (such as Christopher Lee and Frank Langella), it is Bela Lugosi's performance as the count which remains the visionary for this creature of the night. Even though he lives in a Carpathian mountain castle loaded with cobwebs and strange looking rodents (one obviously an armadillo), he is definitely a creature of class, although his choice of beverage does not include wine and his nightlife, other than one visit to the opera upon his arrival in England, doesn't include going to the theater or ballet. He enjoys another dance, the dance of death, and other than one statement about how glorious it would be to be really dead, he is totally unapologetic of his lustful desire for human plasma.

Has there ever been a more haunting carriage ride than Dwight Frye's journey through the Carpathian mountains? The mountain range looks absolutely desolate, in fact absolutely lifeless. It's obviously Lugosi driving the buggy, his eyes piercing in the dark without words as he picks Frye up from the fleeing carriage that is desperate to get out of the area. When Frye arrives at Dracula's castle, it becomes all the more eerie, with Lugosi's friendly greeting obviously plotting something more ominous as he declares, "I bid you welcome!". The presence of three obviously dead beauties is quite haunting, and it is obvious that Frye will not come out of this visit as he entered it. Even as Dracula changed looks over the years, his high-born nature never allows Dracula to be as crude as the monstrous creature of "Nosferatu". By not giving a backstory to the count's life, he remains a monster, yet one of noble birth, who is destined for evil and a gruesome demise.

While the 1992 remake is certainly a superb romantic vision of the creature, this version makes no effort to romanticize him which gives Lugosi an element of mystery in his performance. He has a few scenes in dealing with the London characters he encounters in a social setting, but most of the time, he is brandishing his cape around to trap some unsuspecting victim in his web. The Mina of Helen Chandler is a sweet, rather stereotypical ingénue with little to do other than look petrified as she falls under Dracula's spell. Lugosi is supported with an over-the-top but fun performances by Frye as the psychotic Renfield and Edward Van Sloan as the very determined Van Helsing. David Manners is rather bland as Jonathan Harker. The use of music from "Swan Lake" over the opening gives an eerie feeling. Appropriately slow moving in spots, it is almost opera like in the way it is presented. It is just too bad that when this became a Broadway musical, it was done so blandly that I had to refer to it as "the most bring $100 I've ever spent in my life."
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Vintage version with terrific acting by Bela Lugosi, being directed with drive and great single-mindedness by Tod Browning
ma-cortes2 November 2019
Tod Browning's original but dated terror movie, this is the horrifying and sinister story of a revengeful vampire who must quench his thirst for human blood . A very imitated movie with several sequels, copies and rip-offs. Deservedly considered to be a gruesome classic film, thanks to abundant eerie scenes and the astonishing performance from Bela Lugosi as the vampire who needs human blood for nourishment, giving a definitely intimidating interpretation on the title role . A plush, glossy , but above all, a scary fim with a devastatingly effective climax. A good script and nice cast keep this first version based on Bram Stoker novel very entertaining and creepy. Although short a masterpiece due to slow second half, but adding portentous and brilliant images that are still examples of how to make the flesh creep. Here Lugosi plays his most famous character as a count vampire who terrorizes the countryside and mansions in his search for human blood, while he is immediately killing people for his blood and then turning them into vampires . The settings of the vampire's home in Transylvania and England have only been equalled in Browning's own "Mark of the Vampire" five years after, also starred by Bela Lugosi, along with Carol Borland . Shot at the same time to Spanish version 1931 by George Melford with Carlos Villarias, Lupita Tovar, that is thought to be more terrifying and more visually appealing than the English language counterpart. In 1999 it was re-released and re-scored by Philip Glass and performed by Kronos Quarter. It contains a nice support cast such as David Manners playing Jonathan Harker, Helen Chandler as Mina, Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing, Dracula's nemesis . Special mention for Dwight Frye as Renfield-he played the hunchback in James Whale's Frankenstein-, he is over-the-top, as cinema has few scenes to equal the first sight of his madness, standing gibbering on a ship filled with dead people . This Dracula by Tod Browning was very well photographed in black and white full of dark and shades by Karl Freund, who directed The Mummy , being one of the main assets of the film.

It is sequelled by Dracula's daughter 1936 by Lambert Hiller, with Gloria Holden, Otto Kruger, Edward Van Sloan .Hammer Films produced various Dracula : Horror of Dracula 1958 by Terence Fisher with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Melissa Stribling, Michael Gough. Dracula has risen from the grave 1958 by Freddie Francis with with Chistopher Lee, Rupert Davis, Veronica Carlson .Dracula prince of darkness 1966 by Terence Fisher with Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer. Dracula a. d. 1972 by Alan Gibson with Lee, Cushing, Stephanie Beacham, Caroline Munro. Scars of Dracula 1971. The satanic rites of Dracula 1973 by Alan Gibson with Lee, Cushing, Joanna Lumley. Plus, Dracula 1973 with Jack Palance, Simon Ward, Fiona Lewis, Nigel Davenport. Dracula 1979 by John Badham with Frank Langella, Kate Nelligan, Laurence Olivier. And modern renditions as Dracula 2000, Dracula 2 Ascension, Dracula the Dark Prince, Dracula rising, Dracula by Dario Argento. And hilarious, spoof retellings as Love at first bite with George Hamilton and Dracula Dead and Loving it 1995 by Mel Brooks with Leslie Nielsen, Peter McNicol.
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