Dracula (1931)

dracula poster 1931 movie bela lugosi
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Classic visuals, Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye

Makes kind of a mess of the story

 
Movie Info

Movie Name: Dracula

Studio: Universal Pictures

Genre(s):  Horror

Release Date(s): February 12, 1931

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

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Yummy!

Renfield (Dwight Frye)  goes to Transylvania to meet with Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) for a land deal in London and falls under Dracula’s spell.  Dracula makes his way to London with Renfield and becomes involved in the lives of Dr. Seward (Herbert Bunson), Mina Seward (Helen Chandler), Jonathan Harker (David Manners), and Lucy Weston (Frances Dade).  When Lucy dies under mysterious circumstances and Dr. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) begin to question the now insane Renfield, the men realize that Mina’s life is now threatened by a vampire’s obsession with her.

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That’s right! You’re mine!

Directed by Tod Browning, Dracula is considered the first of the big Universal Monster movies and started a series of films starring the character.  The movie is a bit of a blend of the classic 1897 Bram Stoker novel Dracula, the Dracula stage play, and Nosferatu (1922) the early silent German version.  This classic version of Dracula was also shot at the same time as the Spanish version of the film which used the sets at night.  The movie was well received upon its release.

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My crazy can upstage your crazy Bela!

Dracula is a classic and though it does not follow the original story, this is often considered the definitive version of the character to many viewers.  Like many kids, I grew up with this image of Dracula and the character.  The movie has its flaws, but it is what I imagine when someone says “Dracula”.

Like many Dracula films, the movie just seems to borrow what it wants from Bram Stoker’s novel.  The Renfield character partially replaces Harker’s character and most of the action takes place on sets to keep the budget down.  Visually it looks a lot like German expressionism films with heavy eye make-up and dark shadows.  It also has a very early “talkie” feel in that the movie doesn’t know what to do with audio.  There are long periods of silence and no soundtrack to cover them.  This actually adds to the eeriness of the film with no sound, not even ambient sound, in to soften the picture.

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You are no Hugh Jackman, Van Helsing!

Dracula really works because of Bela Lugosi’s bizarre portayal.  His stuttered (much copied) accent is due to the fact that Lugosi didn’t speak English at the time of the movie.  The idea of Dracula as a seducer is twisted since I don’t know that Bela Lugosi would have been seen as a sex symbol like the current trend of casting “handsome” vampires like Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Robert Pattinson, or even Gary Oldman in Francis Ford Coppola’s version.  (Also props have to go to Frye as Renfield who is very entertaining).

If you’re tired of sparkly vampires and want to go for a classic feeling movie, check out the original Dracula.  It won’t terrify you, but it is a classic and seeing Dracula will help you understand how vampire movies evolved to what they are now.  The story of Dracula has been brought to the screen almost the most times of any novel.  See how it started.

Related Links:

Dracula (Spanish) (1931)

Dracula’s Daughter (1936)

Son of Dracula (1943)

House of Dracula (1945)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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