Dracula (DVD, 2006, 2-Disc Set, Edition) Reviews
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Dracula (DVD, 2006, 2-Disc Set, Edition)

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I never drink ... wine: Dracula

Dec 18, 2000 (Updated May 11, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan, Direction, Photography

Cons:Too many imitators

The Bottom Line: The first monster movie from the talkie era, Dracula is still worth watching.


Dracula (1931)

Almost everybody likes a good horror movie once in a while, and to learn what makes good horror cinema it is good to go back every so often and watch the original.

I had watched Bram Stoker’s Dracula several times since my last viewing of Director Tod Browning’s 1931 classic Dracula starring Bela Lugosi. That changed yesterday when I sat though a horror fest that included three, count ‘em, three, Dracula movies, including the subject of this review.

As I began to mull over the similarities and differences between the different interpretations of the infamous count, it occurred to me that Dracula is actually a part of our popular culture today and had been represented in cartoons, by drawings every Halloween, parodied on television by the Munsters, and even had a breakfast cereal, Count Chocula, based on his famous persona. With that level of popularity, Dracula had become a caricature, reduced to the lowest common denominator of his salient characteristics, which include fangs, hypnotic sexual power, Eastern European accent, and somber, black clad elegance. With these things in mind, I paid special attention to the 1931 Universal Pictures version that had spawned so many imitators.

I found that Bela Lugosi was far and away the greatest interpreter of the title character. Although there are many imitators, no one can master the hypnotic stare, the leering grimace, or the outright menace of the original Count Dracula.

Similarly the Eastern European accent: the inimitable mellifluous Lugosi cadence,

"Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!" or

"Good evening. I am Dracula. I bid you welcome."

While Gary Oldman repeated these words, they belonged to Bela Lugosi. Do you know that there was no overt showing of fangs in the original Dracula? That was an innovation that came much later, from Christopher Lee in Hammer Films, if I’m not mistaken.

In short, there has been no actor who has done justice to the role since Bela Lugosi defined it almost seventy years ago. But, I had to see the movie again to know that since all the pop references to Dracula had clouded my memory as to just how good his performance was.

The supporting cast, principally Dwight Frye, as the lunatic Renfield, and Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, fearless vampire hunter performed admirably, as well. Each of these actors defined their role and later actors borrowed heavily from these original interpretations.

The sets are magnificently constructed, soaring stone cathedrals full of dirt and spider webs, beautifully photographed in eerily atmospheric black and white. Minature spotlights illuminate Lugosi's penetrating, hypnotic stare.

The violence is all off-camera and may disappoint fans of more modern gory interpretations. There are not even the telltale fang wounds visible on Dracula’s victims’ necks! I found the lack of graphic violence to not deter in the least from the horror of this film classic. I believe Director Tod Browning had a knack not often seen today for suggesting violence and having the viewer imagine the results, without taking away from the viewing experience.

Although slow and measured, I found the pace of the movie to add to the suspense and dread. It is helpful to remember that this is one of the first "talkie" films, and in fact, the original sound horror film.

When I add up all the benefits of the 1931 Dracula, I cannot come up with anything less than five big stars.

Horror movies fans will also want to see the original Universal Pictures horror movies,

Frankenstein

The Mummy

Happy haunting! ;>





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