Tuesday, August 9, 2011
(February 1931, U.S.)
The character of Bram Stoker's character Dracula has been adapted and immortalized on film more times than I care to count. However, believe it or not, only a small handful of them are based on Stoker's original piece of literature. The legendary "Count" has been played by the likes of Max Schreck, Christopher Lee, Jack Palance, Frank Langella, Gary Oldman, and of course, Bela Lugosi. Although not my personal favorite, Lugosi is considered the quintessential vampire (must be that Hungarian accent). Tod Browning's 1931 version is also the film that ushered in the age of the Universal monster movies. If you ever grew up watching late night TV horror such as FRIGHT NIGHT or CHILLER THEATER, then you know what I'm talking about. Believe it or not, it wasn't until Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 version was released that I went out and rented a VHS copy of the Lugosi version and saw the entire film for the first time. While it didn't exactly have the good acting and drama that, say, a James Whale-directed monster film might have had, it was still a great classic that had to be seen.
I won't go into storyline and plot because I'm presuming anyone reading this blog would consider themselves someone who appreciates film...and if you can claim that, then you've surely seen a Dracula film or two in your lifetime. What is surely most noteworthy about the 1931 version is not only Lugosi's style and charm, but also the gothic creepiness that only black and white cinematography can give the story. But it's not to say that all this gothic horror is not without its share of fun. The character of Renfield is played with rather twisted humor and devilishness by Dwight Frye; a repeat performer in more than a few Universal horror films. To make this version of DRACULA truly special, though, you have to fully appreciate the level of nightmarish horror it must have bestowed on innocent movie audiences in 1931. At it's premiere, newspapers reported that members of the audience fainted in shock at the horror they were watching on screen; horror that would surely seem completely lame today, but like I said, you have to use your imagination and appreciation when watching this film, as with any classic film. Oh, and it doesn't hurt if you have the film on DVD and you watch it on a 42" flat screen TV. Ain't nothing like glorious black and white on a TV like that!
As mentioned above, there are many film versions of DRACULA. For myself, the task of picking and choosing exactly which versions were good enough to be in my collection was surely a challanging one. So stick with me, people, and you'll find out which ones made the cut...
Favorite line or dialogue:
Count Dracula: "Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make."