Dracula (2/12/31) I confess for a long time this was my least favorite Universal Monster film, it probably still is. I always compared it to films that came AFTER, instead of comparing it to films that went BEFORE. My dislike of Dracula stemmed from not really seeing it until after I had been exposed to a lot of his progeny. I bet my first vampire was either Barnabus Collins or Drac from Groovie Ghoulies, and I didn’t see a truly scary vampire until Janos Skorzny. Seeing Lugosi’s Dracula for the 1st time seemed boring….why is he just walking around and staring at necks?
In Feb 1931 is was pretty cutting edge for horror films, the villains Universal had been featuring up until then were always human, damaged perhaps by birth or accident but always humans. Here’s a villain who is not human, or hasn’t been one for a very long time. I am not sure how popular the novel was before the film, but if it is anything like now, most of the people watching the film in 1931 hadn’t read the book nor seen the stageplay, and would have no preconceived ideas about vampires, probably no knowledge at all of their mythology, so everything they learn and see is for the first time. When you meet him, he’s just archanely elegant and exceedingly creepy, it is not until we get small doses of exposition do we find out what he actually does to the women and what his powers are. It would be goosebumps galore in the dark cinema. We don’t know how he got to be this way, we don’t even know what happened to his wives after he abandoned them in Carpathia…WHY did he emigrate to England, perhaps because he has three wives and the pickings are getting slim in the Borgo Pass?
The lack of music is indeed disturbing, they just came out of the silent era…why is there no music?… because it’s creepier that way stupid. You hear every footfall, every squeak and creak and usually you hear nothing. And why is he just walking around stalking people? cause he’s old, immortal and not in a rush. What happened to Lucy? What happened to his wives? did he bite Reinfield a lot or just a little? Why did he come to England? What are there armadillos and oppossums in Hungary? Who feeds his horses if he has to drive his own carriage? It always brings me back to the terrific speach in Shadow of the Vampire “It made me sad. Because Dracula had no servants.”
Despite great production values…love the storm tossed ship for all of the 5 seconds it was on the screen, and the Dracula’s castle set doesn’t really get shown off considering the time and expense. It is still a very stagey production, with absolutely NO THIRD ACT. I am sorry, the movie is flipping called DRACULA and he’s basically killed OFF SCREEN, by an old man with a stick and a rock…that’s not very dramatic. Once they follow him to the abbey and he throws Renfield down the stairs the movie is over. There should have AT least been a struggle and racing the sun to the coffin. These of course arevalid points that will be addressed in all the subsequent versions.
Seriously for me all the fun is in the first half of the film, I don’t need to hang around for the end. After he smashes the cigarette box I kinda tune out. And usually rewind to the beginning.