Dracula (1931) title

Tag line : The story of the strangest passion the world has ever known!

Dracula (1931)This classic 1931 adaptation of Bram Stoker's literary character stars now legendary Bela Lugosi as the infamous count, who's looking to relocate from his Transylvanian castle to Carfax Abby in merry old England.

The film starts with English solicitor Renfield (A composite of the characters of Renfield and Jonathon Harker from the original book, played by Dwight Frye), who's travelling through Rural Transylvania to Count Dracula's castle in order to help him with the legal process of moving house. However, he is somewhat perturbed by the locals attitudes towards the count, who seem to be scared stiff at the mere mention of his name and refuse to leave the safety of their homes after dark.

Heading up to the castle regardless, he meets the enigmatic Dracula (horror icon Bela Lugosi in his first major screen role), only to discover there is good reason for the locals to be scared of him. Days later, a ship is washed up on the shores of Whitby, England, with all the crew dead and nothing but a bunch of coffins in the hold, along with Renfield, who's now quite mad.

Shortly afterwards, the new owner of Carfax Abby introduces himself and is charming his way around the locals, which coincides with a slew of dead bodies popping up around the place with bight marks on the neck. It is only when Dracula takes an interest in the daughter of Dr Seward, young Mina (Helen Chandler), that her FiancÚ Jonathan Harker  (David Manners) suspects the Count is not all he seems. Particularly as she starts exhibiting strange behaviour shortly afterwards.

Fortunately, one of the local scientists, Dr Van Helsing (Edward Sloan), thinks he has an idea about what's going on and who this Count Dracula really is. As well as what's afflicting poor old Renfield, who's in Dr Seward's asylum, and why large bats have been spotted in the area and wolf howls can be heard at night.  Yes it seems old Dracula is a vampire and its now up to Van Helsing and John Harker to try and stop him before Mina fully turns into one herself and the count kills any more people.

Directed by Tod Browning (who also directed the infamous "Freaks" and "London After Midnight"), a few things have been altered from the original story, partly due to the fact it was based on the stage play, as opposed to the novel itself, and partly due for time, as the film is only just over an hour long. But it still manages to capture all the raw elements and the main essence of the story.

Obviously, this early black and white adaptation may seem very old and dated now, being made in the early 1930s, when talking pictures where still a relatively new invention. But the film is still an interesting piece of horror cinema, which was not only the archetype of the classic "gothic" vampire film, but also launched horror icon Bela Lugosi's screen career and proved to be so popular, that it helped transform Universal Studios from a small independent company into a major Hollywood studio.

If you're a vampire movie fan, or a lover of old black and white horrors then this film is essential viewing. However, if your love of vampires extends only to "Twilight" films (*BLEEEEUURGHHH*) then this one is not for you.

Overall Marks : 4/10.

Terrifying Trivia.

  • Alternate tag lines "The Vampire Bat that lives on Human Blood", "The Vampire Thriller", "The Weirdest story that ever reached the screen", "The thrill, chill story of all time".

  • The film was actually based on the Broadway play adaptation of the novel and not directly on the novel itself.

  • A Spanish language version of the film was shot at the same time as this using the same sets, but with a different cast. This version starred Carlos Villarias as Dracula and was directed by George Melford, which they filmed at night after the regular cast and crew had finished for the day.

  • The film makers had wanted to cast noted horror actor Lon Chaney (the Man of a 1000 Faces) as Dracula, however he died in 1930 before production had begun, so they offered the role to then unknown Bela Lugosi, who'd starred in the stage version.

  • Bela Lugosi actually helped Universal negotiate the filming rights to the movie with author Bram Stoker's widow and persuaded her to lower her original asking price from $200,000 down to $60,000.

  • The scene in London's Albert Hall was actually filmed using the set of Lon Chaney's "Phantom of the Opera" which was still standing in an adjacent studio.

  • Lugosi was so desperate to play the role of Dracula in the film he agreed to the exceptionally meagre fee of $500 per week, which was a pitifully small amount for a leading actor in a major production, even in those days.

  • David Manners, who played Jonathan Harker, claimed he never watched the film. Right up until his death in 1998.

  • Edward Van Sloan, who played Van Helsing and Herbert Bunston, who played Doctor Seward, were the only other cast members, besides Bela Lugosi, who also appeared in the stage version.

  • The original release of the film had a tongue in cheek epilogue in which Edward Von Sloan (Van Helsing) talks to the audience about the film they have just watched. However, this was dropped from later releases and was not restored for its DVD releases.

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