Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dracula (1931)

Directed by Tod Browning.
1931. Not Rated, 75 minutes.
Bela Lugosi
Helen Chandler
Dwight Frye
David Manners
Edward Van Sloan
Herbert Bunston
Frances Dade

Count Dracula (Lugosi) arranges a trip from his native Transylvania to London and quickly sets his sights on young Mina (Chandler). Oh yeah, the Count is a vampire, but you already knew that.

As the mysterious Dracula, Bela Lugosi gives us the performance that defines a genre. Nearly every vampire since either uses some updated version of Lugosi or makes a conscious effort not to. For instance, the head vampire in 30 Days of Night looks like a modern Lugosi while Edward in the Twilight looks like a model for Ambercrombie & Fitch because the classic look is no longer cool.

What this movie has fiven us is far greater than the film itself. Along with its predecessor, 1922’s Nosferatu, its given us many of the cues vampire movies have continued to take in the decades since. In the nearly 80 years since its debut, the movie has lost much of its bite. The dialogue feels wooden, Drac feels more like a creepy stalker than the evil master of the undead and even though it’s only 75 minutes long, it drags. It pales in comparison to its contemporaries, Frankenstein (1931) and The Wolf Man (1941). It probably doesn’t help that there have been far more vampire movies than versions of those others, with a seemingly endless stream of updates and additions to the lore. With all that said, it’s a movie that needs to be seen by all vampire fans, especially those curious about the genre’s humble beginnings.

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