Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dracula (1931)

Mr. Renfield, a solicitor, is traveling to the castle of Count Dracula to help him settle his affairs and move to England. He encounters villagers on his way that tell him of evil and vampires should he reach his destination. He ignores their warnings, meets with Count Dracula and all fades to black. When next we meet with Renfield, he's become a twisted henchman for the Count. In fact he's so good at his job he's the only one found alive when the ship he's on, arrives in England. The Count moves to Carfax Abbey. The property adjoins that of Dr.Seward and his Sanitarium. Dracula comes to know his daughter Mina, her fiance Jonathon and her friend Lucy. Strange and horrible things start to happen in the area and it's only with the help of Dr. Van Helsing that they can be stopped.

The story of Dracula is well known but this is one of the first movies to portray him. Bela Lugosi who plays Dracula was of Hungarian extraction and didn't speak English. This is what gave the Count his trademark accent as most portrayals are based off of Lugosi's performance. Bela also puts his piercing eyes to good use with a variety of close-ups as well as his measured method of speaking when he says things like "tomorrow evening".

The sets, including the castle and ship are amazing. The play of light and shadow creates a creepy atmosphere as well as the best creaky door you've ever heard! Dwight Frye as Renfeild delivers an amazing performance. There's a scene on the ship when he is discovered and he starts to laugh, long and slow. From this moment on he stands out from everyone else besides Lugosi. For those of you who've seen "Dracula Dead and Loving It", you'll recognize many character traits.

Mina's fiance Jonathon is a stone fox but as bland as they come. Dracula would have done the world a service if he'd finished him off. Something else I found amusing was how many times the camera does a close-up of Lugosi. It seems more like a farce towards the end of the movie.

There are also some strange shots that didn't click for me. When Dracula and his brides are waking up, there's a shot of a bee crawling out of a bee-sized coffin. There are also several shots of possums and armadillos hanging around inside Dracula's castle. I wasn't sure if these were meant to stand in for giant rats or not but they felt out of place.

Overall this is a great classic horror film. Watch it for the sets, Lugosi and Dwight Frye.

Rating: 4/5

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