Sunday, October 13, 2013

Horrors of October 2013 - Dracula (#13)

Dracula (1931)

Let's look over one of the all-time classics of the genre. Very loosely adapted from the Bram Stoker novel, the Universal Studios-produced film first follows Renfield as he visits the estate of Count Dracula in Transylvania. After falling under Drac's spell, the now insane gentleman helps his master sexually conquest London. I do mean this literally; the many shots of Bela Lugosi's famous gaze is to both scare and titillate his prey and his blood-transfusing ways help turn the fair Mina into a loose femme fatale. This film came out before the Hays Code was enforced, thus allowing for more risqué and graphic material. It also, unfortunately, came out a couple of years after the acceptance of sound. Director Tod Browning crafts some startlingly sinister scenes and shots (there's some debate that the cinematographer Karl Freund is the true auteur) but the soundtrack is often barren. I know non-diegetic music can ruin some movies but there are many moments here that needed that extra oomph, especially the flat, silent ending; Van Helsing had something else to do, the couple walks up some stairs, and that's the end. Helsing was actually supposed to have a scene where he comes out and addresses the viewing public about vampires but it was later censored out (due to religious reasons) and is now lost to the ether. Speaking of missing elements, the film has many dropped storylines (newly turned Lucy keeps on haunting the park apparently) and plot transitions that are severely truncated. Despite the campy aspect of his performance, Bela Lugosi is devilishly evil and commanding as the titled character. I was more creeped out, however, by Dwight Fyre as Reinfield, particularly his carpet crawl and his reveal on a destroyed boat. Though I really enjoy this edition, I tend to prefer Hammer Studios' version of the vampire tale.


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