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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.28%
Average: 23.4%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 4.26%

3 reviews, 29 user ratings

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Dracula (1931)
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by MP Bartley

"They may be immortal, but vampires still grow old."
3 stars

If there's one one particular series of films that can genuinely lay claim to still being one of the most influential today, it's the Universal horror series. The look of the films, the design of the sets, the creation of the monsters themselves are all still unsurpassed, as are some of the films themselves. 'Frankenstein' has not the lost the power to chill or astound. 'Dracula' however, has suffered a lesser fate.

Dracula (Bela Lugosi) is tucked away in his castle in Translyvania with his 3 vampire brides when estate agent Renfield comes a-calling. After turning him to the ways of the night, Dracula and his vampire children head towards England where they have Mina Harker and family in their sights. Getting to them however, will be a problem as Professor Van Helsing (Edward Sloan) knows what Dracula truly is.

Based on the stage play, and not wholly on Bram Stokers book, it's inconceivable that modern horror exists today without some debt to 'Dracula'. Over 70 years on and Tod Brownings direction can still raise the goosebumps when it needs to, the first half of the film shrouded in an eerie mist that is ripe with atmosphere. Fog wouldn't be this scary until John Carpenter got his hands on it. The look of the film alone is worth investigating as his cob-webbed sets of Dracula's castle are able to give a shiver down the spine alone. Cloaked in an ominous black and white, it's easy to see just why they've been so influential. The long, winding stairs in the castle are enough to cause a nightmare by themselves.

It's when the lights go up however, that the film is robbed of its atmosphere and a lot of the power is gone. 70 years on and it's clear that this is a stage adaptation. In fact it's painfully stagey at places. The transition and editing between scenes is clunky and exposition is rolled out dramatically, with little adherence to logic or tension. And for all the wonderful atmosphere conjured up in the first half, the second half is slooow and devoid of many chills.
It's hard to think of a film that has a duller climax (hell, it even happens off-screen). It's criminally short of tension, horror or even interest. Just because it's a stage adaptation, doesn't mean that it shouldn't be changed for a completely different medium.

There are the saving graces of some performances however. Dwight Frye is a demented, gleeful presence as the insane, insect-eating Renfield (the reveal of him on a ship full of dead men is worth your time alone) and even though he lays on the ham with a thick accent, Sloan is effective as Van Helsing and far, far better then Hugh Jackman could ever hope to be.

The finest reason to watch this is Lugosi however. Although not the definitive Dracula (Christopher Lee gets my vote), he is an awesome icon of evil here. Looking every inch the ancient vampire he really sells the horror of the part and the glare in his eyes burns with a real maleovlance, making up for the lack of blood in the film.

It's strange that 'Dracula' is still so well remembered as it's far from a great film. In fact it's half a great one, and half a poor one. But when you've got great performances, a fantastically creepy first half and some wonderful images (the 3 brides, the ship of dead men), they can compensate for anything. Age has not been kind to 'Dracula', but for its influence alone, the original Prince of Darkness still deserves your respect.

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originally posted: 06/21/04 23:02:57
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User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell dated 4 sure but a classic lugosi is the best dracula imho 4 stars
4/09/12 keith miron Classic monster movie, even it is a little dated. 3 stars
6/06/11 art this one,and nosferatau 1922,and count dracul 1970;are the best. 4 stars
9/13/10 David A. The definitive classic monster movie--Lugosi is to vampires as AC/DC is to rock and roll 5 stars
7/29/10 art HOLD EVERYTHING FOLK"S!, 1922's NOSFERATAU was the GRANDPA of all vampire flick's! 1 stars
6/01/10 User Name A dated vampire flick that creaks like an old coffing; but Lugosi is worth watching. 3 stars
7/10/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Lugosi is the best Dracula ever! 5 stars
2/06/07 David Pollastrini very well done for it's time 5 stars
11/12/06 J The 75th Anniversary edition is the best print and sound to date. It's about time! 5 stars
8/23/06 David Cohen It's shortcomings are well documented, but the film has its merits 4 stars
3/30/06 Dethbyhashi Slow, and wooden but still a great Movie 4 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard A classic. Legosi at his creepiest. 5 stars
10/11/05 Carolyn Rathburn What can you say about Bela Legosi, "I Want To Drink Your Vlood? 5 stars
11/18/04 chris creaky and slow 3 stars
8/31/04 John atmospheric and has its moments but its very very slow 3 stars
8/26/04 American Slasher Goddess Dated, but still one of the great vampire movies of the 20th century. 5 stars
5/17/04 gman "The are far worse things awaiting man than death" 5 stars
1/22/04 I Would Fuck The Lost Boys, fuck Blade, fuck From Dusk Till Dawn, this is a true vampire classic 5 stars
4/17/03 ZzanoKISShead Could have seen more blood and fangs, still a great flick! 4 stars
2/03/03 Charles Tatum Aged but still entertaining 4 stars
11/23/02 Amy The facial expressions are too funny to miss out on. 4 stars
7/30/02 Diego Montoya Yeah, what John Linton Robertson said. Some memorable parts, but it's antiquated 4 stars
2/24/02 John Linton Roberson Tedious, dated, stagey; but its iconic images, esp. the 3 Brides,are still powerful. 4 stars
11/14/01 Zizzerzazzerzuzz The old black and white makes it even eerier somehow... 4 stars
8/19/01 Andrew Carden Very Boring At Most Parts, but The Ending Is Extremly Good. 3 stars
7/23/00 Tyler Peterson A great classical horror film 5 stars
11/25/99 Dr. Acula Lugosi at his best, eerie atmosphere,Dwight Fyre's Renfield is haunting. 5 stars
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  DVD: 26-Sep-2006



Directed by
  Tod Browning

Written by
  Garrett Fort
  Dudley Murphy

  Bela Lugosi
  David Manners
  Helen Chandler
  Edward Van Sloan
  Dwight Frye

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