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Dracula (1931)

The 1931 movie of Dracula was the first authorized motion picture of Bram Stoker's famous vampire novel. The silent movie Nosferatu had already been made, but without the permission or cooperation of the Stoker estate, and thus the vampire in that movie was not named Dracula. There had been a popular play based on the novel, which this movie used as a blueprint. The story is changed slightly from the original.

It begins with Renfield in a carriage on his way to the castle to meet with Dracula, who is his new client. Renfield insists on finishing his journey to the castle after dark, even though the local villagers warn him that it is dangerous. Dracula needs his services to rent a property in London, and after shooing off his three vampire brides the Count attacks Renfield and turns him into his slave. They set off for England the next day on a ship.

The ship arrives in England with the entire crew dead, and only Renfield is found aboard. Of course by this time he has gone completely insane. He is locked away in a sanitarium run by Dr. Seward, which just happens to be on the adjoining property to Carfax Abbey where Dracula has relocated. Dracula visits Dr. Seward at the opera to try to secure Renfield's release, and in the process meets Dr. Seward's daughter Mina, her fiance Jonathan Harker, and her friend Lucy. Later Dracula attacks Lucy, leading to her death.

Meanwhile Dr. Seward has consulted Dr. Van Helsing on Renfield's case, and Van Helsing has begun to suspect a vampire. Now that Lucy has died, Dracula has turned his attentions to Mina, and Van Helsing decides he must save her by determining who the vampire is and destroying it. The others are convinced a vampire is at work after it is discovered that the undead Lucy has been behind a series of attacks on children. Chances are you know how the story plays out, but I won't ruin the ending just in case.
Now I have to admit something that may seem like a heresy for fans of horror movies. I don't care for this version of Dracula. I think it is poorly made even for the standards of the time. Some people say the lack of soundtrack music makes it seem sparse and eerie. I think the movie could have used a good score to punch up the tension, especially since most of the really exciting things happen off camera. People say that Bela Lugosi really sells the character. Personally I find him kind of awkward and not creepy in the way he is meant to be. I think he does a much better job as Dracula in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
The movie does have it's good points. It did bring the real Dracula to the silver screen. It kicked off Universal's string of monster films. It even had some good scenes in it. The village scene with Renfield at the beginning of the movie was very well acted and was a great scene. Dracula trying to fight temptation after Renfield cuts his thumb was also good. Overall though, the movie just doesn't hold up that well, especially as there have been a lot of versions of the movie made since, and some of them really are good. I would suggest watching one of those movies instead, or maybe one of the other (superior) Universal monster movies. Now if you'll excuse, I believe I should prepare for the angry mob armed with torches and pitchforks.


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