Dracula (1931)

Now the summer is here, the film posts begin…and what better to start off this summer’s film selection than the most classic of Horror films, 1931’s Dracula, with Bela Lugosi in the title role. This Tod Browning directed film is still a staple of all horror lovers collections, nearly 85 years after its original release and to watch it is to understand why it is still so loved.

As many know, Dracula is the story of a legendary vampire who travels to England to seek new blood and to spread his curse of the undead. Whilst in England, he is confronted by vampire hunter, Van Helsing, portrayed wonderfully in this film by Edward Van Sloan, who attempts to repel and eventually destroy Count Dracula for ever, ensuring he never returns.

Dracula and Mina

Dracula prays on a hypnotised Mina

Starting with the acting in the film…it is fantastic…quite simply. The Hungarian-born Lugosi is magnificent as the Count. His natural thick accent bringing an eeriness and a aristocratic charm to the role…something he had perfected playing the character on stage previously. He brought to us so many famous quotes – ‘I am Dracula, I bid you welcome’ – ‘Listen to them, children of the night, what music they make’ – of which are repeated when anyone pretends to be the vampire. There have been many excellent portrayals of Dracula since Lugosi, most notably, the recently late Sir Christopher Lee, who brought a more intimidating presence to the role while still keeping the charm but despite this, the one that most think of when they think of Dracula is Lugosi, with his classic Hungarian accent.

Van Helsing

Dracula and Van Helsing – an early example of pure good vs pure evil

As previously mentioned, Ed Van Sloan is wonderful as Dracula’s legendary nemesis, the vampire hunter, Van Helsing, whose psychological battle with the Count within the film proved for some highly intense moments. Dwight Frye as Renfield, a man who, at the start of the film, comes to visit Dracula and is warned not to travel to the castle by locals and when does, is quickly captured under Dracula’s hypnotic spell and assists him in travelling to England. The insanity portrayed by Frye in the film is incredible and is, still now, rather frightening and unpredictable. Other notable cast members include Helen Chandler as Mina, Dracula’s target throughout the film and David Manners as John Harker, Mina’s husband and the one who seeks Van Helsing’s assistance.

Renfield

Dwight Frye as the insane Renfield

As Dracula is a horror film, one of the more famous in history, I couldn’t finish without talking about the atmosphere. For me, atmosphere is one of the more important elements of any horror film and this one gets it perfect. It really isn’t hard to see why it is so well praised. The classical gothic elements of the film add to the sense of darkness and eeriness but I feel that the atmosphere of the film is created through the performances mainly…especially Lugosi with his eyes and facial expressions.

A very simple film…there’s no complicated plot to follow here…so where the genius of it comes is through its creation of atmosphere and it’s constant intensity. Watching it these days of course, many are familiar with some moments of the film and that is another way it can be enjoyed by realising ‘Oh, that’s where that comes from’ but it is much more than the inspiration for what is now considered cliche…truly one of the more hauntingly atmospheric films I own…and for me the definitive vampire film.

Castle Dracula

Castle Dracula – the definition of Gothic

Many horror fans I’m sure will agree with me, but for those of you who haven’t seen the film…it really is a must watch, even if it is just for the sake of saying ‘I’ve seen the original Dracula’…but I’m sure that if you watch it, you’ll hugely enjoy it and be quoting it for days afterwards!!

They’ll be no rating system with these film posts…just a simple bit about them and whether I like, love, dislike, hate or was disappointed by them…this one happens to be one I love!!

Let me know your thoughts on 1931’s Dracula in the comments and contact me at morgan@thepurpledon.com if you have any inquiries or suggestions for improvements to posts!

More Film Tomorrow

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *