on 29 January 2003
If you're a fan of Dracula, and particularly this 1931 version, then you should definitely seek this out. Restoration has produced an excellent print with no visible signs of damage. The sound, while never going to be DTS, is perfectly fine.
The DVD shows of its true strength as a format with the extras Universal have provided. First, there's an entertaining 45 minute 'making of' documentary, which provides a fascinating insight into the movie's conception and production. There's also a commentary track by film historian David J. Skal, and though while scripted, tells us more than enough about the action on screen. There's the trailer and some production photographs, and last there's the opportunity to have a new orchestral score played with the film as you watch (the original features no music, except the opera scene).
Why not 5 stars?
The Region One version features the complete Spanish version of the movie, shot at the exact same time on the same sets (and reportedly superior) and is referred to frequently throughout the documentary and commentary. Why Universal, after taking so much care over this Region Two verson couldn't have provided us with this further look into Dracula's history is a shame.
on 4 February 2003
...namely the Spanish version of the film, included in the US release.
When this film was made in 1930, it was common practice for Hollywood studios to make alternative versions of their films for foreign markets - a Spanish language version of Dracula, with a different cast and crew, was filmed simutaneously, using the same sets and script but working at night with a different cast and crew.
The Spanish version was included in the US release of this disc but someone in their wisdom has decided not to include it in the region 2 release. For that reason this is a very frustrating DVD - especially since the US disc is now unavailable.
Moving away from that point of contention, this is a very good DVD of an historic film with a memorable star performance, which is still very creepy and atmospheric if you can overlook its primitive technical level and stagey production. The commentary adds immeasurably to the viewer's appreciation, and the alternative soundtrack with Philip Glass's new musical score gives an additional, haunting dimension to the film, complementing Lugosi's theatrical manner rather nicely, though purists might find it a little inappropriate or intrusive. Definitely a worthwhile addition though.
An essential addition for any collector of classic movies - but again, very, very disappointing and frustrating that the Spanish version isn't here - especially since the commentary repeatedly refers to it and presupposes that the viewer has it to hand. When are we ever going to stop getting inferior releases over here?
Made in 1931, this classic version of the Dracula story may be old but it is still a marvellous version of the classic story.
While I generally prefer the Christopher Lee version of Dracula, I must admit that Bela Lugosi gives one of the definitive versions of the character in this film. Despite the films age, it still comes off as a marvellously atmospheric piece of cinema that sets the standard for many other vampire films throughout the years. As well as Lugosi, the stand out performance in this film is Dwight Frye who gives a brilliantly unhinged performance as Renfield and is definitely one of the highlights of the film.
The only real problem with this film is that there are some plot points that are left unfortunately hanging but this is only a minor irritation in an otherwise enjoyable film. I feel it is definitely worth at least four stars if not more.
on 5 April 2011
Wow! Definitely my favourite Dracula movie. Simple but effective. I'm a huge black and white horror fan and this is defintely one of my all time favourites thanks to one of my closest friends. You know who you are! Although Christopher Lee is very good the Hammer version of Dracula is very inaccurate and misses out huge chunks of the book. Lugosi portrays Dracula like he is supposed to be. Cold (literally!), intelligent, mysterious and powerful. The way Lugosi commands the film with his presence is second to none. I don't think there will ever be a more convincing actor playing the Count. You can definitely see why this film put Lugosi on the map as an actor! Whatever you do at least give this version of Dracula a chance and I promise you won't be disappointed!
Bram Stoker's vampire novel has been remade dozens of times, but perhaps the best adaptation is the classic Bela Lugosi version. Fairly faithful to the novel and dripping with gothic atmosphere, what really makes "Dracula" stand out is the bone-chillingly charming performance by Lugosi.
A solicitor, Renfield (Dwight Frye), is travelling to Count Dracula's castle for a real estate deal, despite the locals freaking out and crossing themselves whenever Dracula's mentioned. He soon finds out why -- the Count (Lugosi) is a vampire, who enslaves a mad Renfield to his will. Soon after, a ship with a dead crew (and Renfield and Dracula in the hold) arrives in England.
Soon Dracula has moved into his new home, Carfax Abbey, and is insinuating himself with the Seward family -- and especially with pretty Lucy Westenra, who dies of blood loss and is reborn as a vampire. Only the intervention of the mysterious Dr. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) can stop Dracula's attacks in London.
Technically "Dracula" wasn't the first adaptation of "Dracula" -- that honor belongs to "Nosferatu" -- but it was the first to actually tackle the storyline in Stoker's book. And to date, it's perhaps the only to portray everyone's favorite vampire with the necessary atmosphere -- ominous, dignified and creepy.
Tod Browning sets it in all the necssary places -- crumbling castles, savage mountainous villages, foggy London streets, and sumptuous Victorian drawing rooms with eerie noises from outside. Granted, a fair amount of stuff is changed -- Jonathan Harker is partially replaced by the mad Renfield -- but none of these really detract from the storyline.
And Browning pours the creepiness on thickly, such as Dracula's seduction of young women, which keeps up the whole idea of vampiric sexuality. But Browning also knows how to pour on the subtle horror, without blood or violence -- like any scene with Renfield.
The script is just as great as the direction, with some unspeakably good dialogue ("For one who has not lived even a single lifetime, you're a wise man, Van Helsing"), usually from Dracula. But the best scenes and dialogue are made up of highlights from the novel (such as Dracula saying dreamily, "Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!").
But the star of all this is Lugosi himself, one of the two quintessential vampire actors (the other being Christopher Lee). While he doesn't resemble the book's Dracula, his hypnotic stare and charming, intense manner make him an ideal vampire count. And Frye deserves a nod for one of the nastiest, maddest, creepinest performances in cinema history. Sort of a nuttier, bug-eating Gollum ("Not when I can get nice fat spiders!").
But what does it lack? Well, if you can play American DVDs, then you'd be well advised to either get the "Dracula Legacy Collection" or the 75th anniversary version from the United States, since both of these have the gorgeous Spanish-language edition. This was shot during the hours when the English-speaking "Dracula" cast were asleep. Same sets, same marks, much the same cinematography, but a bit more fleshed out, and very well acted.
The original "Dracula" is still the best, more than seventy years after it was made. Dripping with Gothic atmosphere and seductive charm, this is a magnificent piece of work.
on 13 November 2001
Many people often say that Dracula (1931) as a film is technically inferior to the other classic Universal monster films of the 1930s and 1940s. (I think that's just another way of saying that it's boring!) Upon the first viewing of this remastered cinematic milestone (see I can talk like that too!) one is tempted to agree with this opinion, however the images - once the video has faded - remain with you forever. I believe that the opening sequences of Tod Browning's 'Dracula' have never been bettered. Cobwebs, crumbling castles, crazy coach ride, vampire bats. All these images have now entered popular culture and are the mainstay of our annual Hallow'een festivities...and what about Count Dracula himself? Immaculately dressed in pristine evening suit with carefully greased-back hair (how DOES he stay so smart lying in that dirt-filled coffin all day?) and that strange, phonetic way with his tongue. You only have to THINK of the vampiric Count, and you can HEAR him speak..."I - Am - Drac-u-la!"
But this is not Stoker's conception; the popular image of Count Dracula is due to Lugosi's amazing portrayal. A portrayal that forever associated him with the horror-genre. His face WAS that of Dracula's. His voice WAS the sound of evil. Is it any wonder that he was typecast for the rest of his life? Poor man couldn't escape from those things - at least Karloff could take off the greasepaint at the end of filming! Thankfully we can all enjoy his flim-star-making, career-breaking performance once more when viewing this fantastic video. So what if the middle gets a little stagey and the ending is a tad dull? Lugosi and the first reel of the film make this an essential piece of horror history. It's influence and lasting appeal only proves just how effective these two factors were. Finally Dwight Frye is superb as the demented Renfield; his laugh is an aural delight from start to finish and his acting in this role is the stuff of legend. Ignore the negative comments that the critics say, don't even feel obliged to watch the film as a whole; just buy it now, relive it's magic, and pay thanks to the creature-feature that started it all.
What? Bela Lugosi's dead? See the film and make up your own mind!
on 15 July 2009
other reviewers have reviewed the movie and other editions of this classic but none have actually reviewed the version shown in the graphics.The 75th anniversary edition has all the extras mentioned plus the 95min universal horror documentary,narrated by kenneth branagh ,and also a second commentary and another featurette/documentary, "lugosi:the dark prince",which runs for 36mins .It also has a trivia track which plays like subtitles during the movie.It also includes the spanish version with introduction by star Lupita Tovar Kohner.If you have a multi-region player and are a big fan you should snap this up immediately .