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Dracula [Blu-ray]  [Region Free]
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Although there have been numerous screen versions of Bram Stoker’s classic tale, Dracula, none is more enduring than this 1931 movie. Towering ominously among the shadows of the Carpathian Mountains, Castle Dracula strikes fear in the hearts of the Transylvanianvillagers below. With the superb Bela Lugosi starring as the screen’s most popular vampire Count Dracula, the film’s eerie and chilling mood is enhanced by specialist horror director Tod Browning. Dracula remains a masterpiece not only of the genre, but for all time.
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There is, in my opinion, nothing to rival this portrayal of the elegant Count, with the possible single exception of Klaus Kinski's impersonation in "Nosferatu", but they are so stylistically different that each stands apart and alone, and cannot be compared with the other.
Lugosi's Hungarian accent - at the time of making the film he spoke little or no English and so had to learn his lines phonetically - is incomparable. This is an extremely elegant portrayal with none of the gore of the many Hammer versions of the story. Instead one is caught up in a Gothic landscape of Dracula's castle and Carfax Abbey. The terrible storm that assails the ship chartered by Dracula is of course, and quite obviously, a model, but it is nonetheless terrifying, and therefore very much of the genre. And don't forget the Innkeeper and his wife who attempt to dissuade Jonathan Harker from journeying on to Castle Dracula...she runs forward to the carriage, drapes a rosary around Harker's neck and again with a heavy Hungarian accent begs him, to "...wear this!...for your mother's sake!"
A splendid film that while obviously dated is still marvellously atmospheric and entertaining.
It's a shame then that the rest of the film is not much cop. It's slow, lazy and dull. It's spiced up a bit by Dracula's arch-nemesis Van Helsing, but apart from that the rest of the characters are instantly forgetable.
As Dracula's castle is grand, sweeping and gothic, back in England it's rigidly dull, and extremely slow-plotted, even over its hour ten minute length.
The stand out moments - the first time Van Helsing discovers Dracula doesn't cast a reflection is brilliant, and whenever Lugosi awakes from his coffin - really make you glad you have this film on DVD, but can't make the rest of the film seem better.
Meanwhile House of Dracula is a worthless piece of film that does little to nothing to further enhance Universal's horror icons - but in fact tries to dispel the mythological legends as just people with a disease. And so this film concerns itself with a Doctor who is trying to cure Dracula and the Wolfman.
That set up ruins the whol horror premise, as we are not meant to understand these creatures - they are supernatural. And this film tries to explain them, and obviously fails. The inclusion of the Wolfman played by Lon Chaney was inspired, but the extended cameo of Frankenstein's monster was pointless.
As usual for this series of DVDs, the extras are pretty in-depth, and intelligent to watch. More interesting than the actual films!
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