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Dracula [DVD]
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on 7 October 2012
First and foremost this is my favourite movie of all time and has been from the age of 6.. im only 20 years old but nonetheless the universal monster movies have captured my heart from the word go... but none moreso than this timeless classic... it would have to be bela lugosi's definitve portrayal of dracula that i can account to me being enchanted by the film... so i was VERY excited when the news broke that they where finally restoring these gems for blu ray but a bit wary as to what the quality of them would be (i need not have worried) the transfer is stunning on this (and the rest available) and the film looks as though it was made yesterday... we can finally appreciate this film as it was fully intended to be seen and heard by director tod browning.. the picture quality has to be seen to be believed and the sound is phenomenal as well.. i couldnt have asked for a better release of this movie... also the spanish version is also included and has been restored in the same vain as the english and it too looks stunning... the special features are an amazing bonus with a documentary on the making of the movie and one on lugosi.. there is a commentary by horror historian david j skal and also a score that can be listened to which some people may prefer as the film has no music in it apart from the opening title..

all in all Buy this blu ray as you wont be dissapointed

take care
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on 6 October 2014
One of the most enduring characters from the last century of film has been one Count Dracula. At the time of writing, released in cinemas this week is Dracula Untold starring Luke Evans, and every couple of years there's another version either in the cinemas or on TV. Vampires in general have become a part of the zeitgeist of movies today with films like Twilight, but it's over 80 years ago since the count himself first appeared on the screens, with Bela Lugosi becoming the ultimate Dracula and creating an iconic image that has lasted for the character ever since.

Although Nosferatu in 1922 can unofficially claim to be the first attempt at recreating the Count from the Bram Stoker novel, the 1931 version if the first time Dracula appears by name. The film in itself is based on a play produced by Stoker himself but does still stay close to the novel, It must have been a very exciting time in 1931 to be a cinemagoer as films had just moved from silent to talkies, and can you imagine now seeing characters like Dracula and Frankenstein for the first time, For the next 2 decades the Universal studio, bouyed by the success of Dracula later went on to visually create Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon and more,

Rightfully so, Dracula is regarded as a classic, and for many, Lugosi is the definitive Dracula despite stiff competition from the likes of Christopher Lee and Gary Oldman. The picture oozes a gothic atmosphere which is helped further in black and white. Obviously to today's general audience this would be too slow moving and badly acted to be of interest to the CGI generation but they would be missing an absolute treat.

In terms of this collection it is unfortunately a case of diminishing returns. The first is by far the best, Dracula's Daughter doesn't feature the character at all. Son of Dracula stars Lon Chaney Jr, a regular of the universal studios, as the son of the count and is the first film to feature a vampire turning into a bat. Both of these films are worth watching. By the 40s the studio was dishing out film after film but this time trying to give audiences more monsters than they can handle, with House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula featuring all manner of monsters, but the storylines have a tendency to be moved to one side to accomodate them all and the characterisations are weak. Still very much worth a viewing though.

For just over £20 this is really a bargain set for 5 great movies and is pretty much the entire roster of Dracula's 'Universal' appearances. If you've never seen the original before then this is as good a chance as any to see what became the legacy for Horrors greatest icon.

Despite the Amazon description this does NOT include the Abbott and Costello movie but does feature a foreign language version of the original Dracula as an extra
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on 30 November 2008
The original Universal production of Dracula, released in 1931 and starring Bela Lugosi in the title role, is far more impressive for its influence on the American horror film genre than for the actual quality of the film itself.
Far more so than James Whale's Frankenstein (which appeared later the same year), Tod Browning's version of Bram Stoker's vampire tale comes across as a truly arthritic production when viewed today. Apart from the opening scenes in Dracula's Transylvanian castle, the bulk of the film is so static that it can seem to the viewer as though they are watching a filmed play (which, given the origin of Garrett Fort's script, is essentially the case). Action is almost non-existent in this movie, with all the major set-pieces of the book (including Dracula's eventual demise) referred to by the actors but never seen. And the actors are hardly flawless either. The pick of the bunch must by Dwight Frye as Renfield; though his performance is not exactly subtle, he at least gives it plenty of energy and gusto. Edward Van Sloan's buzz-cut Dr. Van Helsing is more faithful to the book's wise, old professor than the interpretations given in later versions by Peter Cushing (nimble action man) and Anthony Hopkins (battle-scarred nutcase); but he's also one of the dullest versions on film, with only his one face-to-face scene with Lugosi's Dracula carrying any real dramatic charge. As for Lugosi himself, his appearance is certainly iconic, and it's not difficult to see why his memorable turn was thought to be the definitive Dracula for many decades; however, only the most convinced apologist would maintain that it is a great cinema performance. Stagey, hammy, and with some truly bizarre line-readings (`I have chartered a ship...to take us to England. Ve vill be lea...ving tomorrow...eve...ning'), today it comes across as frankly very weird; though a memorably odd-looking and foreign presence who enlivened some of the best horror movies of the period, Lugosi was certainly not an actor to rival Boris Karloff (Frankenstein) or Claude Rains (The Invisible Man), and though often excellent in meaty supporting roles (Island of Lost Souls, Son of Frankenstein), he could rarely carry a film himself.
All in all, the 1931 Dracula must be judged especially disappointing, for so many films closely related to it (such as the simultaneously-shot Spanish version, Whale's Frankenstein, and especially Browning's controversial Freaks from the following year) do a far better job of engaging the audience. Despite what many senior (and predominantly American) critics would have you believe, this is not the definitive adaptation of the novel; that title belongs to Terence Fisher's 1958 version.
Also included here is a good documentary, `The Road to Dracula', previously featured on Universal's 1999 VHS release of the movie.
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on 3 March 2015
I remember watching this film as a teenager and at 13 years of age in 1977 and having read the book by Bram Stoker from the library, Bela was (and still is) the only man for me as far as the character of Dracula was concerned. The way Bela conveyed his malevolence AND charm was perfect and he gave the character a very naughty sense of humour with the line "I never drink.....wine......", which does not appear in the book but who cares? It was such a stroke of genius and has been imitated time and time again, though sometimes unsuccessfully, one just wishes that those that haven't matched up or equalled it would have not ventured into already perfect waters. Bela IS Dracula, from the first moment we see him with his slow, menacing walk to the scene in the theatre where he first meets Mina and Lucy, he is charming and witty, you can just feel his presence almost tangibly, it's almost electric. I couldn't get the image of Renfield at the foot of the steps on the ill fated ship out of my mind for weeks if not months, his maniacal laughter is the stuff of nightmares, his wide, staring eyes are horrific, he has gone completely insane. Have we actually seen the like of it since in a film or tv version of Dracula? The only one that springs to mind is Jack Shepherd in Count Dracula with Louis Jordan as the Count. Jack's performance reminded me a little of the Renfield in Bela's film, disturbing BUT also heart rending in Jack's version. I think that anyone wishing to make a new film or series of Dracula should have Bela and Louis on repeat, simply as a standard for what can be achieved if not excelled. The book should be followed too because, well, why wouldn't you? I can't stand all this nonsense of making Mina and Lucy sisters when in the book Lucy is a family friend and then in some films Dracula is after Lucy, not Mina? Why? Why not just stick with the story as it is in the book? Lucy is an aperitive, and Mina is the main course. In this film Lucy is quite rightly a family friend. I think that true fans of Bela's Dracula have been ruined for any new attempts by those chosen to play their own Dracula. Bela was 6ft 1in in real life, and apparently he was rather imposing as the Count, especially with the ladies, and I do think there has to be a sexual attractiveness to Dracula, how else would he manage to weave his way into his victims lives without being attractive? Christopher Lee successfully brought sex appeal to his Dracula and in those days that was very risqué. What most of the films lack these days is basically everything that Bela Lugosi's Dracula had, one must remember that this film was released in 1931 and it was perceived as a HORROR film. I'm going to do myself a favour and stop ripping apart every new Dracula that comes along, because to compare them to Bela's Dracula is sometimes just a futile exercise, although I do giggle whenever the bat appears in this film, it is genuinely funny, although I bet in 1931 it looked pretty real...... Ask anybody to do an impersonation of the character Dracula, and it is highly likely they will do Bela's. Ask anyone to describe the Dracula costume they would wear for a fancy dress party, they will describe Bela's. Buy this film if you want the benchmark of Dracula's, and I can guarantee you will watch it again and again.
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on 30 November 2013
Tod Browning's Dracula is often unfairly compared to Murnau's unauthorized Nosferatu, and it is an unfair comparison because the two are very different films, which merely happen to share the same literary inspiration. (Neither are mere adaptations. The only film to fairly compare to Murnau's would be Herzog's remake with Kinski and, indeed, it compares very favorably). The vampire of Murnau and Schreck is an accursed, repulsive animal, the carrier of a dreaded plague and the beast fights fiercely to sustain it's life, like a rodent in it's death throes. The Dracula of Browning and Lugosi is an outsider, a mesmerizing and intensely austere intruder, who comes to nourish on the aristocratic London Society, who he, paradoxically, yearns to to join (fittingly, for a genuine outsider, it is to no avail of course; he makes rather pronounced overtures and goes to extraordinary lengths to fulfill his ambition there).

Dwight Frye's pre-bitten Renfield is nearly as strange an outcast as he is after his transformation, albeit in a far dracula1different light. Renfield is a bizarre, urban effeminate in an old meat, potatoes and superstition land. The villagers are outcasts too, but among them, Renfield is the doomed jester, misguidedly blinded by his foolhardy feeling of superiority over them and stubbornly oblivious to the peasants' warnings.

The introduction to the inhabitants of Castle Dracula is among the most discussed in the annuls of Universal Horror and, to many viewers,it is also most perplexing. This is quintessential Browning. The static silence is punctuated with genuine dread, surreal humor, and the unnerving whimpers of a opossum. Karl Freund's camera pans over a decidedly unreal set. The vampire brides slowly emerge as a bee scampers out of it's little coffin. An opossum seems to be ducking for cover in it's dilapidated coffin and it's cries are the only living sounds we hear as we are introduced to Lugosi's Count staring directly at the camera.

Renfield's journey to Castle Dracula perfectly captures the sensory view of a crepuscular world. Indeed, no other Universal horror film would convey it as vividly and attempts to do so in later films proved pale imitations.

Renfield's arrival to the castle, and state of confusion, is juxtaposed against the awkward but pertinacious emergence of Dracula. Lugosi's emergence seems to partake of a genuine struggle and this echoes the delivery of his greeting which follows. This emergence sharply contrasts with the startling and confused appearance of armadillos scurrying in the ruins below, which also heightens Renfield's confused state.

Critics have unfavorably compared this scene to Melford's much more fluid shot of Villar's Count appearance atop the stairwell in Dracula (The Spanish Version). This can be dismissed as sloppy, revisionist criticism. Browning is a master at those elongated pauses where little seems to be happening. With careful, focused attention, this proves to be deceptive, but admittedly is a struggle for viewers corn fed on television bred aesthetics. Comparing the two is akin to comparing an artist as opposed to a mere craftsman. Melford's scene is surface dramatics and cannot illicit anything remotely comparable to the surreal queasiness Browning evokes here. Additionally, Melford's entrance climaxes with a jerky and unintentionally comic Villar greeting his visitor. With Melford, the effect is ruined, never recovers,and only worsens. With Browning, the unreal dread has just begun.

The vampire's lethargic descent, set against the massive sets, resembles the pronounced, surreal fire and ice quality of an El Greco. Dracula's torpid greeting to Renfield is an unnatural extension of his body movements, and is exactly how we might expect such a greeting to be delivered after a hibernating state.

The absurd myth that Lugosi learned his lines phonetically probably sprang from his verbal introduction here. We sense, not that Dracula is struggling to speak English, but that he is struggling to speak at all here. Lugosi had been in the states for five years and had been playing the part of Dracula on Broadway for three, so in 1931 his English was already as good as it would ever be. His English in Browning's previous "The Thirteenth Chair", while still not expert, was actually "better" than it was in Dracula. Lugosi himself discussed how intensely Browning directed his acting in the film, stating that the direction was very different than the way he had played the part on Broadway. Thus, the abnormal delivery was quite intentional on the director's part and the actor never repeated the stylized performance, even when he played the role again some 17 years later in Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein.

Browning, understandably, was an actor's director. He had acted himself in some 50 films early in his cinematic career. While it's true that he never found a real replacement for his beloved Lon Chaney, he did have a rewarding collaborative partnership with both Lugosi and Lionel Barrymore, even if he did not find those as satisfying. (He reportedly worked well with Lugosi, but only used him once more, in Mark of the Vampire. Browning's relationship with Barrymore, by most accounts, proved to be combative but he did work twice more with Lionel in Mark and The Devil Doll , and, to be fair, the teaming of Chaney and Browning would not be equaled again until Herzog and Kinski).

Browning makes much use of body language with Lugosi, Van Sloan and Chandler. With Lugosi and Van Sloan he focuses intense concentration on the eyes and hands. When Dracula leers at the seated Renfield, Browning and Freund utilized a pinpoint spotlight in Lugosi's eyes to enhance the hypnotic effect. It's quite unreal and, just as equally effective, later there will be a symbolic connection to Van Sloan's hyper-pronounced glasses.

The emergence of Dracula's three brides, in an attempt to feast on the drugged Renfield, will also have a symbolic connection. Renfield will soon be transformed, but it will not be by the three women. Dracula stops them just in time to take over the feasting himself, and one wonders whether Renfield symbolizes the first of Dracula's three replacement brides (Dracula tells Renfield earlier that he is only taking three boxes and one assumes, at first, that his brides will be traveling with him, yet they never re-appear and so this seems to be a set-up for their replacements. Had Renfield been as fiercely loyal a disciple as he professed he was going to be, he may have been converted to full fledged vampire and joined his master).

Renfield paves the way for Dracula's entrance into society, a bit like the Baptist proclaiming that good news is coming. Like any disciple, Renfield is, by turns, both overly zealous in his proselytizing and frequently faltering in his loyalty and one feels it is the characterization of Renfield that Browning identifies with and enjoys the most.

Before merging with London society, Dracula must feed, and it is an innocent and waif-like flower girl that becomes his first victim. (The girl being of obvious lower class, he does not transform her, but merely kills her. London's elitist status quo system quickly rubs off on him). Dracula is both elegant and sinister here.

Dracula enters the opera house to strains of Schubert's "Unfinished" symphony and then, very quickly, the conclusion of Wagner's "Die Meistersinger' prelude. It is the only music in the context of the film. Browning's extensive use of silence proved to be an artistically sound decision. That point was especially made when Universal tacked on Philip Glass' execrable score for the film's anniversary release.

We are now introduced to Helen Chandler's complex and vastly underrated Mina. Again, Browning is expert in drawing forth a nuanced and interesting performance from an actor. The role of Mina is one of the most pointed criticisms in the Browning film, deemed unworthy and pale next to Lupita Tovar's role of Eva in Melford's version. Indeed, Tovar gives the only decent performance in the Melford film, but compared to Chandler, Tovar is obvious (yes, she's more overtly sexual) and also more amateurish. Chandler acts with her body, her eyes, and facial gestures. The way Chandler touches herself, as she frequently does in the film, so delicately brushing her collar bone, as if to cover her vulnerably exposed flesh, conveys a sort of girlish outrage at Lucy's expressed attraction to the dark toned utterances of their foreign visitor. Chandler's is a beautifully and subtly nuanced performance which improves as her character evolves. The character of Mina evolves more than any other throughout the film. Mina's bedroom scene with Lucy, further enhances this. As Mina listens to Lucy's fascination with the Count, she again touches herself, folds her hands, looks intensely at Lucy with a young woman's superficial naïveté and genuine concern. She runs her fingers over the wooden arm of the chair, a state of occupied wandering, as if it is a diversion from the true extent of her friend's dark sexual attraction to Dracula. "Give me someone a little more normal," Chandler says, acutely capturing her character's Victorian stuffiness and adolescence. Chandler finally relents to Lucy's crush. She gets up, still half mocking Lucy, covers her exposed flesh again, indicating her virginal state,and beautifully kicks up her knee in departure, like a sixteen year old girl.

Chandler's years of acting experience are in full flower here. She had been very active in theater for well over ten years, had acted with both Barrymores in productions of Shakespeare and Ibsen, had gotten good reviews for the film Outward Bound and was already deep in the throes of the alcoholism that would eventually take her. She was hardly endowed with the innocence she portrayed in Mina, but undoubtedly tapped into the memory of it (and later, innocence lost) to give Mina resonance.

Lucy's death scene is well filmed and shows Browning at the peak of his powers. A lamp with three female figures rests next to her (the figures echoing Dracula's three vampire brides). Behind the lamp is an ominous clock. She drifts to sleep ever so slowly. Dracula first appears as a silent bat hovering before Lucy's open window, then a moment later he is in human form, a few feet away from her as she sleeps. He methodically bends his arm, as if he is re-shaping from bat to human before he approaches her, moving as if almost under water. When he is inches away from her, the scene dissolves into a medical theater of sorts. Doctors are hovering over Lucy's corpse as students watch from above. The students seem as lifeless as Lucy and not only do we have the feeling of undead, but a dream-like feeling of something unreal permeates the scene, as if sprouted from Baudelaire's Poe.

We are now introduced to Edward Van Sloan's Van Helsing. From the outset, he is a parallel figure to Dracula and, at times, seems just as sinister. His hand movements, when he touches Renfield's hand for instance, recall Dracula's distinct hand gestures. The exaggerated glasses, as stated above, have as much meaning as the pinpoint spotlight in Dracula's hypnotic eyes. Both Dracula and Van Helsing can see well beyond the confines of their surroundings. They are the only two who actually see, the others are, metaphorically, like lost sheep attempting to see through a glass darkly.

Dracula and Van Helsing are metaphorically Christ and Anti-Christ although the distinction between the two is intentionally blurred. The comparison is apt, as this is the most religious of Universal's horror films.

The much maligned second half of the film shifts perspective, but still does not resemble a real world at all and casts an aquatic spell over the receptive viewer.

Another very well filmed scene is the vignette of Renfield in his cell as his master silently pays call outside. The scene cross cuts between the tense, nerve-frayed, overtly emotional, pleading Renfield and the ice cold vampire; fire and ice again. Renfield bows his head, devastated, in a half prayer for the intended victim, Mina, which goes unanswered. This flows into Mina sleeping in her bed. Again Dracula appears as a bat hovering before a window. Then, Browning's sharp trademark intercut. Dracula is suddenly in the room. He is in human form, but his arm is lifted, almost as if he is unfolding. Lucy's three figure lamp is now mysteriously placed in Mina's room. There is no explanation for this, save for symbolic foreboding. Another sharp intercut; a close-up of Lugosi, who looks young and even handsome here. A long shot of Draculas' full, slowly approaching figure cross cuts with a repeated image of the sleeping Mina, then another sharp intercut to an intense close-up of Lugosi, whose face is now twisted into a hideous expression.

The following night reveals a Mina recounting her bad dream to fiancee Harker. Van Helsing overhears this, approaches her, puts on his glasses to examine her, lifts the scarf from her neck, to which she responds with an almost sensual gasp. This is Mina on the verge of transforming into a more ethereal and more interesting character who understandably begins to find her fiancee increasingly dull. Mina's facial expressions range from introverted guilt, shame, half-masked pride, and finally, a thinly masked yearning for Dracula after he makes his appearance to the group. Van Helsing interrupts the foreplay between Mina and Dracula, and Mina reverts back, albeit briefly, to a more fragile, wounded state. But Mina's is a wildly mercurial state and again she shifts, this time chastising the doctor after advises that she go to her room.

Dracula feigns concern over Mina's bad dreams, while Mina twirls her fingers through her scarf. She rises her from the couch, kicks up her knee and closes her eyes in a state of ecstasy as Dracula recommends she do as the doctor advises. This is when the Puritan Van Helsing makes his discovery of Dracula in the mirror. The reactions to the smashing of the mirror are priceless. Herbert Bunston's expression of uncomfortable awkwardness during Dracula's explanation plays well with Manners' display of disgust and Van Sloan's gleeful pride.

Another highly effective bit of acting is in the scene in which Renfield describes his master, parting a red mist. This is Dwight Frye's best scene in the film and he plays it with all the sincerity of an obsessed apostle. Renfield's narration dracula2here resembles an epitaph for a biblical saint and his miracles.

The showdown between Van Helsing and Dracula, both believing themselves to be the protagonist, is made the more surreal by Dracula's hissed departure, fleeing the cross, yet unaccompanied by any dramatic music attempting to tell us this is a dramatic scene.

The rest of the film pretty much belongs to Chandler and one of the most unsettling images in that last quarter is the close-up of Chandler, almost fully vampiric, as she leans into Harker. Her wonderfully expressive eyes now express only deadness, a bit like a doll's eyes.

Dracula descending down the stairs of Carfax Abbey to kill Renfield takes us back to Dracula descending down the stairs to greet Renfield near the film's opening, and there remains but one act of penance to pay, this being from the film's blasphemer, Count Dracula. When Van Helsing stakes him off screen, Chandler's body twists, thrusting in agonized reaction, her firsts clench and her breasts heave as she loses her master and, we empathize because we will see nothing of the like again. Comparatively, recent pickings from the crop, such as "Twilight" are typical shallow fare. Browning's Dracula is the real thing.

* my review was originally published at 366 Weird Movies
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on 19 December 2013
This has to be my favourite of all the Universal Horror films of the 30's and 40's. I have owned it on DVD for many years and was persuaded to upgrade to the Blu-Ray by the reviews here praising the restoration work. I have to say that I am in full agreement, both the picture and sound quality are now probably at a standard even better than when it was originally made. Why am I only giving it four stars? It loses one star over my minor niggle that, no matter how I set the aspect ratio on either my TV or Blu-Ray player, it seems it can only be viewed with two black vertical bars on either side of the picture. This was not an issue with my DVD copy which was displayed in full widescreen. This is something I cannot seem to fix or alter and it takes away a little of my viewing enjoyment. As I said, this is a minor niggle (but a niggle nonetheless) and, apart from that, I can see no reason to not recommend this release. If you've enjoyed it on VHS or DVD before then you really need to see it again on Blu-Ray, it is almost like a new film all over again.
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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.
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on 28 January 2010
When Universal Studios released Dracula in 1931, it sent shockwaves throughout the movie industry. The film started off the famous 'Horror Cycle' which saw the studio produce so many greats of the genre of which I am a big fan (and a few bad ones as well!). It also created nearly every stereotype and cliché associated with the Dracula legend. And yet it has not aged well, and many limitations hold the film back.

Starting with the strong points: Bela Lugosi is without any shadow of a doubt, the greatest Dracula of all-time. He could convey in a single, hypnotic look what Max Schreck could do only with heavy makeup and wonderful photography, what Christopher Lee could do only with gore galore and Gary Oldman could only do with all of modern film-making on his side and more. People sometimes forget that the legendary line 'I never drink...wine' is not from the book, but from Bela Lugosi (in the book he says 'I have already dined and I don't smoke'). His accent is captivating and his very movement draws you in and makes you want to expose your neck. While many movie fans are tempted to praise Boris Karloff higher for his role as the creature in Frankenstein, I will always prefer Lugosi in Dracula who turns in one of the greatest performances of all-time.

Dwight Frye is also a winner as Renfield. Like Lugosi, he is the best version yet seen of this demented madman with a laugh that will send shivers down your spine. His line about the rats is also a classic. It is perhaps little wonder that Frye was immortalised in song by Alice Cooper in the 1970s in the famous 'Ballard of Dwight Fry' (sic).

Edward Van Sloan is also a very fine Van Helsing and although the acting style of the day has aged somewhat he nevertheless puts in a fine showing.

Tod Browning may have to play second fiddle to James Whale in the pantheon of horror directors, but his work is also noteworthy here.

Sadly, despite these fine points, there are numerous faults although very little of it can be blamed on the film. The acting (apart from Lugosi, Van Sloan and Frye) is awful. It is wooden, bland and looks like a first take read from a dummy card. But then this was only four years into the 'talkie' era when studios still made films with title cards in-between lines as so many cinemas did not have the technology to play sound. All the established screen actors simply did not know how to talk and stage actors who were drafted in found it difficult to adapt to the screen.

The other major fault is the story and script which is based on the stage-play rather than the book. This was due to financial reasons as the studio's budget in the great depression was limited, and the elaborate tale dreamed up by Universal in the 1920s, did not fit the world post Wall Street crash. As a result, the film lacks all of the panic and frenzied crescendo of the book and the film nearly dies a death once the ship docks in Whitby (which is in London all of the sudden!). The ending is also a huge anti-climax due to the sensibilities of the day.

The extras on the DVD are enough for me to want to replace my old VHS copy and are a worthy treatment for such a memorable film.

To sum it all up it must be said that you must appreciate the circumstances in which the film was made. When you can look past that, you will see Dracula as he was meant to be seen, not with a ridiculous hair-do or over-done blood but able to make your skin crawl with a single glance. What I wouldn't give for a time machine that could take Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye into the modern era to make this film now as it was meant to be made.

Lugosi never lived this part down and was buried wearing a Dracula cape. Re-watching his performance, you half expect him to rise from the grave as the un-dead to drink your blood while you sleep. He came to the screen with the immortal line: 'I am Dracula'- truer words were never spoken.
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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!
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on 15 September 2000
The first (and many regard as the best) major production of the spine-chilling classic, this set a trend for horror film making in the decades that followed.
Using as it's basis both the original novel and the script for a broadway play, it starts with Renfield visiting Dracula in his castle in Transylvania where he quickly falls under his spell.
After that the action moves to London, where the count has bought on old ruin which reminds him of his home in Transylvania.
Notable for it's elaborate set pieces and Bela Lugosi's genuine Hungarian accent, it was let down somewhat by an dull ending.
"Dracula's Daughter" followed, which Lugosi refused to appear in because of fear of being type cast.
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