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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.

Then there's the Spanish-language one, which is virtually identical and was filmed on the exact same sets, during the hours when the English-language one was not being shot. Same settings, same marks, same cinematography, many of the same scenes -- although it's much longer. It's excellent, and although it lacks that iconic intensity that Lugosi brought the English-language film, it's full of atmosphere and good acting.

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!").

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 9 November 2005
Watching this black and white, original Universal horror icon, you can see why it is a classic. Bela Lugosi IS Count Dracula, and the famous scenes really are very memorable.
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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Take Bela Lugosi away from Tod Browning's Dracula and it would collapse completely. Even with him it doesn't hold up at all well, making 70 minutes feel like seven hours as it crawls its flatfooted way through the plot points with barely a trace of style or imagination, making for possibly the dullest classic ever made. George Melford's Spanish version shot simultaneously on the same sets and included on the US DVD (but not, unforgiveably, on this Region 2 issue) is infinitely superior thanks to beautifully fluid direction and a better script, but even that eventually runs aground in endless dialog scenes and is hindered by the absence of Lugosi. Aside from the absence of the Spanish version, the R2 DVD does at least have a decent selection of extras.

House of Dracula is another one of the Universal's classic monster mashes, but and enjoyable one with good doctor Onslow Stevens finding himself with Dracula, the Wolfman and the Frankenstein Monster among his patients. But having spent so much time killing Dracula and curing Talbot (his lycanthropy is psychosomatic, apparently), it suffers from a rushed ending that barely has time to fit the good doctor going mad, reviving the Frankenstein monster, killing his loyal hunchbacked nurse before everything goes up in flames: in fact, he's so rushed off his feet that even Lionel Atwill's police chief and the rioting villagers only get a couple of shots, turning up just in time to run away. The real star of the show is John Carradine's Dracula, one of the most interesting screen interpretations, seducing his victim through music with a sad dignity that reminds you that sometimes the Devil really is a gentleman.
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on 25 February 2005
Whilst for value for money and just the fact of being able to own these wonderful originals is fantastic, I really DON'T understand why Universal are not releasing these sets in the same way as in the USA.
The boxsets statside have ALL the movies from the franchise, not just two or in the case of one of the region 2 releases just one of the movies.
Personally I brought the sets from the states and am extremely happy with them, but come on Universal stop trying to sell your European fans short!
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on 27 March 2015
Wonderful old-time horror movie proving Bela LUGOSI was the best nosferatu of all.

Highly stylized and somewhat stilted, this eloquently creates the necessary gothic atmosphere: The only way to tell a story so replete with implicit sexual yearning and danger. Understanding how closely related are fear and sexual desire, makes it easy to see how LUGOSI seduces so many young women with his eyes and gentlemanly manners.

Helen CHANDLER is excellent as the ingenue who realizes she is turning intro a vampire yet who, out of love for her fiancé, warns him to stop loving her. Her inner conflict of a woman unable to focus her sexuality against the polygynous attractions of the undead is well expressed.

Dwight FRYE is also superb as an everyday estate agent who then goes mad - in the kind of way Peter Lorre would rightly envy - after being bitten by the eponymous lead character.
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on 22 January 2016
Universal U.K. & U.S. as usual reissue the old classics time & time again without thinking twice
they don't think about adding new extras or adding a new 2k or 4k HD restoration for the film
cause Blu-ray technology is changing every year
no Universal don't bother, they just recycle, typical marketing bulls*** if you ask me
well this time it's the original 1931 Dracula
and i tell you absolutely nothing is Different in terms of content
both versions of the film and all the special features from the 2012 blu-ray
are on this 2014 reissue, the only Difference is the cover art that's it.
so whether you buy the 2012 or the 2014 blu-ray, your getting the exact same content, but choosing which cover art to buy
5 stars for the 2 versions and the special features
but 1 star for this new reissue, cause that's all it is, a reissue nothing special
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on 13 November 2004
The Region 2 release contains Tod Browning's seminal 1931 Dracula (the first sound version of the story) with, for some reason, the 1945 House of Dracula and not, say, the Spanish version of Browning's film or its immediate (and superior) sequel Dracula's Daughter.
The Bela Lugosi Dracula isn't actually all that good as a film - because it was adapted from the vaudeville stage version, the action tends to be stiff and the dialogue stilted. Nevertheless, there are some fine and memorable moments - Renfield's entry into Dracula's castle, his bat-driven coach ride, the discovery of the shipwreck with its murdered crew. However, most of the film is given over to lengthy explanations and it is clear that Browning was uncomfortable with the new medium of talking cinema. Over all this Lugosi's performance shines like a beacon. The disc also contains Philip Glass's new score for the movie performed by the Kronos Quartet, and a genuinely illuminating documentary about the background to the film (much better than the extras we're accustomed to on other discs).
The companion, House of Dracula, was Universal milking both its Dracula and Frankenstein franchises dry. There isn't very much to commend the film - script and acting are generally poor, and the story has been cobbled together with a view to overloading one piece of action upon another. Onslow Stevens tries his best as the kindly doctor corrupted by Dracula's influence, and there are some original elements (the use of light and shadow, the introduction of a science-based approach to the monster myth, the juxtaposition of beauty and disfigurement in Jane Adams's hunchbacked nurse), but these are really small compensation for the overall feeling of not trying hard enough.
The packaging is pleasant on the eye, and the extras are mostly worthwhile (although I didn't appreciate the blatant marketing for the Van Helsing film). Of the two discs, the Dracula one is by far the most rewarding; but one wonders why they couldn't have come up with a more exciting coupling. Completists will certainly want the full 'Monster Legacy' set, but for those who only want Lugosi this is an adequate offering at a low price.
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on 12 March 2006
It's impossible to fairly judge Tod Browning's "Dracula" in 2006, so long after the film's original release, so my thoughts are biased. To me, it's much too short to do the book justice and simply doesn't frighten me in the slightest. Lugosi's evil stares are certainly effective, but he attacks his victims so slowly, it becomes a question of why they don't simply run away. In 1931 this wouldn't be a problem. Anyway, it's worth watching for Lugosi, along with Dwight Frye's fantastically weird Renfield and Edward Von Sloan's Van Helsing... even if the Professor is occasionally creepier than Lugosi.
"House of Dracula" has been a bit slated, and I think it deserves better. Yes, the inclusion of Frankenstein's Monster is laughably superfluous, and John Carradine's Dracula - who shouldn't be in the same collection as Lugosi, as comparisons are inevitable and very unfavourable - gets bumped off much too easily. However, Lon Chaney Jr. is fantastic as the Wolf-Man, and saved the film for me. His struggle with his conscience was compelling to watch, and remarkably the director doesn't depend on his wolf-outs to keep the character intriguing (he's barely ever the Wolf-Man). Looking at the film from his angle, it's great stuff. Onslow Stevens is also a great tragic figure as Doctor Edelman, cursed by Dracula and the accidental inheritor of his powers. Seriously, give this film a break: just because it's lumped into the "multiple monster movie" list doesn't mean it has any silly scenes of them battling.
Getting the two films for a low price is a complete steal, and it's great value for money. There are brilliant moments in "Dracula" even if the whole is weaker than its parts, and "House", if you can ignore some unwise story choices, isn't at all bad. A very worthwhile DVD, so long as you ignore the advertising for the putrid "Van Helsing".
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on 23 March 2016
Having recently bought myself a house in the Carpathian foothills I thought it was about time that I revisted Bela Lugosi and his masterly portrayal of Count Dracula. Of course there was never any question of being disappointed: this was rather revisiting an old friend after a decade or two of absence...
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.
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on 8 May 2012
Dracula isn't the best of the classic era of Universal Monsters, but it was the first and, along with Frankenstein, the most memorable. I loved these films as a kid and I remember waiting for ages to see this film on late night tv. No sell-through video in those days (mid 70's). Bela Lugosi gives such an iconic performance as the Count that it made him an overnight star, and launched a whole new film genre, called 'horror'. Of the two famous Dracula's in cinematic history, only Christopher Lee has come close to matching Lugosi. If you are a serious collector of Classic Horror, you must own this movie, simple as that.

However, IF you already do, don't bother buying it again. There are no new extras, and more importantly, no SPANISH version!! For those of you who do not know, a Spanish language version was filmed alongside the Lugosi version at the same time, using the same sets but with an all Spanish cast. Many believe this film to be a superior version. In many respects, especially visually, it is. But it dosen't have Lugosi. So WHERE IS IT???? It is available on Region 1 DVD so why not here?

I hope the first reviewer is right in saying there is a Blu Ray release imminent. I'd like to see other making of documenteries, the Spanish version and also the Silent version (distributed to movie theatres at the time which didn't have sound set up yet) on it as extras.
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