Dracula Movie Review

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Dracula - 1931

Bela Lugosi with Helen Chandler – Dracula 1931.

The following Dracula movie review is my take on the 1931 film starring Bela Lugosi.

 

 

The quintessential horror classic and enduring adaptation of Bram Stoker’s masterpiece…

 

 

 

Starring: Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Dwight Frye

Directed by: Tod Browning

Studio: Universal

Ratings: Internet Movie Data Base; 7.6/10 …Rotten Tomatoes; 91%

Our Rating; 9/10

Available from: Amazon and eBay

 

 

 

 

Dracula - 1931Dracula (1931). The subtle eerie notes of the Oboe are played from Act 2 Of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake as the movie’s title Dracula comes on screen.

Along with this is the vivid background image of a bat, it’s wings arched and eyes aglow.

The theme builds to a heavy crescendo as the film’s “players” are introduced. Then it descends…descends into a dark suggestion to what lies ahead.

 

It is, I think, one of the most powerful and evocative intro’s of any horror movie ever made!

 

Impending Dread

In the first scene we are travelling via carriage through the Carpathian mountains with several passengers, a few of which are native to these lands. One of the travelers asks the driver to slow down over the rough terrain. With urgency he’s told, “No, it is Walpurgis Night, the night of evil…Nosferatu!”

The carriage approaches a small village who’s inhabitants are rejoicing its safe arrival. However one passenger is not staying. He’s going onto Borgo Pass to meet “Count Dracula”.

The locals are appalled at the idea and explain to him the reasons for their dread. It’s a matter of business for the traveler though and he is not afraid. On he must go to the lament of the mortified onlookers.

 

Arriving At The Castle…

Dracula meets Renfield in his castle in an incredibly powerful sequence of early horror cinema. The lack of music only adds to the overall eeriness. Wolves howl, creatures crawl, there are spiders, bats and the most iconic horror character of them all…

Bela Lugosi is Count Dracula! Was born to play the role. Hailing from the land of the vampire himself and having played Dracula for years onstage, his thick Hungarian accent and slow phrasing of the English dialogue gave us the essential example of what a vampire both looked and sounded like.

 

The following exchanges between Dracula and his “guest” are nothing short of brilliant. The apparent hospitality and old-world charm are but thinly veiled formalities as Dracula studies his visitor and fiendishly offers him some very old wine.

Upon leaving him the Count turns to say goodnight with a look of such sinister amusement, knowing that his guest’s visit has been monumentally foolish!

 

 

To London

Renfield is, or was an Estate Agent and has secured a vacant manor in London for the Count. Dracula is moving there to prey on new blood and begins immediately. He sets his sights on two beautiful young friends, Lucy and Mina.

One quickly falls victim and is made like him. She apparently “dies” but not before some tell tale signs of foul play are noticed by a Dr. Van Helsing, a man with supreme knowledge of all things strange and unusual.

 Van Helsing also begins to notice a connection between Mina and the mysterious stranger who has lately come visiting.

 

This, to my mind is the most potent, stunning piece from the period. By far! I personally feel this movie is miles ahead of Frankenstein which is generally considered number one. 

Universal Studio’s had something totally new with Dracula. It was just so different and so powerful. I think much of this is due to it’s other-worldly feel and commanding lead actor.

The remote, foreign setting, Gothic sets, and ancient beliefs and customs give the film it’s substance.

 

Darkly Unique 

There is an authenticity to Dracula which you don’t find to the same degree in other classics. Lugosi’s natural instinct to play his role so slow and deliberate, takes the movie into a total darker realm than it’s peers.

While other classic “monsters” deserve a certain degree of sympathy for not being entirely at fault, Lugosi’s Dracula is unique in that he’s deliberately evil. He is sinister, cunning and relentless and uses his victims until they are no longer of any worth to him. I think this is a major factor of why the movie’s so strong.

 

Dwight Frye as the unfortunate Renfield is magnificent! His part is played with enormous enthusiasm and diversity and he truly seems to revel in the role. Renfield is the flip side to Dracula’s charismatic presence. A poor soul that’s been completely manipulated.

The character of Van Helsing is fortunately played with depth and credibility by studio regular, Edward Van Sloan, and so too is the role of the lovely, vulnerable Mina (Helen Chandler). Cockney Orderly, Martin, provides a clever comic touch which doesn’t detract from the overall atmosphere.

 

 

 

Thanks for reading this Dracula movie review. Please tell me what you think below.

 

 

Available Here From Amazon and eBay

 

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40 Comments

  • Levi Kaus says:

    thoroughly enjoyed your site :). It has very helpful and informative information. You targeted your audience well and your layout seems to match your theme. All in all not bad at all. I will be back to see this page again for sure.

    thanks again for the information.

  • Damian says:

    Excellent read on classic horror films. My mother is a huge fan of classic horror films and i dont know much about them. So this was actually helpful to me! I also enjoyed how your ads match the content on your site, very nicely done. Keep up the great work!

    • admin says:

      Hey thanks for visiting and commenting Damian. Glad you found some helpful information. Thanks for the feedback too. Jamie.

  • Momo-Jones says:

    Hello,
    Thank you for this nice content on what i think must have been the first real horror movie. I have seen it once age ago and thanks to your post i was thrown back in to it. I was able to remember some scenes which i forgot for many years. Thanks to your post i might i might watch tonight !
    Thanks for your post and keep writing us good content like that.

    • admin says:

      I really like how you describe it as the “first real horror movie” Momo-Jones! That’s kind of how I see it too. It was a very dark, deliberate film for it’s time! Certainly the first horror film with sound.

      Hope you get to watch it again tonight. I know every time I watch Dracula , I’m ALWAYS stunned at how captivating it is, even to a modern audience.

      Thanks very much for the comment and encouragement friend. Jamie.

  • Elijah says:

    Wow you were very thorough in your description. I was engaged with your review of such a classic movie. I’m glad I was able to catch this site. My sister absolutely loves vampires. I also like the comparison you made with the movie frankenstein which happened to also be a major hit still to this day just like dracula. I feel like those movies really are what opened the door for all things scary and really “vamping” up what halloween was all about as well.

    • admin says:

      That’s so true Elijah, these original classics really did open the door to a new way of passing down myths and legends which, as a society, we’ve practiced since time immemorial. That’s why I find them so interesting. They created the original images of how we now conceive of horror “monsters” such as, Dracula, Frankenstein, Werewolves, Mummies etc.

      …Like your sister, I know of a lot of girls who are fascinated by vampires. I think Dracula would be proud hahaha! Thanks very much for commenting! Jamie.

  • Elijah says:

    Wow you were very thorough in your description. I was engaged with your review of such a classic movie. I’m glad I was able to catch this site. My sister absolutely loves vampires. I also like the comparison you made with the movie frankenstein which happened to also be a major hit still to this day just like dracula. I feel like those movies really are what opened the door for all things scary and really “vamping” up what halloween was all about as well.

  • MelindaH says:

    Hi Jaime! I love this review of the old classic Dracula! I always have a hard time figuring out what to get for my husband for his birthday. When he mentions that he likes something, I make a mental note, then he comes home with it. It’s really not fair, lol. Well, I happen to know that he just loves movies like this. This year I am putting together a collection of some of the old horror movies. I clicked on your link that took me to the Dracula movie on Amazon. I was searching some of the old movies and found a Classic Monsters Spotlight Collection with Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein and Creature from the Black Lagoon! I have added that to my cart, and also added The Mummy, The Invisible Man and The Wolf Man.
    Thank you so much! Can’t wait til I get paid next week, lol.
    ~ Melinda

    • admin says:

      Hey there Melinda! Thanks a bunch for checking out my review. I’m truly glad you found what you were looking for. If your husband likes the old classics then I’m certain he will be fascinated with these historic masterpieces! Dracula was the one that truly blew me away! It’s still so very powerful even to this day. Great find with the Spotlight pack! Those four titles are regarded as four of the biggest names in original classic horror. Along with the other’s you’ve added; The Mummy, Invisible Man and The Wolf Man. Brilliant choices! Well done. If your husband enjoys the two Frankenstein films, can I recommend he also checks out, “Son of Frankenstein”, which to me is the greatest of the three. Thanks again for visiting and I hope your movies arrive super fast! Jamie.

      • Melinda says:

        Well, looks like Hubby will be getting a late birthday present, but I still have it in my cart. My child’s school supplies and gymnastic fees did me in this year, lol.

        • jamie says:

          That’s too bad. Sorry to hear Melinda. School supplies and gym fee’s would definitely have to take priority though, of coarse. Just has to be one thing at a time sometimes doesn’t it!

  • Chris says:

    Wow what an absolutely awesome website – I can’t believe I haven’t ended up here before! I am a horror addict big time but I don’t get to watch the classics much these days!
    When I was younger my dad worked in Saudi and the only TV we had were pirate videos from a US base – I used to watch Hammer Horror classics all day long!

    • admin says:

      Very grateful for your visit Chris! Thanks for those kind words. Hope you get to check out some of the original masterpieces again sometime soon. In my post on Best Silent Horror, I’ve included full video’s of some of the legendary silent greats if you’d like to watch them.

      You must have been a HUGE fan of the Hammer titles! I really love them too! That’s brilliant mate! Would have been an ideal environment in my books! lolol. Thanks heaps for your comment Chris! Jamie.

  • Sammi - www.alittlebitofextrahelp.com says:

    What a great review, you can tell it’s one of your favourites! Personally, I think just the black and white element of the film makes it appear scarier.. the costumes and make up just seem more realistic to horror than if the film was in colour – if you know what I mean! You’ve been really detailed with the script – again, a great review. Sammi

    • admin says:

      It’s a tough decision but I would say Dracula would definitely be my favorite of all the old classic horror movies! Thanks heaps for your great feedback Sammi! What you said about black and white film makes brilliant sense. It might be this that makes me love them so much…I’ve never been able to fully work out why I’m so fascinated by black and white horror specifically. Maybe it’s the dark colors which suit horror movies so much. Maybe it makes them more gothic, gloomy or authentic..? Thanks for an awesome comment Sammi. And for that wise insight. Jamie

  • Esteban says:

    Hey,

    I’m a huge fan of horror films. It’s probably my favorie genre of films. I haven’t seen this Dracula film yet but your review and the ratings tell me I should give it a shot.

    Sometimes I find older films a bit hard to watch but I like to see how movies evolve and every ancient film contributed in todays hollywood.

    I will definitely have to get around to seeing this one.
    One small suggestion, the video in the end didn’t work for me, maybe you could change it? But it might just be my browser or something.

    Great review! Thanks

    • admin says:

      Hey I appreciate your comment Esteban. Thanks for checking out the site. Yep, of coarse, the older films can be a little hard to watch for modern audiences.

      I guess you’ve got to have an appreciation for original material and an interest in their historic significance. Like you say, the old flicks contributed to todays Hollywood movies. In fact, they invented them!

      I personally feel that this version of Dracula lends itself very well to being seen today. It’s still very exciting and potent. I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of it!

      Thanks Esteban! Jamie

  • Deb says:

    Thanks for the very in-depth review of the original Dracula. You are obviously a genuine enthusiast and your enthusiasm really comes through in your review.

    One of your images was missing on the page I visited. I don’t know if this was just a glitch, or whether something needs addressing, but otherwise a great site and a well written review.

    Thanks

    Deb

    • admin says:

      Thanks a lot for reading and commenting Deb. I will have a look at that image and see if I can find a problem with it. Sometimes a Page Refresh can bring up images/video’s which may not be working.

      Much appreciated feedback! Jamie

  • Seviedean says:

    there is something to be said about cult horror movie classics…they don’t know how to make good horrors these days imho…any recommendations for cult classic ghost movies? they would be my favorite genre but when they’re bad they’re really bad and when they’re good wooohoooo…I’m sure you know what I mean haha

    • admin says:

      Hey Seviedean! Have been going to write a post on classic ghost movies. Will do so very soon. Definitely one of my favorite genre’s too! Some real good ones I’ve seen which I loved and are highly rated are.., House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Innocents (1961) which was re-made as The Others with Nicole Kidman, The Haunting (1963), The Amityville Horror (1979), The Shining (1980), The Changeling (1980), Poltergeist (1982). There are of coarse many other great modern day films but in keeping with the older classics of this site, I’ve listed those only. Hope you get to check some of them out…Jamie

  • Marc Cantave says:

    Wow this is a great site! The theme is great and I can tell you put a lot of effort and dedication on this site. I’m happy I got here and I will definitely pass through more often. Good work

  • Katerina Markakis says:

    Hello there! What a lovely website you have! I love horror movies but it’s unfortunate that I haven’t watched many of these classic horror movies.
    Dracula is one of those and even though I have seen clips from the movie multiple times I have never watched the whole thing. I definitely need to watch it as soon as I find some spare time.
    Thank you for the recommendation!

    • admin says:

      Dracula would probably be my number one recommendation out of all the old classics Katerina! I hope you get a chance to watch it soon!

      Thanks for your comments, much appreciated! Jamie.

  • Justin says:

    It has been several years since I last saw this movie, but I agree with your review; it was an excellent film. Bela Lugosi really does come across powerfully as Dracula and the overall atmosphere of the film remains deliciously dark throughout. This review has reminded me that I have been meaning to watch it again at some point because it is absolutely worth watching multiple times. I still think that the first Wolfman movie with Lon Chaney Jr. is my favorite of the classic Universal horror films, but maybe I will change my mind the second time around watching them all!

    • admin says:

      I liked your comments Justin. Very much appreciated! What you said about the atmosphere being deliciously dark is spot on I thought, and the powerful performance by Lugosi. I received a comment not so long ago saying that this movie was the first “real” horror. That’s kind of how I see it too. It was certainly the very first horror with sound which is cool enough but aside from that it has a way of taking itself very seriously. Even with some quirky characters involved such as Renfield and Martin (the cockney orderly), etc. It still has a real sense of dread throughout. Lugosi approached his role like some Shakespearean actor giving his most important performance. Very deliberate. Very powerful.

      Absolutely love The Wolfman too Justin. Another favorite! …Actually just watched it again two nights ago!!

      Great to hear from another Universal Monster’s fan!

      All the best my friend!

  • Marcus says:

    I should imagine that making an update of an existing movie is always something of a gamble. there is always the chance that you may ruin the movie for people. But if you manage to pull it off, it could be a great way to have a hit.

    It’s interesting to note the difference in rating between Rotten Tomatoes and the Internet Movie Database. Why do you think that is? Maybe there are more Dracula fans on Rotten tomatoes?

    • admin says:

      Interesting comment and question Marcus. I see what you mean, it would be a bit of a gamble. I’ve definitely been disappointed with MANY remakes. Horror and other genres. Although it makes me appreciate the original all over again, it would be nice to have gotten another version just as effective.

      To try to answer your question about the differences in ratings between the two sites; IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes…It seems the ratings on IMDb are done by users which have rated a movie in 10 different categories. IMDb then compiles an overall score.

      The ratings within Rotten Tomatoes are done by staffers reading reviews from selected professionals/critics and judging if the reviews are positive or negative overall.

  • Matt says:

    Thanks for the thorough review! i think the website looks great too! I’ll certainly be back for more. I’ve never really considered classic horror movies before, and I don;t really know much about them.

    What do you consider to be the best classic vampire / dracula movie? Or the best classic horror movie, period? I’m looking for something to scare the girlfriend with!

    • admin says:

      Good to meet you Matt. Thanks for the kind comments. Hmmm…best classic vampire/Dracula movie?? In my opinion, you can’t beat the 1931 original featured here. If this is a little too old though my friend, I don’t hesitate for a second to recommend Francis Ford Coppola’s version from 1992. If you havn’t yet seen…it’s a must!

      For more old-school classics to choose from, please check out this top 10 classic horror movies post. As far as Vampire/Dracula films (which are great for scaring girlfriends lolol), another great one is Nosferatu from 1979. This is a very atmospheric and creepy remake of the famous 1922 silent masterpiece. It does feature subtitles however as it’s from Germany. Directed by Werner Herzog!

      Also, the classic ‘Hammer’ horror’s are always superb to watch! Check out; Top 10 Hammer Horror films!

      Well, I hope you find what you’re after Matt but don’t mention my name if your girlfriend freaks out and runs screaming lolol. …All the very best mate. Jamie.

  • Simon Watson says:

    This is a very solid review my friend, a great review that tells you an out line of the characters and story and it comes across that the director is explaining his film to you which I’m sure that you did intend so a really good job on that score mate. I really do look forward to reading a lot more from you.
    Si

    • admin says:

      That’s brilliant Si, thanks a bunch for that feedback. It’s a total pleasure for me to be writing about these movies that I have such a deep love for. A privilege to have visitors like yourself drop in and get something out of the review! Many thanks for the words of support too Simon.

  • wesley says:

    It’s great to review old movies especially those horror and thriller type, which people tends to recall after watching again. Now with new technologies, the movies set up is very different from those old movies. It is good to see again. My son is an avid horror movie fan. Will definitely share this site with him.

    • admin says:

      Many thanks Wesley, for your visit and comments. So true how you mentioned peoples memories often being triggered when watching old films. I know it’s happened to me at times. Thanks a lot for sharing this with your son! I hope he finds it entertaining and informative as to the original horror classics.

      Jamie.

  • Sondre says:

    Cool website! Thanks for all this information about the different horror movies. I was planing to watch a horror movie this weekend, and you helped me decide. It is really difficult to find the perfect movie these days. there´s just to many! websites like this helps people to choose what to see and what not to see.

    keep up the good work Jdeen 😉

  • Eddie says:

    Really enjoying your site! I’m a massive horror fan so it’s great to find a site that shares so many insights into such amazing old school movies. I’ve found so many new titles that I never knew existed because of this site. I’d love to see what you come up with for the 60’s. Thanks for taking the time to put this site together!

  • Rosered says:

    I’ve always heard things about the original movie but I’ve never gotten around to watching it. Not so much because it’s in black In white, I like black and white movies, its more that I never think about it. After I reading this I went and downloaded the movie should have it in another hour. Thanks for a scary night.

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