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Dracula (1931)

Dracula (1931) starring Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan, directed by Tod Browning

Synopsis of Dracula

A truly great adaptation of the classic vampire novel, Dracula is the story of the European vampire who comes to England to find fresh victims … and stumbles across a young woman who reminds him of his long-lost love. This is actually based on the Broadway play, and not directly on the original novel by Bram Stoker.

To die, to be truly dead … that must be marvelous. — Count Dracula
Mina Seward: Why, Count Dracula!
Count Dracula: There are far worse things awaiting man than death.

Bela Lugosi‘s performance as the undead Count Dracula is absolutely wonderful and justly caused him to leap into stardom. He portrays the undead creature as virtually a wild creature, hidden under a faint veneer of a cultured gentleman. But as the quote above proves, there remains a small bit of the nobleman’s soul left in the undead corpse, that remembers life, and despises his undead existence. But he is compelled to continue it all the same.

Dwight Frye also does an incredible job as Renfield, the unfortunate who goes to Transylvania to complete the sale of Carfax Abbey in London to Dracula — and who becomes Dracula’s unfortunate thrawl,  and slowly descends into madness. His performance as a madman is riveting, and very believable — and especially at his end, heart-rending.

Edward Van Sloan does a phenomenal job as Professor Van Helsing, He does an excellent job of portraying Dracula’s opposite. Intelligent, educated, and strong-willed — which the audience visually sees during a “duel of wills” roughly midway through the movie — Van Helsing is the protagonist of the movie, even more so than John Harker.

Product Description of  Dracula

Dracula (1931) starring Bela Lugosi in the title rolebuy Bela Lugosi's Dracula from Amazon.com The legend of Dracula continues in this gripping, masterful 2-disc edition of cinema’s most ominous vampire, digitally remastered for the 75th Anniversary Edition. Relive the horror, the mystery, and the intrigue of the original 1931 vampire masterpiece starring Bela Lugosi and directed by Tod Browning. The inspiration for hundreds of subsequent remakes and adaptations, this classic film launched the Hollywood horror genre with its eerie passion, shadowy atmosphere, and thrilling cinematography. The children of the night are calling”¦

Additional Features

The extra features on this 2-disc 75th anniversary edition of a film classic are a mix of previously available extras and some new stuff. But these are trumped by the news about the film itself: as befits one of the legendary titles of Hollywood history, Dracula looks noticeably cleaner and brighter than in its previous DVD releases, and the soundtrack also seems improved. As with previous DVD packages, the Spanish version of Dracula, shot concurrently with the English-language version, is included. It’s a cool movie in its own right and essential viewing for vampire-movie fans.

Also returning from previous DVDs: the option to watch the film with Philip Glass’s fascinating original score (the film had no score except for source music and “Swan Lake” over the titles); this is a one-time-only experience, as nothing could improve on the original’s eerie patches of silence. Also back are horror scholar David J. Skal’s contributions: a commentary track and a featurette called The Road to Dracula, which gives the history of Bram Stoker’s character.

New to this edition: a 36-minute documentary, Lugosi: the Dark Prince, a decent career overview with comments from enthusiasts including director Joe Dante; “Monster Tracks,” a feature that allows for pop-up onscreen info-bites (a distraction for the short of attention); a feature commentary by Steve Haberman, horror author and a screenwriter on Dracula: Dead and Loving It (lots of context, but Haberman also gives a spirited and rather welcome rebuke to recent conventional wisdom that favors the Spanish film over the Browning version); and Universal Horror, a 95-minute documentary by Kevin Brownlow. As good as Brownlow’s work generally is, this 1998 doc, narrated by Kenneth Branagh, is choppy, and ranges far afield from Universal’s great run of horror movies. It’s worth seeing for clips from very rare films and for interviews with the likes of Fay Wray, Gloria Stuart, Ray Bradbury, and Curt Siodmak. —Robert Horton

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