I'll be honest. The silent film era stretches just a bit far back for my taste. Those films have my respect for being the sparks that would soon create so much cinematic history, and they have a place in my heart. However, I'm pretty happy to finally be away from reading the movie. I get much more entertainment from actual voices as opposed to having to make up my own in my head - unless of course I'm reading a book, but that's different.
This is completely debatable, but I tend to give this one credit for starting real, mainstream cinematic horror. With it, a universe was born where many of these monsters would be featured together once in a while, and those reviews will be coming up shortly. But for now, we look at our 'Iron Man' of the Universal Monsters, 'Dracula' - played here by Bela Lugosi, who would essentially become largely known as the quintessential Dracula that to this day is beyond compare. Any time you hear a stereotypical Dracula voice, it was probably inspired by Lugosi's version of the character.
So, for those of you who have read my 'Nosferatu' review, you should know that this really is just a remake of that (yeah, they were doing a lot of it back then too). Real quick plot; A guy by the name of Renfield (Dwight Frye) makes his way to Count Dracula's castle to finalize transferring ownership of Carfax Abbey, an estate in London, to him. Renfield is hypnotized by the Count, and turned into a servant with no real will of his own, protecting Dracula on board his voyage to London. This eventually makes Renfield mad, and the funniest character in this non-comedy movie.
Arriving in London, Dracula soon goes after Mina Seward (Helen Chandler), daughter of Dr. Seward (Herbert Bunston), who contacts a specialist to diagnose Mina's health named Dr. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan). Van Helsing, as we all know, is pretty much a vampire expert, and attributes her failing health to vampirism due to a couple of neck holes. Now he must do what he can to prevent Mina from becoming a vampire, herself.
Now, I started this list largely to try to catch up on some of the almighty classics that I've actually missed in life. The whole Universal Monster thing was just "old news" to my ignorant mind, growing up. Aside from about three titles on this list, I haven't actually seen any of them. So, how does it fare today? Quite well, actually, but with a slight tweak as to why, exactly.
Though it's seen as a horror classic, and it's supposed to be pretty scary for its time, I had more fun with this than anything. After years and years of being exposed to the Dracula stereotype, and recognizing that this Renfield, is not that far removed from the 'Dead and Loving it' version (Peter MacNicol), it was really just a good and mostly uncreepy time.
I do have to give the filmmakers credit as far as making Lugosi as creepy as he should be, though. His hypnotic stare actually still holds up, quite well. It might remind one of holding the flashlight up to one's face to try to be spooky while telling a ghost story. When he had to be scary, he did a good job. I can imagine the audiences of the early 30's
I had a few genuine laughs here, and I happily place it high up on my list of Halloween recommendations. It's just the right amount of creepy, the kids can probably watch it just fine, it's a lot of fun, and you know that it's a classic that spawned so much. This is one title I was particularly looking forward to seeing the this month, and it didn't disappoint. I may have even uncovered a new Halloween tradition!
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