The costume parties may be over, but it’s not too late to sit back and enjoy a post-Halloween viewing of Bela Lugosi’s “Dracula.”
Images of vampires lurk in our imaginations, and are changed with every new vampire movie or book release. Over the years,
The theatrical re-release poster of the 1931 classic. (Courtesy Universal Pictures)
though, there has been a marked change in the stereotypical image of the vampire. No longer do they don capes and speak with the accent of a Transylvanian count, but we can thank Lugosi for his classic performance in Dracula that started Hollywood’s captivation with vampires.
The film, made in 1931, begins with the seemingly innocent and naive Renfield making his way to Dracula’s castle, where he meets the Count for the first time.
Lugosi’s first appearance as Count Dracula is stunning. There is no grand gesture; He simply stares into the camera as the shot closes in on his glowing eyes. Lugosi remains perfectly in character as a refined gentleman in an unfortunate state as a vampire. His fear is revealed as he realizes that he not only walks among his victims, but that he talks with them until it’s too late—he cannot resist the urge to suck their blood.
Despite the typical correlation between vampires and blood, there is hardly any blood shown in this movie. Though there are several times when Dracula bites innocent girls, there is no point in the film where the viewer sees fang connect with skin. While some viewers might be disappointed that there is the absence of the blood and gore we see in vampire movies today, Dracula’s slow approach to biting the victim adds considerable suspense.
Besides the occasional music here and there, the actors also build suspense without the usual scary soundtrack that modern viewers are used to hearing. The actors’ performances are very similar to those in a silent film. It’s the supporting characters that have the most exaggerated expressions.
In fact, the supporting characters shine, and sometimes even steal the show from Lugosi, Helen Chandler’s performance as distraught victim Mina, and Edward Van Sloan’s portrayal of the scientist, Van Helsing.
Renfield, played by Dwight Frye, is creepier than Dracula himself. At the beginning of the film, his grating laugh is unsettling as it echoes up from the depths of the ship, which is strewn with dead crewmembers. It is also Frye’s eyes that strike viewers with horror as he rants crazily.
Although it is undoubtedly a masterpiece, “Dracula” presents some problems to modern viewers. Pauses that may have been dramatic and frightening in 1931 may come off as cheesy to those watching today. The special effects, which consist of rubber bats on wires, may seem overly antiquated to the contemporary audience.
However, the movie manages to maintain an appropriate tone needed to be a classic scary film. If viewers give “Dracula” a chance, they will be wowed with stunning performances and an overall chilling movie experience.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ana Faria at Ana.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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