1931 Dir: Tod Browning
With: Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Dwight Frye.
Tod Browning's 1931 adaptation
of Bram Stoker's novel. Lon Chaney Snr. was originally lined up for the part, but died in 1930, and short of bringing him
back from the dead - a feat which even a horror studio like Universal were incapable of - another actor had to be found. Enter,
an unknown Hungarian stage and screen actor by the name of Bela Lugosi! Lugosi had played Dracula on Broadway in 1927 and
toured it for two years the rest is neck-biting history!
On our first sighting of the
Count, the infamous, 'I am Dracula, I bid you welcome,' scene, as he descends the stairs of his castle to greet Renfield,
Lugosi looks like he's dressed for dinner. As though he's about to dine. Well in a way he is - on Renfield's blood! This dinner
jacket and cape look would become the look most synonymous with Dracula.
During the beginning of the
film, we get the impression that all is not right with the mysterious Count. He casts no reflection in the mirror and he never
drinks - wine. When he takes an unhealthy interest in Renfield's blood, after his guest cuts himself, it should have
sent alarm bells ringing. Anyone with any sense would smell a rat - or should that be a bat? - and leg it out of that creepy
Renfield next stumbles upon
the Count's three wives (horror of horrors, Drac is not only a vampire - but a bigamist too!)
When a ship is shipwrecked
off the coast of Whitby, Renfield is found grinning madly, the lone survivor, and is banged up in the local loony bin. Here
he develops a fondness for eating flies and spiders (especially - the fat juicy ones!)
Dracula arrives in London
and stalks the streets for young women to satisfy his hunger (for blood that is - what else?) In one scene a girl selling
flowers becomes a victim after trying to sell him a flower. 'Flower for your buttonhole, sir?' she asks. Lugosi hypnotise
her and bends in the direction of her neck.
Bite to your neck, madame?
He sets up residence in the
abbey next to the sanatorium where Renfield has got himself banged-up. He befriends Dr Seward, his daughter Mina, her fiancÚ
Jonathan Harker, and her friend Lucy.
One night while Lucy is staying
at their house a bat flies into Lucy's room while she sleeps. The bat transforms into the Count who then takes a generous
sup of her blood.
After Van Helsing examines
the puncture marks on Lucy's neck, he says that they are the same marks found on the murder victims around London, and that
it is the work of a vampire.
Of course our Dr Seward doesn't
Next the Count, in bat form
again, flies into Mina's bedroom window (handy trick that!) and helps himself to her blood too.
Seward still doesn't believe
Helsing's talk of vampires, until the Count visits him one night and notices that he cannot be seen in a mirror (oops - the
game's up Drac!) Now all that's left to do is for Van Helsing to drive a stake though the thirsty vampire's heart and get
rid of the fiend forever (well at least until the sequels, endless remakes, etc.)