Revisiting “Dracula”

The latest installment in my continuing series celebrating Universal Studio’s 100th Anniversary.

Poor Bela Lugosi. When asked to transfer his stage success the silver screen by starring in Tod Browning’s  Dracula (apparently he was NOT even the first choice), little did he know that this would be the role that would define his career (and life).

While not the first filmed version of Bram Stoker’s ‘undead’ (most notable in my mind the nightmarish Nosferatu), it is the Dracula imprinted on our collective memory. Lugosi’s portrayal of the Count is that of a haunting, seductive bloodsucking nightwalker.

Today’s cinemagoers will probably not be convinced by the stagey nature of the film and its performances, but that does not make it any more impactful. First of all it should be noted that while this is based on Stoker’s source material, the direct text, etc. is taken from the aforementioned stage play Dracula. Second and most importantly, I imagine what also terrified audiences at the time was down to the cadence of Lugosi’s delivery and the deliberate pacing of his movements. As a child I remember mimicking him, walking around saying, “I vaunt to suck your blood!” It has been a while now so I am not even sure those exact words are even uttered in the film.

One element that I never fully resolved myself was the fact that while many of the characters are wearing contemporary clothes, they traverse the landscape in horse-drawn carriages. It is possible that automobiles have not reach Carpathian Mountains; anyone have a clue?

In 2000, Dracula was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. (Source: Wikipedia)

Comments

  1. Got me thinking of my favorite vampire movies of all-time…Interview with the Vampire and Blade (smile).
    Ja recently posted..Cinco De Mayo Will Be Kind To Mayeather, Not CottoMy Profile

  2. It is a never-never land of Victorian Britain crossed with something more contemporary, isn’t it? A bit like the Sherlock Holmes movies made by Universal with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, which are wonderfulyl artificial. Have you ever seen the Spanish version of the Lugosi Dracula shot with a different cast on the same sets? it’s a much more dynamic interpretation of the material and makes for a fascinating comparison.
    Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) recently posted..Rynox (1932) – Tuesday’s Forgotten FilmMy Profile

    • Nope; but I have heard about that one too; that is also being released on disk as part of the anniversary celebration.

      My Spanish is rusty at best so I will have to turn on the subtitles or just enjoy the lovely romanticism of the language :)

  3. Jack Deth says:

    Hi, iluv and company:

    Great topic!

    Stoker, Browning and Lugosi’s ‘Dracula’ still can’t be touched for creepy atmosphere. Granted, it is much more a stage play put to film. Horse drawn carriages and wagon and lack of electricity in the Count’s castle or keep and all. It still works!

    Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’ has a lot more mood and shadow work. I still enjoy Frank Langella’s sensual twist on the character.

    Different variations of the same character who evolved from Stoker, Schreck and Lugosi.

    It’s a shame Lugosi never truly escaped that character.

    PS: Good catch on the Spanish variant, Sergio!

  4. Bela Lugosi is the quintessential Dracula, I mean look at that spiky collar, ahah. He doesn’t look scary to me though as it’s such a costume-y look, more like a Halloween costume. The scariest Dracula is Gary Oldman!
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  5. I love Bela Lugosi. Period. End of discussion. There is only one Dracula. :)

    I think autos hadn’t reached the Carpathian mountains or maybe we weren’t supposed to notice the ‘modern’ clothing. One or the other. Wagons and horses add more atmosphere. Maybe. It’s hard for cars to go up a mountain.
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  6. Nice post! I think Lugosi’s performance is much better than all the other ones given by Dracula, even by Gary Oldman. It has a weird elegance to it, one that is rarely seen nowadays.
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