Genre: Fantasy, Horror
Film Production Studio: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 85 minutes
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners…
The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.
If you read my cinema review of Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1992, you will know I detested that movie. After reading my review of the 1931 Dracula, I hope you won’t think that I cannot be pleased. I honestly don’t think that I am all that difficult to satisfy with entertainment (Seriously!?! I enjoyed “Pride and Prejudice Zombies” for goodness sakes!) With that said, however, when watching different attempts of film adaptation for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, NO ONE CAN SEEM TO DO THIS BOOK JUSTICE! (I apologize for yelling my frustration.)
This black and white version began with such promise. A man bouncing along the countryside in a horse-drawn carriage rolls into a little village. The local townspeople are appalled when learning of this outsider’s intent to continue his voyage through the night, meeting up with another carriage precisely at midnight to usher him onto Count Dracula’s Castle, his final destination. The villagers bestow prayers and even a crucifix upon this professionally dressed man in attempts to keep him safe in his travels. I was a little disappointed to learn this outsider is Renfield, not Jonathan Harker, as mirrored in the book, but the change is easily understandable to make the conversion from book to silver screen.
As Renfield enters the castle which is riddled with spider webs, crawling bugs and rats, Dracula descends a grand staircase greeting his guest. I was still idealistic of the film’s direction at this point, but sadly my optimism was quickly doused. Renfield has an ‘accident’ and tumbles down the stairs, the lovely vampire ladies appear, and then Dracula leans over his unconscious body to partake from him? Hmmmm…I didn’t remember in Jonathan Harker’s detailed journal, he ever eluded to any suspicion of being used as a vampire’s snack. For me, the movie manages to take one wrong turn after another. Again, the integrity of Bram Stoker’s masterpiece was desecrated by Hollywood’s attempt to convert it onto the Big Screen.
Events are altered so much from the book that I never made imperative connections with leading characters. I found myself distracted and disinterested in the new story unfolding in front of my eyes. Just as in my review of the film version from 1992, the 1931 version also missed one of my favorite aspects of the book…The characters Bram Stoker created felt so real! Their relationships with each other felt real. Each role was pivotal in developing the story. The characters were truly honest, respected, believers of their faith in God, and yet ordinary people. Their supernatural experiences were met with skepticism, similar to how I imagine most of the English population would react. This Dracula film never obtained the impending aura achieved in the book. At least this version, made in 1931, didn’t use horrors of the unknown as a feeble excuse to include sensational scenes.
I will aim to watch more Dracula films in hopes I find one that not only claims to be modeled after Bram Stoker’s version, but actually represents it in spirit and story. After looking at Rotten Tomatoes’ ratings at the plethora of existing Dracula movies, sadly I have very little hope any exist.