I decided to save the original for last in my Dracula-a-thon. 1931’s Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi and directed by Tod Browning, is considered one of, if not the, ultimate horror films of the bygone era. The horror film had been but a smattering of a genre before this and Frankenstein united it and gave it life. Pretty much everything about this film became influential, while also means that everything about this film has been done to death, so to go back and look at it now, it seems very outdated.
Perhaps I should have seen this one first rather than saving it for last, as it is a pure distillation of all the elements that make up a Dracula film, and pretty much nothing more. It’s bare-bones, and doesn’t have a lot going for it other than the pure Dracula-ness of it. The plot is comprised of pieces of the plots of all the other Dracula films to follow, so all that this had to offer I had seen before and in better form. The real winning sell here was Bela Lugosi as the Count, and he lived up to all my expectations; he was slick, smooth, and had that genuine sense of off-ness that made him creepy and chilling to watch.
There was a lot in this one that seemed corny or cheesy, but I can understand it for two reasons; it’s the original, so in this film it hadn’t been done over and over, and for the times it must’ve been downright chilling the way that the film works. Still, I’m not of those times; I’m of the modern era, and judging it in a modern setting, there’s a lot in this film that doesn’t hold up as well as other Dracula films. It’s still a baby in the sound era, not really utilizing it because it doesn’t know how to yet, and the film’s lack of a principal musical score is one of its biggest shortcomings. Still, as a history lesson in horror, this was an interesting little interlude, and at 75 minutes, there’s not a lot of time to invest in this one.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10