Dracula (1931)

The original bad daddy......maybe that's a bad way to start.
Though it's the most famous translation of Bram Stoker's novel, the Bela Legosi "Dracula" is not the first movie based on the work. Before this there was "Nosferatu" in 1922 and after it would come "Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night".
Yet everyone remembers Legosi pausing on the crumbling and somehow majestic staircase of his castle, listening to the wolves howling. He says: Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!"
This iconic line should have been clue number one for the poor bumbling fool to hightail his skinny behind out of there...alas, no such thing occurs.
"Dracula" begins much like "Nosferatu", minus all the back story of the realtor. There's a guy who is selling a plot of long to Count Dracula from Transylvania. Ignoring the advice of the villagers, he plods on through the night towards the eerie castle.
In the silent and the Herzog adaptations, we get a whole lot of backstory on this guy. He's leaving his virginal wife at home (who would later sacrifice herself for the villagers) and he is kept throughout the entire movie.
In "Dracula", this guy is just food. Quickly after his introduction to Count Dracula, he passes out after seeing a bat (what a stud!) and Dracula sucks him dry.
There is no rat bringing to London, though that is alluded to. In the other films Dracula was the cause of a widespread pollution.
Still, we gets shots of a boat suffering on the open sea against a ferocious storm. Also included is a crazy devotee who is so in love and inspired by Dracula that he eats small animals like flies and rats to mirror the vampire's habits.
"Dracula" explores vampire mythology more than either of the "Nosferatu" movies do. Vampires can change into the form of a wolf or a bat, they must slumber the day away in the soil that they were buried in, they can be killed with a wooden stake, they do not have a reflection, and they hate wolfsbane.
The story is slight in comparison with the other renditions of the book. Personally, I am most in favor of the 1922 silent version. The acting is melodramatic and the set pieces are quite stunning.
If this was going on looks alone, "Dracula" would be a home-run. Alas, we have side plots of men who want to be vampires, vampires turning women into vampires, and scientists who want to learn about vampires.
There is no real tension to the movie, you realize shortly into the film that everything is going to work out fine. Who doesn't love a happy ending? That would be me.
It would have been nice to see some carnage instead of those dreadful cut-aways and cheesy bats. Yes, I know it was early cinema and they did they best they could...frankly, I don't think that excuse is good enough. People have been making ground-breaking special effects well before this movie was made. Just look at "Wings" which appeared to blow up an entire village just for the sake of the movie.
There is no sacrifice to the movie—there is no grit...and I wanted a little bit more of both.

Score: 2 out of 4 stars

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