-This review pertains to the Dracula: 75th Anniversary Edition DVD-
There have been many attempts to adapt Bram Stoker
's 1897 gothic horror novel into a film. In most cases the adaptations are unsuccessful for the primary reason that the novel is so convoluted in its narrative structure. Although most Dracula
films are repetitive and formulaic, there are a handful that have stood the test of time.
The film that most people remember is Tod Browning
's 1931 masterpiece starring Hungarian expatriate Béla Lugosi
. Browning had been one of the premier American filmmakers in the `20s. His most famous films, other than Dracula
, are those that he made with Lon Chaney, Jr..
Browning had a fascination with gothic imagery, macabre subject matter and suspenseful minimalist storytelling, which made him the perfect director for a filmed version of Dracula
. The film, though in sound, feels like earlier silent expressionist movies most of which were made in Europe.
As for Béla Lugosi
, he has become the most iconic performer to ever play the undead Count. He'll forever be associated with this role, in part because unlike the repulsive old man in Stoker's novel Béla was attractive and he played the part of Dracula
as though he were a sex symbol. He brought to the character an air of sophistication and an implied perversion, which later were adopted as characteristics in most portrayals of Dracula. Another reason for Béla's longevity is his accent (ironically, the very thing that limited his success as an actor). His heavy Eastern European accent (in Stoker's novel Dracula speaks fluent English and has no trace of an accent) helped to make his performance feel more authentic and even made the fact that Dracula was a vampire more plausible. Other notable cast members include Dwight Frye
who is perhaps the best Renfield the screen has ever known and Edward Van Sloan
who plays Professor Van Helsing to near perfection.
The screenplay was written by Garrett Fort
and rather than basing it solely upon Stoker's book, he chose to use the stage play by Hamilton Deane
and John L. Balderston
for his inspiration. This is why some fans of the novel consider the film to be a travesty. However, the fact that the film Dracula
isn't faithful to its literary source material is somewhat irrelevant. The film remains a true classic.
The story begins when real estate agent Renfield travels to Transylvania where he is to meet the reclusive Count Dracula. Upon his arrival, the locals repeatedly warn him that Castle Dracula is a home to vampires, but Renfield disregards these warnings as superstitious ramblings. A dark and mysterious coachman takes him to the castle and then vanishes, leaving him in the courtyard. When Renfield meets the Count for the first time, he is visibly unnerved by his pale and malevolent appearance. Renfield and Dracula sort out the necessary paperwork, for Dracula intends to buy a house in London, but then Dracula reveals himself. Using his vampiric powers he makes Renfield his slave. Together they journey to London on a ship, all the while Dracula feeds on the ship's crew. Then they arrive in London. Before long Dracula has infiltrated the London social scene, where he feeds off of beautiful, aristocratic, young women. But when a Professor Van Helsing uncovers the truth about Dracula he becomes London's only defense from this parasitic intruder. Van Helsing carries out a counterattack against the vampire Count while the lives of all Londoners hang in the balance.
This horrifically good DVD includes an audio commentary with film historian David J. Skal
, an audio commentary with Steve Haberman
screenwriter of Dracula: Dead and Loving It
, an optional score composed by Philip Glass
, "Lugosi: The Dark Prince" documentary, "The Road to Dracula" documentary, Monster Tracks trivia, The Spanish Version of Dracula
with an introduction by Lupita Tovar Kohner
, "Universal Horror" feature-length documentary, poster montage with music, and a theatrical trailer.