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Dracula (1931)

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"For one who has not lived even a single lifetime, you are a wise man, Van Helsing."
Dracula
Dracula
Dracula (1931) 002
Credits
Title: Dracula
Directed by: Tod Browning
Karl Freund [1]
Written by: Hamilton Deane
John L. Balderston
Garrett Fort
Louis Bromfield [2]
Tod Browning [3]
Dudley Murphy [4]
Louis Stevens [5]
Produced by: Carl Laemmle, Jr., Tod Browning; E.M. Asher
Music by: Heinz Roemheld
Philip Glass
Kronos Quartet
Cinematography: Karl Freund
Edited by: Maurice Pivar
Milton Carruth
Production
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Released: February 14th, 1931
Rating: Approved
Running time: 75 min.
Country: USA
Language: English
Budget: $355,000 (estimated)
Gross: Unknown
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Dracula is an American horror film released in 1931 by Universal Pictures. Produced by Carl Laemmle, Jr. and directed by Tod Browning, it adapts the original 1897 Bram Stoker novel Dracula as well as the 1924 stage adaptation of Dracula by John L. Balderston and Hamilton Deane. It is the first authorized film adaptation of Dracula as well as the first horror film "talkie". Dracula launched the career of actor Béla Lugosi, who went on to star in dozens of genre films overs the next two decades.

Plot Edit

Dracula's guest

Renfield

A London solicitor named Renfield travels through the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania en route to Castle Dracula. Along the way, he encounters villagers who warn him about Nosferatu and the "Night of Evil". One elderly woman gives Renfield a cross to wear saying, "For your mother's sake". At the Borgo Pass, he is forced to take a second carriage the rest of the way to the castle. The coach driver stares at him with stark, glowing eyes. When he arrives at the castle, he is greeted by the owner, Count Dracula. Dracula invites him in and Renfield is suitably startled when he sees the Count pass through a spider's web without disturbing it. He brings him to his room where a meal is waiting for him. Renfield opens his valise and prepares documents for Dracula, brokering the sale of Carfax Abbey in Whitby, London. While sifting through the documents, Renfield cuts his finger and Dracula begins salivating as he watches the blood pour out of the wound.

Later in the evening, three strange women awaken in coffins beneath the castle. They are vampires and they set their sights on Renfield. Dracula appears and halts their advance, preferring instead to take Renfield for himself.

With business taken care of, Dracula arranges transport from Transylvania to London. Renfield is now his maniacal servant who guards his coffin during their tempestuous voyage.

Arriving in London, Dracula walks the city streets, and eventually takes his first victim, a young flower girl standing on a street corner. He then arrives at an opera house where he meets Doctor Seward, his daughter Mina, Lucy Weston and John Harker. Dracula introduces himself to Seward and tells him that he has just moved into Carfax Abbey, adjacent to Seward’s sanitarium at Whitby. Lucy Western is immediately intrigued by Dracula, particularly when he regales her with tales of his castle back in Transylvania. Mina and John just find the count to be odd.

Brides of Dracula 001

The Brides of Dracula.

Dracula likewise develops an interest in Lucy and only a short time later, comes to her bedroom where he bites her on the neck, drinking her blood. Lucy dies soon after. The eminent scientist, Professor Van Helsing, examines her body and begins to grow suspicious. Three nights later, Lucy rises from her grave as a vampire. She is reportedly seen prowling the streets of London, preying on small children.

In the wake of Lucy's death, Renfield has since been remanded to the care of Doctor Seward’s sanitarium. Professor Van Helsing examines Renfield and begins to draw a connection between the man's apparent mania and Lucy's sudden death.

Dracula then begins targeting Mina. He creeps into her bedroom late at night and drinks her blood. The following day, Mina complains of suffering from bizarre nightmares. Her fiancé, John Harker, keeps watch over her at her room at the sanitarium.

Dracula pays a visit to the Seward home and meets Professor Van Helsing. During the course of conversation, Van Helsing notices that Dracula fails to cast a reflection in the mirrored interior of a cigarette case. After the others leave the room, Van Helsing addressed Dracula directly. He shows Dracula the cigarette case and the vampire violently slaps it out of his hand. Both men now know the truth about one another. Dracula sneers and compliments Van Helsing on his astuteness. He then turns and leaves.

Van Helsing then concentrates on Mina, who has been feeling ill since the prior evening. He knows that Dracula has chosen her for his next victim. He instructs a sanitarium nurse named Briggs to decorate Mina's room with garlands of wolfbane, insisting that it should not be removed for any reason.

Later, Renfield escapes from his cell and begins lurking about the living areas of the hospital. His attendant, a man named Martin pursues Renfield and finds him in Doctor Seward's study. With wide eyes, Renfield hisses to Van Helsing and the others telling them of Dracula and his great power. He elaborates upon how Dracula will repay his service by giving him millions of rats from which to feed upon.

Dracula takes Mina

Dracula abducts Mina.

Van Helsing later has a second encounter with Dracula, who no longer hides the fact of what he is, or his intentions towards Mina. He tells him that he has infused Mina with his own blood and that she will be his now. Dracula tries to use his hypnotic powers on Van Helsing, but Van Helsing's will is strong and he breaks free of Dracula's control. Producing a crucifix, he drives the vampire away.

John consults with Mina on the terrace outside her room. He notices that she is more alert now, but is still concerned over her condition. Dracula, in the form of a bat, appears overhead and communicates with Mina, ordering her to take Van Helsing's crucifix away from him. As Mina hypnotically mutters her obedience, John tries swatting Dracula away.

Late into the evening, Renfield escapes from his room once again and leaves the hospital. Van Helsing and John Harker decide to follow him, knowing that he will lead them to Dracula.

Dracula takes control of Mina and leads her back to the crypt beneath Carfax Abbey. Renfield appears just as Dracula and Mina ascend a long flight of steps. He hears the sound of John and Van Helsing trailing after them and turns towards Renfield, realizing that he had inadvertently led them here. He strangles Renfield and hurls his dead body down the steps of the abbey.

Dracula retreats into the lower catacombs and goes to his coffin. As the sun begins to rise, Van Helsing and Jonathan scour the crypt until they find the coffin containing Dracula's sleeping form. Harker searches for Mina and Van Helsing pounds a wooden stake (made from the splinters of a coffin lid) into Dracula's chest. With Dracula dead, Mina appears to return to normal. Harker walks Mina up the steps of the Abbey, while Van Helsing elects to stay behind.

Cast Edit

Notes & Trivia Edit

  • The tagline for this film is, "The story of the strangest passion the world has ever known!"
  • Dracula was filmed from September 29th to November 15th, 1930.
  • A Spanish version of Dracula was filmed simultaneously with that of Tod Browning's Dracula. In these early years of sound films, it was not uncommon for production companies to develop multiple versions of a film, with different actors and production crew. The Spanish version of Drácula was produced by Carl Laemmle, Jr. and directed by George Melford. Carlos Villarias, credited as Carlos Villar, played the role of Dracula.
  • Originally, silent film star Lon Chaney, Sr. was considered for the title role of Dracula, but Chaney was under contract to MGM at the time. Regardless of contractual obligations, Chaney passed away from throat cancer on August 26th, 1930 and the role eventually went to Hungarian stage actor Bela Lugosi. Ironically, Lugosi would go on to star in Mark of the Vampire, itself a remake of London After Midnight starring Lon Chaney.
  • There are conflicting accounts regarding Lugosi's language capabilities during the production of Dracula. Many sources cite that Lugosi knew very few words in English and had to recite his lines phonetically, without really understanding what it was that he was saying. Other sources have claimed that Lugosi's English was as refined as it was ever likely to get.
  • Carla Laemmle, niece of producer Carl Laemmle, Jr., makes an uncredited appearance as a coach passenger reading from a travel brochure. She has the first lines in the movie.
  • The only sound score in the original film consists of a piece from Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. This piece is also played during the opera house sequence. During the 1930s, it was not uncommon for the early sound films to not use a film score. In 1999, Dracula was fully scored for the first time by Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet. This was first made available on special edition VHS and laser disc versions of Dracula. It has since been included on the Dracula Legacy Collection DVD and the Dracula 75th Anniversary Special Edition DVD.
  • During the symphony scene, Dracula hypnotizes an usher into telling Doctor Seward that there is a telephone call for him in the lobby. The nature of this call, or why Dracula had the usher inform Doctor Seward of it, are never explained. Presumably, Dracula was arranging to have Renfield admitted to the sanitarium so that he could keep him close by. In a following scene, Renfield is shown as a patient at the asylum with no explanation as to how he arrived there.
  • Although it may seem that there is a great age difference between actors Bela Lugosi and Edward Van Sloan, in truth, Van Sloan is older than Lugosi by only eleven days.
  • Carla Laemmle, niece of Universal Pictures founder, Carl Laemmle, was the last surviving cast member of Dracula. She passed away on June 12th, 2014 at the ripe old age of 104.

Recommendations Edit

Universal Horror films

Vampire films

See also Edit

Dracula

Universal Monsters

External Links Edit

References Edit

  1. Karl Freund is uncredited as a co-director on this film.
  2. Louis Bromfield is a contributing writer only. He is uncredited for his participation in this film.
  3. Tod Browning is uncredited as a co-writer on this film.
  4. Dudley Murphy provides additional dialogue only. He is uncredited for his participation in this film.
  5. Louis Stevens is a contributing writer only. He is uncredited for his participation in this film.


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