A film crew goes to a tropical island for an exotic location shoot and discovers a colossal ape who takes a shine to their female blonde star. He is then captured and brought back to New York City for public exhibition.
After a harrowing ride through the Carpathian mountains in eastern Europe, Renfield enters castle Dracula to finalize the transferral of Carfax Abbey in London to Count Dracula, who is in actuality a vampire. Renfield is drugged by the eerily hypnotic count, and turned into one of his thralls, protecting him during his sea voyage to London. After sucking the blood and turning the young Lucy Weston into a vampire, Dracula turns his attention to her friend Mina Seward, daughter of Dr. Seward who then calls in a specialist, Dr. Van Helsing, to diagnose the sudden deterioration of Mina's health. Van Helsing, realizing that Dracula is indeed a vampire, tries to prepare Mina's fiance, John Harker, and Dr. Seward for what is to come and the measures that will have to be taken to prevent Mina from becoming one of the undead. Written by
Doug Sederberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One of the most iconic and popular characters in film history, Dracula has taken many forms, in many genres, and performed to various quality. Although not the first film to feature the character of Count Dracula (a couple of lost silent films and F.W. Murnau's unauthorised version Nosferatu came before), Bela Lugosi's portrayal of the menacing and seductive Count is commonly seen as the definitive.
The story is known to most solicitor Renfield (Dwight Frye) arrives at Count Dracula castle at night, despite prior warnings by the nearby locals. He is greeted by Dracula, who, unknown to Renfield, is a vampire. Upon arrival, he pricks his finger, causing it to bleed which visibly excites Dracula until he spies the crucifix hanging around Renfield's neck. Renfield is drugged by Dracula and the two travel to London the next day by boat. When the ship arrives, only Renfield remains on the boat, now seemingly a lunatic and a slave to the Count. He is hospitalised while Dracula becomes entranced by a woman named Mina (Helen Chandler), who is engaged to John Harker (David Manners). As circumstances grow stranger, Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) becomes convinced that the Count is indeed a vampire, and that he must be destroyed.
The film would be the beginning of a long run of successful horror movies made by Universal, which would be hits critically and commercially, and many are nowadays considered classics of the genre. Although falling short of the outright perfection of James Whale's Frankenstein (also 1931) and its sequel Bride Of Frankenstein (1935), Dracula still proves a great adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel. Lugosi's performance is the definitive Dracula, his minimal movements and slow, pronounced dialogue, spoken with his Hungarian accent proves an unnerving Count. I'm not forgetting Max Schrek's Nosferatu, while amazing for its sheer dedication, it was hardly the Dracula of the book.
Director Tod Browning, who up to the point of making Dracula had made over 50 feature films, controls the film superbly, and opts for slow, menacing darkness rather than loud jump scenes and special effects. It builds up the mood gradually, and with Lugosi's fantastic central performance, makes for an atmospheric experience. It's a pity that Browning would almost end his career the next year with the commercially disastrous Freaks, which I consider a true great of the horror genre.
It's just a shame that the film's final scene is rather soft and anti- climatic, jarring with the brilliance that came before. However, it remains an excellent film overall, and the film that would spawn many memorable films for Universal studious.
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