Thursday, December 24, 2009
55. Dracula (1931)
Running Time: 74 minutes
Directed By: Tod Browning
Written By: Garrett Fort, from play by John L. Balderston and Hamilton Deane
Main Cast: Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan, Helen Chandler, David Manners
Sidenote: You may have noticed that I haven't made a post in nearly a week, and you may also remember that in my last post I mentioned that I'd be taking a few days off to watch a few movies that I recieved as early Christmas presents. That I did, as I watched Whatever Works and Scenes from A Marriage. Whatever Works is the newest Woody Allen movie to be released to DVD and while I am a Woody Allen nut, it is one of the first things I bought when I got some Christmas cash from my parents. It was actually, a bit to my surprise, wonderful. The reason I say "to my surprise" is because I haven't really cared much for the recent Woody Allen films, that are Scoop, Cassandra's Dream and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. This was a total throwback for Allen as he returned to his native New York and returned to the type of comedy that made me fall in love with his films in the first place. Larry David is great as the neurotic Woody Allen character. Scenes from A Marriage is an Ingmar Bergman film that I saw earlier this summer and it quickly became a personal favorite, so I felt the need to quickly add it to my DVD collection and watch it again to make sure those same old feeling were still there. They were!! This film is fantastic, as the characters are fleshed out and the dialogue is perfect, as it totally grabs you and pulls you right into these characters lives. This is a movie that I was shocked to realize is not included in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book. Anyway, two great films and now I'm back to the book and now we must move on to the business at hand...
MONSTER MASH: PART ONE OF TWO
Directed by Tod Browning, Dracula was one that I had mixed feelings about going into. I had an urge to see it, as I loved Browning's previous "1001" entry, "The Unknown", but I really wasn't all that excited, because I figured I'd basically just be seeing the origin of all the parodies, remakes and cliches that I've seen over the years.
While everyone knows the story of Dracula, I'm still going to recount the plot here, because that's my standard format and it's my blog, so I guess I can go ahead and conduct business as usual.
The film starts out with a rickety old carriage taking several people into the hills of Transylvania, including Renfield, a British solicitor. Once arriving at the destination, just before sundown, Renfield requests to be taken farther into the hills to an area known as Borgo Pass, where he must meet with a "man" by the name of Count Dracula. While the driver is hesitant and scared due to some old superstitions and rumors, Renfield is also persistent, and eventually gets his way. He soon arrives at Borgo Pass and to Count Dracula's castle. His business there: to finalize the deal of some property that Dracula has purchased in London, by the name of Carfax Abbey, which is located next to an insane asylum. This is of course where we get our first peek at Lugosi as Dracula and I must say the man certainly looks the part of a creepy, blood sucker, complete with black cape and slicked back, black hair. When Renfield cuts his finger while eating a meal that Dracula prepared for him, the Count nearly leaps on him right then and there, but restrains himself until the papers are finalized. Once the paperwork is finalized, Dracula puts a spell on Renfield, causing him to faint and thus the feast for Count Dracula begins and his new assistant is born, as Renfield will now succumb to all of his masters needs.
Soon after this, Renfield is captured in London and placed into the insane asylum that sits near Carfax Abbey, Drac's new home. Dwight Frye is fantastic as the cackling, lurching Renfield. Dracula begins to prey on the proprietor's of the insane asylum, Dr. Seward, his daughter Mina, her fiance John and Professor Van Helsing. Van Helsing is a great character that allows you to really root for the good guys in the film. While Dracula is slick and almost cool, Van Helsing is there to balance out the good vs. evil formula and give the good side a real hero.
Almost all the roles in the film are fantastic: Van Helsing, Renfield and of course Count Dracula, played superbly by Bela Lugosi. There's even some comic relief in the hospital attendant Martin. While I did have a few small complaints about the film, the big one being the very anti-climatic ending, that is all wrapped up within four minutes, for the majority this is a great film and something that would be awesome to watch when Halloween time rolls around. While, I never really cared much for vampire and/or Dracula stories (see the "Nosferatu" review, earlier in the blog) this one, for some reason, grabbed me and really hooked me into the characters, setting, and performances. Lugosi's Dracula is creepy and his surroundings are even more so, as his crypt is constantly surrounded by rats, spiders or even...armadillos?!
RATING: 7/10 Took off a few points for the ending and a few other dull spots, but all in all Browning is quickly becoming a favorite director of mine and I can't wait for his next addition to my journey.
NEXT UP: Frankenstein...Monster Mash: Part Two of Two. This review probably won't make it up here until Saturday. With it being Christmas Eve, the family plans are starting to take place in full effect.
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