A nightmare of horror!
Dracula is a 1931 vampire horror film directed by Tod Browning, written by Garrett Fort, and distributed by Universal Pictures. The film is based off of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, Dracula. It stars Bela Lugosi and Edward Van Sloan. This is the first film in the Universal Classic Monsters franchise as well as the first in the Dracula franchise. It was followed by Frankenstein and a direct sequel, Dracula's Daughter. In 2000, the film was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
"Listen to them. The children of the night! What music they make." - Count Dracula
After arriving in London, the mysterious Count Dracula leases land from Dr. John Seward. As suspicious things begin happening around London, young Johnathan Harker and Professor Abraham Van Helsing suspect that there is more to the count than meets the eye.
My Favorite Thing About Dracula
Every single iconic thing about Count Dracula is born from this film.
Bela Lugosi's performance is one of the most famous of all time, and for good reason. He is perfect. He brings this fantastic charm to the vampire while also being clearly evil. Every single line is delivered with this terrifying mix of elegance and menace. There have been hundreds of iterations of Bram Stoker's famous antagonist. And half of those iterations have tried (and failed) to match Lugosi's iconic performance.
My Least Favorite Thing About Dracula
This movie is ninety years old. And it shows.
Usually, if a movie shows its age, I give it a little bit of a pass, because it's understandably a product of its time. However, Dracula is a pretty big mess of a movie. Besides the titular count himself, most of the film is really mid. The story is almost non-sensical. There isn't a through line that connects all of these events. Things just happen, regardless of whether they move the plot forward or not. The characters (besides Dracula and Abraham Van Helsing) are all relatively forgettable. This film is made watchable by Lugosi's fantastic performance. But it's pretty boring besides that.
Why Dracula Isn't Very Good
Citizen Kane shows its age. The Wizard of Oz shows its age. But those films are still well-made. They still have good stories and compelling characters. Dracula is a classic because of Bela Lugosi. If he wasn't Dracula in this movie, it'd be pretty bad. And that is not a good thing. He saves this whole movie. Sure, Abraham Van Helsing is a pretty cool character, too, but your entire movie cannot rely on two characters to keep the film afloat. There's basically no story and no character development. Because of that, I just can't say I really like this movie.
The Horror Evaluation
This is a really hard movie to evaluate on this scale, because there's nothing scary about it. There's one on-screen kill (I think). If you watched this movie knowing nothing about the story or Dracula himself, I don't think you'd think it was horror movie. However, Bela Lugosi's Dracula is a staple of the horror genre. He has sat with audiences for ninety years at this point. Everything, and I mean everything, about his character is iconic. The look. The voice. The lines. It also introduced the idea of a modern vampire, so I think I have to go higher on this one.
Dracula gets a Beautiful Bloodbath.
THE SPOOKY SCALE
This is God (Top Tier Horror)
Beautiful Bloodbath (Great Horror)
Decently Dreary (Good Horror)
A Stab in the Gut (Bad Horror)
Hellish Experience (Terrible Horror)
Scare Factor: 1/10
Kills and Gore: 2/10
Final Thoughts and Score
Dracula is an extremely mid movie that benefits from Bela Lugosi's perfect performance as the count himself. Even without a story, Lugosi makes this movie watchable.
I still have to go Sour here. Age range is 6+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)
Fun Factor: 4/10
Directed by Tod Browning
Not rated for minor violence, disturbing themes and images, thematic elements
Released on February 14, 1931
1 hour and 15 minutes
Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula
Edward Van Sloan as Professor Abraham Van Helsing
Helen Chandler as Mina Seward
David Manners as Johnathan Harker
Dwight Frye as R.M. Renfield
Herbert Bunston as Dr. John Seward
Frances Dade as Lucy Weston