1931's Dracula -- True cinematic masterpiece or overrated wasted opportunity?

Discussion in 'Mayberry Lounge' started by Guestx, Jul 31, 2016.

  1. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    First off, I guess for anyone who needs it: SPOILER WARNING for an 85 year old film.

    So last night I watched Dracula for the first time. Not the recent one with Luke Evans, but the famed 1931 version with Bela Lugosi. And I have to say, even taking into account the time in which it was made, it really is not a great film.

    Admittedly, it came about during a weird time in Hollywood's history where they were transitioning away from silent films and toward talkies. And that no doubt accounts for some of the stylistic considerations, because the movie very much comes across, instead of as a movie truly from the sound era, as a silent film that just happened to have spoken dialogue. This reality is especially driven home by the fact that there is no score. Just no music anywhere beyond the opening credits.

    But here's the thing: There were other movies made right around this time period, or just before or after, that were great films and told stories well. This just isn't really one of them.

    The nuances of the plot are somewhat difficult to comprehend at times and, more egregiously, things that should happen on screen do not. We are often told about events happening but only occasionally actually shown them happening. Furthermore, the characterization of Dracula himself is really quite weak. I get that he's supposed to be dark and mysterious, but they could've done a much better job of building him up and letting us know who he is and why he does what he does.

    It's not all negative, though. On the plus side, the movie is pretty gorgeously designed. I really appreciated the sets and matte paintings that were used to bring the world to life. And the performances themselves are quite good, especially Dwight Frye as Renfield.

    One thing that's interesting is that apparently a Spanish-language version of the film was shot concurrently with the English-language version. The English-language actors and crew would shoot during the day and the Spanish-language actors and crew would use the sets during the night. The Spanish-language version is about 30 minutes longer and I've heard that it's superior overall.

    So yeah, Dracula. Anyone seen it? Care to offer thoughts?


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  2. MusterX

    MusterX Titanium Belt

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    I think you know what I have to say about it.

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  3. BisexualMMA

    BisexualMMA Don't Put My Name in the Name of Steroids!

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    I haven't seen it for a very long time but I preferred the silent film Nosferatu from the 1920s by a fair margin.
     
  4. Guestx

    Guestx Guest


    LOLLLLLL!!!

    Hey man, I said a fortnight. This one's on my WATCH REALLY SOON list, I just got a few in the queue (due to a stack of DVDs I checked out from the library) ahead of it.
     
  5. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    I've seen a lot of comments floating around to the same effect.
     
  6. TheRuthlessOne

    TheRuthlessOne Violence Belt Yellow Card

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    It's all about the Christopher lee dracula movies

    Can I get a hell yeah?
     
  7. chickenluver

    chickenluver Bookmobile Driver

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    It's been a long time since I've seen it, but I didn't like it very much. Frankenstein made the same year by the same studio is an all time favorite so I was excited to watch the other classic Universal monster movies, and Dracula completely killed my enthusiasm. I still haven't watched The Mummy or The Wolfman.

    Bela Lugosi may be some kind of horror/b-movie legend, but I don't think he was a very good actor. There were a few effectively creepy set designs but that's all the positives I can remember.

    @shadow_priest_x you must know a thing or two about Pre-Code Hollywood right?

    edit: oh yeah, as Bisexual said, even though Nosferatu was an unauthorized adaptation of the Dracula novel, that was successfully sued by Bram Stoker's widow, it's a much better film than the actual authorized adaptation.

    And since we've been introduced to Herzog and in the SMC, I guess I'll mention that Herzog and Klaus Kinski remade Nosferatu in the late 70s, which I thought was very good.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2016
  8. MusterX

    MusterX Titanium Belt

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    I will say this. I can appreciate some old films. They had to rely more on the fundamentals of making film, like a great script, and great dialogue, and great settings and angles because they don't have all this modern equipment and technology. Thing is though, Gary Oldman's Dracula was magnificent IMO. The dude oozed evil for that role.

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  9. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    There's something about horror movies from the era that just makes me stay away.
     
  10. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    I've heard The Wolfman is good. I have only seen Dracula, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. Of those three, Bride has to be my favorite.


    Production design and Renfield are the two positives that I can really point to. And I thought Lugosi was okay, even if it seemed like he didn't really have much to work with. He at least had the look and a cool accent. But beyond that, honestly, the film is a bunch of meh.


    Yeah, which brings up an interesting question. Technically the Hays Code went into effect in 1930, but according to my understanding it wasn't really eagerly enforced until around 1934. So were some of the stylistic choices here--Dracula never shown actually biting anyone, Dracula's death happening off screen--the result of the Hays Code? Or just poor choices?
     
  11. Mocesting The Delapitated

    Mocesting The Delapitated Jun Jun Jun Platinum Member

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  12. Guestx

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    I've only seen clips from this one. Never actually sat down and watched it.

    I should probably give it a look soon. And since we're on the topic of modern adaptations of classic horror tales, I also want to check out Kenneth Branagh's version of Frankenstein.
     
  13. TheRuthlessOne

    TheRuthlessOne Violence Belt Yellow Card

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    garbage

    Go watch the hammer films
     
  14. europe1

    europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    That is a suprisingly common opinion, actually.

    You're still wrong though.:p


    I'm going to say this. A person's opinion of Dracula 1931 dependent entirely on how much the word "dreamlike" appeals to them. Everything about the film, the thick atmosphere, the noiselessness, the serene pacing, the spare characterization, the "special effects" done entirely through suggestion and film-language (like the mind-control or transformation). Everything about this movie is about lulling you into a dormant, dreamy state-of-mind. You are not supposed to be "alert" while watching it, you are not suppose to watch it like a normal film. You are supposed to allow it to sucker you into it's world, and when your mind is in that state, it's quite mesmerizing.

    I would also like to point out that the movie was considered very erotic, which is obviously completely lost on modern viewing. Bela got quite a few ladies to swoon in his day.


    So... what are your favorite 30's movies?

    Sexual-predator Dracula is the best Dracula!:D


    What the hell are you talking about? He was absolutely superb in Ed Wood!:p

    But yeah, while I personally think he fit-like-a-glove in Dracula, Lugosi's thespian qualities weren't very extensive at all.
     
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  15. Pixelated Porn

    Pixelated Porn Double Yellow Card Double Yellow Card

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    Just thinking about this because you mention the spanish version -- gilbert gotfried amazing podcast talks about old movies and talked about dracula with the spanish stuff


    Anyway, i am throwing up Byzantium as best vampire movie followed by fright night

    I still haven't seen this movie though, the monster movies from this era don't really interest me

    oh, and The Night Flyer is a great vampire movie with Richard Deez
     
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  16. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    Is it really not good? Kenneth Branagh is usually on point with whatever he's doing.
     
  17. europe1

    europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    Props for picking something from his Italian ventures;)

    TheRutlessOne speaks the truth. But it's worth saying again. The movie is garbage.

    It's Coppula having fun with the craft of film. If camera-trickery is of any interest to you then you'll love it. More craft than story though, and some of the performances is so flat that even I'm bothered by them.




    While the "horror" stuff in Nosferatu is absolutely superb. A lot of it is also feels very clumpy today. Like the hilariously extent to which the film goes about explaining about vampires (and how obvious it is that Orloc is one). And a lot of the Germany stuff isn't that good either, especially the chase when it fast-forwards, just doesn't work.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2016
  18. Devout Pessimist

    Devout Pessimist Tragic Vision

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    Is there female nudity?
     
  19. chickenluver

    chickenluver Bookmobile Driver

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    My guess is that the filmmakers made the decision not to push the envelope as much as they could have. It may have something to do with the immense controversy from a previous film by Tod Browning, Freaks.

    Interesting. I'll keep this mind for when I give it another watch.
    If I may answer a question not directed at me...

    In no order

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  20. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    Yes, I searched for "Dracula 1931 overrated" and came up with a treasure trove of material.


    Frankly, this sounds more like your own thoughts on the film rather than what the director intended. Also, it sounds like you're saying the film is better watched after you've reached a certain level of intoxication.

    I thought the film could've benefited greatly from some better camera work and editing. Shots that really should've started wide and then cut to something closer up are just shot wide. You can really tell that it was adapted from a stage play because it was also largely shot like one as well.


    I was fine with Frankenstein, which was made the same year. And I like Bride of Frankenstein quite a bit, which was made just a few years later. Lately I've also been watching some of the Warner Oland Charlie Chan movies from the 30s.

    I'd say everything I listed there is B-level entertainment, made on somewhat similar budgets and also aimed at the same audiences, and I'd also say it's all better than Dracula.
     
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