Dracula 1931 is a horror film about Vampires and Tod Browning directs it. It stars the late great Bela Lugosi as the title character “Count Dracula”. It is based on the Bram Stoker’s book called Dracula and the 1924 stage play of the same name. Universal Pictures/Universal Studios are responsible for producing this box office hit. The supporting actors for this movie are Dwight Frye, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Frances Dade, Edward Van Sloan, Herbert Bunston, Joan Standing, and Charles K. Gerrard.
The story begins with Renfield (Dwight Frye) getting a ride through the Carpathian Mountains in Romania to Count Dracula’s (Bela Lugosi) castle despite the warnings of the villagers. When he arrives at Dracula’s castle the mysterious Count welcomes him. Renfield, who is a real estate agent, is there to finalize the transfer of Carfax Abbey in London to Count Dracula. You can tell that Count Dracula himself in disguise drives the carriage that takes him to the castle. This also would be featured in the 1992 remake featuring Gary Oldman. Upon being inside The Count’s Gothic Castle, Renfield is weirded out/scared by Dracula, the howling of the wolves, the castle itself, and Dracula’s brides he soon encounters. The terrified Renfield spends his last night there as a human, as he is turned into Count Dracula’s ghoul/servant. Count Dracula, Renfield, and their coffins are now onboard the ship called “The Vesta” and are bound for England. The ship arrives in England with Renfield who appears to be the only survivor. Renfield is sent to Dr. Seward’s insane asylum, since upon arrival he was determined to be a raving lunatic because of his bizarre giggling, grin, and piercing stare.
A couple of nights later, Count Dracula now at the London Theatre, meets Dr. Seward (Herbert Bunston). He also comes into contact with Seward’s daughter, Mina (Helen Chandler), her fiancé John
Harker (David Manners), and the family friend Lucy Weston (Frances Dade). Lucy quickly becomes enamored with The Count. She on that night is feasted on by Dracula and dies from blood loss and her blood being altered, while two bite marks are found on her neck. Renfield who has gone insane is now eating flies and spiders in his asylum, much to the bewilderment of the staff and doctors. Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) soon analyzes Renfield’s blood and determines that they might be dealing with the undead, Vampires specifically. Dracula, who now has attention set on Mina, visits her in her bedroom and bites her leaving the same marks on her neck he did with Lucy. In the company of Jonathan Harker, Dr. Seward, and Van Helsing, she speaks of a dream from a few nights ago, stating that she was visited by a strange man with a pale face and red piercing eyes. Dracula enters the room and is noticed by Harker and Van Helsing that he does not have a reflection in the mirror.
Van Helsing tricks Dracula into looking at the mirror he is holding now in his hands. Dracula reacts violently and smashes the mirror. Dracula leaves in wolf form. Van Helsing is convinced because of the proof he now has that Dracula is responsible for the recent deaths. Mina now leaves her room to meet Dracula in the garden and is fed upon again. Renfield somehow escaped his cell and overhears Seward, Harker, and Van Helsing, discussing Dracula and Vampires. Much to the anger of Dracula, who is bat form listening to Renfield run his big mouth and giving away too much information to the three men. The housemaid now comes in and tells the three men that Mina is outside lying on the ground. The men rescue her as Dracula hides in the shadows.
There are newspaper reports now of a beautiful woman in white, that has been luring children from the park with chocolate, and then biting them. While being questioned by Van Helsing, Mina tells them that the woman in white is her friend Lucy, who is now a vampire. Nurse Briggs (Joan Standing) is given instructions by Van Helsing to look after Mina when she is sleeping and not to remove the wreath of wolf bane from around her neck. Renfield gives away some more information he shouldn’t be doing. Dracula is also in the house listening to the conversation. Renfield is taken back to his cell by Martin (Charles K. Gerrard). Dracula enters as the others leave and has a somewhat mini-showdown and also tells Van Helsing that Mina belongs to him now. The defiant Van Helsing tells him he will find his coffin in Carfax Abby and destroy him by driving a stake through his heart. The angered Dracula tries to hypnotize Van Helsing to no avail because of his strong willpower and the cross he is carrying. Dracula flees and disappears.
Soon after Harker has a discussion with Mina who he notices is different. While Dracula in bat form is flying above them, Mina attempts to attack Harker but is stopped by Van Helsing and Dr. Seward. Mina now let’s Harker know that Dracula has turned her into a vampire and that their relationship is done for. Later on that night Nurse Briggs, under the mind control of Dracula removes the Wolf Bane so Dracula can enter Mina’s room. Dracula who now has Mina completely under his control heads to Carfax Abby. Harker and Van Helsing who are outside notice that Renfield has escaped again and follow him to Carfax Abby. Now in Carfax Abby they see Dracula with Mina and Renfield is soon choked and thrown down the staircase to his death by Dracula. The fleeing Dracula with Mina heads to his coffin since the sun is about to rise. Van Helsing prepares a wooden stake as Harker who hears the screaming of Mina goes and looks for her. Van Helsing successfully kills Dracula by driving a stake through his heart. Mina who Harker now find curse free embraces her in his arms.
Dracula 1931 Film: The Review
This is the first adaptation of Dracula to have sound. The first was 1922 German film “Nosferatu”, but it was a silent film. Nosferatu is different than Dracula in the way of the vampire portrayed in that film to be a repulsive hideous creature. Bela Lugosi as Dracula brought elegance and sophistication to the character. Max Schreck as Nosferatu was just a frightening creature that no female would be attracted to. Bela Lugosi’s suave nobleman style would influence the way many vampires are portrayed in films from here on out. As great as Bela Lugosi’s performance is in this film, the role of Renfield portrayed brilliantly by Dwight Frye is something not to be ignored. He brings an almost comedic approach to Renfield with his bizarre grinning and giggling. You can’t help but laugh at the pathetic creature Renfield has become. Dwight Frye was also excellent as Fritz the hunchbacked lab assistant of Dr. Frankenstein. I also like the role of Martin played by Charles K. Gerrard. His performance as an old grounds guard at the asylum Renfield is held is also amusing. You can tell the poor old man has some problems himself. It’s funny in the one scene where he says,” they’re all crazy”. He kind of reminds me of “Crazy Ralph” in the early Friday the 13th movies.
As for the effects there isn’t much to say because special effects were at a primitive stage this early on in American Cinema. I do like the effects of highlighting shadows and lights. I especially like the glowing eyes effect they use on Bela Lugosi with his gleaming stare being highlighted by a light being focused on his eyes. Dracula’s castle looks even scarier in black & white than in color with its gothic look and being dark, damp and web filled. The eerie sounding classical pieced opening theme also adds a nice element to the movie. I believe it was adapted from the Ballet classic called “Swan Lake”. I would consider this to have the best version of Renfield out of any Dracula film. Dwight Frye is awesome in this role. Bela Lugosi never became a big star after this film unfortunately due to the cruel Hollywood way of typecasting actors. He did do other great films though such as White Zombie, Murders in the Rue Morgue, and Island of Lost Souls. Back then it was said that Bela Lugosi’s Romanian accent was too strong and was the cause of his typecasting. Initially, Renfield’s role was to be minor since the Bram Stoker novel has Jonathan Harker as the one to make the trip to Dracula’s castle. Francis Ford Coppola 1992 Dracula film kept that part to what it shows in the book. Despite the differences both versions are great. This is a great film you can watch alone at night when you decide to stay up or if you can’t sleep. It is a timeless classic.
Dracula 1931 Film Review: Done by Rancel
Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead Tribute Music Video
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