October 5, 2016

Dracula (1931)

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It's October! And while that may require a certain amount of "fest" in some areas, around here we have us a movie marathon! And the guys decided that what they really wanted to do for this year's Halloween marathon was watch four of the Universal horror classics!

This week's entry is the 1931 version of Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi. It's a dark, moody film with lots of people staring at things. Sort of like a Spielberg film, but without the light humor and action. It does have some pretty strong special effects, considering that it was more than 45 years before ILM.

Suck it, John Dykstra!
The film tells a truncated version of Bram Stoker's novel, going out of its way to avoid unnecessary things like character development. And characters, now we come to think of it. The cast basically consists of about seven characters. Among the missing are two of Lucy's (Frances Dade) suitors. The only other one is Dr. Seward (Herbert Bunston), who is now, like, super old and related to Lucy somehow.

Anyway, when attorney Renfield (Dwight Frye) arrives at Castle Dracula to assist with the purchase of Carfax Abbey in London, he is greeted by the mysterious Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) himself, who makes short work of turning the lawyer into his own little monkey boy by feeding him bugs and making him all crazy.

And slowly turning him into Dennis Leary.
After a somewhat unpleasant trip across the sea, Dracula arrives in England, and Renfield is put in the loony bin.

While investigating the city for potential food sources, Dracula visits a concert hall and finds Dr. Seward, John Harker (David Manners), Mina Harker (Helen Chandler), and Lucy Westenra in one of the boxes, where he develops a passing interest in Mina.

It's subtle, but it's there.
A few days later, when Mina awakens to find a couple of puncture holes in her neck, she consults with Dr. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan), who suspects that there may be a vampire loose somewhere in London.

Dracula comes to visit and offer help, but is discovered for what he truly is when Van Helsing and Harker notice that he casts no reflection in a mirror. This leads to a confrontation of words between Van Helsing and Dracula that sets up the doctor's expertise, and the count's intense dislike of chintzy religious jewelry.

Did...did Van Helsing just call him a bitch?
Dracula hypnotizes Mina's nurse and makes her let him into Mina's room, where he grabs her and takes her back to his new digs at Carfax Abbey, where he throws Renfield down the longest staircase that anyone has ever seen.

Van Helsing and the dead albatross that is John Harker follow Dracula's path back to the Abbey, hoping to catch him in his coffin before he awakens and kills them all to death. Harker's uselessness is on full display, including his inability to run like a grown male adult.

Despite a dead weight holding him back, Van Helsing finds Dracula and must confront him in what will surely be a bloody, gory battle to the death...

Jake is disappointed in this movie, which is supposed to be a "classic". He doesn't feel that it is scary, except for Renfield's creepy crawl across the floor after Van Helsing and Dracula square off for the first time.

Creepy? Yes. But he's no Tom Waits.
Derek is also unimpressed. Aside from Bela Lugosi's lack of almost any actual movement, his "acting" involves mostly just staring at things, but not reacting very much at all. The one thing in the movie that he found fascinating was the bee coffin. Yes, that's a thing.

Larry was very unhappy with this movie because, despite being a supposed horror film, there is almost nothing to be horrified by. (At least, within the story itself. In reality, the most horrifying thing about this movie is that people consider it a classic.)