Quick Hit: Our introduction to classic horror movies begins with the one it started with, 1931’s Dracula.
Welcome to October DoubleFeaturePreachers fans! This is one of my favorite months of the year to watch movies, because horror is unabashedly my favorite genre of them all. From the slashers, to the thrillers, to the ghost stories, and of course, monsters, I have never been able to get enough of them, and it’s all Shannon can do to reign in my enthusiasm for the genre. That being said, it’s October, so I’m allowed to run a bit more wild and fast with my horror love. Last year, we did an entire month of horror films, some of which were our best rated movies of the year (Don’t Breathe, Hush, and Creep all gained positive ratings from us). There were also some unforgettable gifs in my post from The Stuff. This year, we’re again going to give you a month of horror films, but we’re going to be focused on the classic monster films. We’ll start by giving you the classics, then follow up later in the month to check in on the most recent iteration of these monsters.
So let’s start with today’s post – Universal’s first horror film with sound, 1931’s Dracula. It is the first interpretation of Dracula that comes into most horror films minds, and it’s easy to see why. The movie is incredibly creepy for a number of reasons, and these are the reasons why the film is undeniably a classic.
Let’s talk first about the intense silence that is so pervasive throughout the film. This was one of the first of a wave of “Talkies” that was sweeping the country, and the use of music was practically unheard of. Movie studios at the time thought that people would be brought out of the film if they heard music that they could not see being played by an orchestra. This means that a lot of the film, whenever the characters are not talking, is dead silent (haha, no pun intended). This leads to some really atmospheric shots, including of the coffins where Dracula and his wives reside, and one of the best vampire stalking scenes out there.
Next I need to mention the atmosphere, which I alluded to in the last paragraph. The use of fog in this film is extremely well-done. Without impeding anything, the fog instead adds mood and substance to some of the scenes poorer backgrounds. There is also some tremendous, hand-painted backgrounds that allow the mood to really be set. But the best part about this movie is without a doubt, Mr. Bela Lugosi.
After starring as Dracula on the stage, Lugosi really wanted to play the role in film. He accepted a paltry amount of money ($3500 total) to play the title role. Lugosi went on to set a precedent for vampire films for the rest of time. The way he moved, spoke, and looked would forever be the bar with which all further attempts at Dracula would be measured against, and it’s not hard to see why. Lugosi is hypnotizing in the way that he speaks and the way he moves, often leaving pauses between words where there is no reason for a pause. His hypnotic stare, while a bit overused in the film, is nonetheless extremely creepy, and you can see why he is well remembered for the role.
What is disappointing is that few people remember Dwight Frye’s excellent turn as Renfield. His bugged out eyes and terrifying laugh are some of the most unintentionally scary things in the film. Along with that, you always want to look at him while he’s on screen. It’s impressive that this happens in a film, even when he happens to share the screen with Lugosi.
Dracula is a horror classic that should never be forgotten. It’s by far the best Dracula movie out there, and I’d highly recommend it to horror fans. I’m giving it an “A”.
By the way - fun fact of the day - Lugosi was eventually buried in his silk Dracula cape, by his own request. What dedication!
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
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