Dracula (1931)

You see him everywhere, especially at this time of the year: White face, dark hair, black cape, accent parodied to sell chocolate cereal or teach children to count. He feels like he’s always been with us, an icon, like Santa Claus.

Where does that leave the movie that brought that icon into mainstream consciousness, especially since plenty else that old isn’t still recognizable? Do things which scared and entertained audiences then still work now? I watched it to find out.

The film is, in a word, uneven. The beginning, with its ruined castle complete with bats, possums and armadillos is great as is the shipwreck. I assume Dracula just really loves armadillos. However, the movie loses steam. Dracula does the same method of bed invasion twice of turning into a bat and flying in the window rather than something more creative, like maybe flying in through a pipe, hypnotizing people, or doing something with his off-screen wolf form. Also the ending is anticlimactic.

What strikes me the most is, oddly, the one element that’s been referenced the most often by parodies, and yet still comes off as different from anything that came before or after, namely Bela Lugosi. While I don’t like to reference the infernal time-wasting wiki TV tropes often, it hits the nail on the head.

“He’s less like a cursed man than some kind of malevolent, primitive, pre-programmed robot that doesn’t fully understand how it should interact with human beings. Quite creepy indeed.”





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