Directed by: Tod Browning. Written by: Garrett Fort based on the stage play by Hamilton Dean and John L. Balderston based on the novel by Bram Stoker.
Plot: An ancient vampire (Bela Lugosi) travels from his home in the back woods of Romania to England to bother a beautiful young woman (Helen Chandler). Yes, I plan to use this paragraph to describe every Dracula movie on this list. Not to worry, there are only three more coming.
Review: What can I say? This is the Dracula movie and could not be excluded from this list (especially when one takes into account the amount of utter crap that did make it on to the list…). Not the first Dracula movie of course, but the one against which all subsequent versions are to be judged and probably tied with Nosferatu for most iconic.
Anyway, this movie is totally the shit for about the first half or so. It has everything one could possibly want - it’s set in a creepy, shadowy old castle (again, this movie would have lost something were it in colour. I’m not sure if it’s been colorized or not, but that would be a total atrocity) full of mist, cobwebs and those fucking armadillos (seriously, WTF? It‘s almost as bad as the llamas in Troy). Dwight Frye is running around losing his shit, and Bela Lugosi is totally irresistible. I mean, seriously. He’s like, Captain Sexy.
In the second half, he goes to England and then we have to deal with Helen Chandler’s Mina (hot, but obnoxious), David Manners’ Jonathan (obnoxious, though somewhat likeable) and Edward Van Sloan’s Van Helsing (appropriately crazy but still kind of obnoxious), all of whom are iconic in their own right, but also irritating.
Then there’s the wicked special effects, like the famous scene of the Count “turning into a bat” (you know - there’s a bat in the window, cut to the lady sleeping, cut back to the window and oh my God! there’s a man there. Wow) to compensate. That is absolutely priceless. Right up there with the armadillos.
Naw, this movie is awesome and, despite the somewhat sexual content, is really quite wholesome and adorable. I love stuff like that, back before they were allowed to depict sex in movies and everything. I also like, say, Bram Stoker’s Dracula where they totally took advantage of the fact that they’re allowed to depict sex in movies. Yeeeheh (okay, what the fuck does 'yeeheh' mean?). Neither one is better, but this is certainly cuter.
I could watch this movie over and over again, it’s just so cool and spooky and totally old school. I’d like to say that they should make more movies like this now, but unfortunately they have and they never really come out right. It’s always too pretentious. Nothing to be done about that.
Moving on. I’m not a big fan of the optional Philip Glass soundtrack. I’ve always found Philip Glass a little irritating anyway but I also believe that if a movie doesn’t have any music to begin with you should leave it the fuck alone, and for me the film is way creepier with total silence in some of the scenes. When they add the grating, frenetic music, it detracts from the scene. But then, like many people, I like to slam Philip Glass and his music as much as possible. It makes me feel better about myself. Although, I do wonder why, if they can put music in movies which work perfectly well without, they don’t put different music in those movies from the eighties with the horrible Tangerine Dream soundtracks (ex: Near Dark, Legend (actually, that movie should just be taken out and shot - it’s more humane that way), Firestarter. Also, Ladyhawke. That soundtrack is not by Tangerine Dream but it’s still awful). See, that would actually do humanity some good…
Anyway, this movie is pretty much the shiznit and should be watched by everybody. Well, maybe not but whatever. I am tired.
Favourite Part: Well, Bela Lugosi is totally da man, and then there’s the bitchin cinematography, but my favourite part is Dwight Frye as Renfield. He’s so psychotic but also so sweet and then mega creepy. He’s awesome. I love him.
Other versions: Many, the most interesting being the Spanish version, which was shot at the same time as, and is in many ways superior to, this movie. I decided to leave it off the list because I’m an asshole (and there is already way too much Dracula going on) but still, shout out to Spanish Dracula.
Sequels: Dracula’s Daughter (decent), Son of Dracula (terrible), House of Frankenstein (bitchin), House of Dracula (not so much) and Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein (?).
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