31 Weeks to Halloween: Dracula (1931)
In the annals of living horror, one name stands out as the epitome of evil: DRACULA!
Quite possibly the most notable name in all of horror history is that of Count Dracula - a vampire who sleeps by day and feeds on the blood of the living by night. There are few characters more notable in the genre than that of Dracula, and even though there have been multiple media productions based off the character, none even come close to the 1931 film in which Dracula is played by Bela Lugosi. Lugosi portrayed the character previously on Broadway, so it was a natural fit to have his iconic look, facial expressions and language in the the first of the monster movies released by Universal Pictures. Since its released up until this very day, the film is revered for its storytelling, historical significance, and of course, for scaring the hell out of audiences and making sure that those who saw the film feared the night. The film is one of my favorite Universal Monsters films of the classic era, simply because of the grim tone, dark tale, and the legend of the Count himself that is so iconic. Vampire films were my first love of the horror genre, and so it was only natural for me to fall in love with the pop culture icon that is... Dracula.
In brief, Dracula summons a businessman named Renfield to Castle Dracula in Transylvania on the principle that he is interested in leasing Carfax Abbey in London. Upon his arrival and after a spooky carriage ride up to the castle, Reinfeld meets the Count under the belief that the stories about him being a vampire are pure myth. Little does he know, Dracula is the creature of the night he is thought to be, and he turns Reinhart into his slave as they prepare for the move to London. What happens after the move is the real meat of the plot, as Dracula feasts on the blood of Mina and even feeds Mina his own blood, thereby making her one with him. If she were to die, she would become a vampire alongside Dracula. It is now up to Professor Van Helsing to put an end to Dracula's influence over Mina and over what would eventually be all of England by finding a way to kill Dracula and end his reign of terror. Does the Professor succeed or does he fall victim to the Count's bloodthirst as well?!
Just nine years earlier, Bram Stokers' Dracula was released as Nosferatu in theaters, the terrifying silent film that is also a vampire cult classic. And while I, of course, love that film dearly - it is the 1931 Dracula film that has always stuck as the majority of the world's true vampire lord. It's been 89 years since the release of Dracula, and the movie still holds up as the definitive vampire film of all time. Of all the Universal Monsters, Dracula has always been one of the most badass and clearly Universal knew that, as it only took five years for them to release the direct sequel Dracula's Daughter to the masses (but more on that in the next few weeks!). I usually revisit this film a handful of times throughout the year, but it really is best around Halloween simply for the grim atmosphere the movie establishes early on and never lets go of. I hold 1931's Dracula in the highest regard, and to this day, Bela Lugosi's performance still haunts me to the core. And so to kick off the 31 Weeks to Halloween special, there's no better film to start with.