The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dracula (1931)

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For me, in figuring out what classics to feature for Halloween, it was a no brainer to go with Dracula over Nosferatu. Don't get me wrong, I love Nosferatu, and it and Dracula have both done much to influence vampire films after it, but the Bela Lugosi one just seems to fit with with some of other classics I'm reviewing like Frankenstein. Maybe next year I'll explore Nosferatu, and I could even do some of the Herzog ones with DTVC Hall of Famer Klaus Kinski. But this year it's Lugosi's.

Dracula is a truncated version of the Bram Stoker novel with Lugosi in the role of the eponymous antagonist. He travels to London to get his hands on one woman, Mina Harker, so he can change her into a vampire and have her as his bride forever. What he doesn't count on is Professor Van Helsing, an expert in the undead, who knows how to deal with him.

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To be fair, no matter how influential Nosferatu was, when we think of Dracula, we think of Lugosi's. I won't lie, at many times his facial expressions are nothing short of ridiculous, but when he walks into a room, he has a presence that cannot be ignored. It's impossible to place him in the proper context as an actor today, because no one would get work if they acted like that, and it's possible Lugosi would've gotten work another way, say as an Udo Kier type-- though one could argue that there wouldn't be an Udo Kier without a Lugosi before him. Anyway, though this isn't the quality Frankenstein is, it's also not Plan 9 or Bride of the Monster, and it's hard to watch it and not feel bad for him that he had to make those other films later in life.

I know what you're thinking: "Matt, I thought you said Blade 2 was the standard upon which all other vampire films were judged." I did, and I still hold to that, so if I'm reviewing a vampire film, I have to hold it to the same scrutiny. Obviously, this doesn't have the action Blade 2 did, but with a running time of 75 minutes, the lack of action didn't lead to the kind of boredom the same lack of action would in a modern film. Blade 2 didn't have Dracula, and Blade Trinity's Dracula wasn't as cool a Lugosi's, so that's a plus in Dracula's favor. Here's the big thing: can I hold a film accountable for not having a Ron Pearlman with a mini explosive device stuck on his head when the film was made in 1931? I think I have to, and as such, Blade 2 will live on as the penultimate vampire film, but Dracula is a close second.

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The bat in this was amazing. It was a puppet that flapped all over the place. That same bat would be done today with CGI, and the thought of that makes me sick. How is a CGI bat better than a big puppet flapping all over the place? See, you can't give me a good reason, and you know why? Because there isn't a good reason. Puppets, at least when it comes to bats, are better than CGIs, any day of the week. That bat puppet almost made Dracula better than Blade 2, if it wasn't for that whole Ron Pearlman with a bomb stuck to his head thing.

I don't know a lot of vampire stuff, and it seems what vampires can and can't do varies quite a bit from place to place. Some say werewolves are their enemies, but in this movie, Lugosi turned into a wolf. Twilight is the weirdest one, where instead of vampires being afraid to go out at daytime because they'll burn up, it's because their skin has diamonds on it. Huh? Well, I thought that was the biggest huh, until I saw Dracula, and saw the random armadillos he kept in his Transylvanian castle. Armadillos? I must've missed that one. Can anyone tell me what that has to do with vampires?

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Speaking of Twilight, the theme of my look at the classics has been to examine them in the context of the new teen vampire drama. I wonder what Lugosi would think of vampire chic. In Dracula, he definitely was a lady's man, but that was because he could hypnotize them. This is a whole different phenomenon. Vampires are hot, and teen chicks want to do them. Or, not do them, but have them tell them that they aren't strong enough to resist them. What if, in the third movie, Dracula comes to their town, and he's the one who creates Frank, the robot that passes for the Frankenstein monster, and Dracula has it in for the other vampires in that area, and he wants Frank to kill them, but Frank won't, because he knows if he does, the girl won't take him to the prom. Now we're cooking with gas.

This is often overlooked in favor of Nosferatu, and I think that's too bad. I'm not saying it's better, but it's not bad either, and has a large place in the development of the horror genre, especially as far as vampire films goes. There'd be no Twilight without this bad boy, even if the average teen girl out there probably thinks Lugosi's old and smelly.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0021814/

2 comments:

  1. I see a lot of flaws on this one. Sometimes the pacing is just dead. Its also not a very good adaptation of Bram Stokers book. It kind of leaves the story half way, doesnt really finish telling its tale.

    But I absolutely LOVE those moments when we see Dracula in his castle, amongst all those spider webs, and the wolves howling in the night and his vampire brides. Absolutely LOVE those scenes.

    Also, have you ever seen the spanish version of this film? It was filmed back to back with this one, but with spanish actors, and obviously, its spoken in spanish. It is said that the spanish version is a better film, I would have to agree. Of course, its got no Bela, so thats a down side to it, but its a bit darker. Recommend it as well!

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  2. I agree about the pacing, but with a 71 minute running time, it didn't bother me as much. I guess, as an adaptation, I liked that it was truncated, but I can see how one might want a more faithful interpretation.

    I found the Spanish language Dracula on Netflix and put it in my queue. Thanks for suggesting it, I can't wait to give it a look.

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