As Bela Lugosi is Dracula in my mind’s eye, I was surprised to realize that I had never actually watched the original movie. Clearly, Lugosi’s portrayal set the standard for the character of Dracula and for our popular notions of vampires in general. Bela Lugosi’s Dracula is the image of the sexy, gentleman vampire. Those burning eyes, that ever-so-slightly lifted eyebrow, the elegant hands reaching for a pale throat, and the sweep of his glorious cape.
The other delight of this film was Dwight Frye‘s Renfield. He starts out as a rather innocent and earnest young solicitor who travels to Dracula’s castle to assist the Count with some real estate matters. Soon enough, he falls under the vampire’s spell and ends up in an asylum. His vacillation between raving loony and would-be hero pleading with Van Helsing and Dr. Seward to stop Count Dracula and save Mina drives both empathy and tension. Renfield‘s wild eyes and maniacal laughter are nearly as chilling and compelling as Dracula’s cool, calculated mannerisms.
The film is certainly sedate by modern standards (and I’m sure some would say that’s the fault of our minds sadly being saturated with all the razzle-dazzle of more modern films…and probably video games) and the storyline isn’t as tight as I would like. Still, I’d highly recommend the film to any fan of the vampire or horror genre, if only to see Bela Lugosi in action.
Photo Credit: Image is in the public domain (found via Wikipedia)
Have you ever seen the 1931 Dracula? What do you think of it? Any thoughts on Bela Lugosi’s Dracula versus Bram Stoker’s? Do you have a favorite vampire?
I’ve launched a new Twitter hashtag, #FearFridayFeature. You’re invited to come hang out with all things classic horror. Please stop by!