Killer Thursdays

Team Bela: Dracula (1931)

Yesterday morning, my grandmother passed away. She was a remarkable, strong and complicated woman. We weren’t always close but I’ll miss her.

For the next week or so, it’s likely I’ll be rerunning past posts. There will also be no Friday Stumble this week but I will announce the Life List Club Milestone winner

Before Edward and Jacob, before Angel and Spike, there was the Count. He was, perhaps a little bit campy but no one else has ever been quite the vampire icon that Bela Lugosi became when he starred in the 1931 film, Dracula

*originally posted July 1, 2011*
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.

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? What do you think of the evolution of the vampire genre?

Photo Credit: Image is in the public domain (found via Wikipedia)

42 thoughts on “Team Bela: Dracula (1931)

  1. Sonia, sorry to hear about your grandmother. Peace be with your family.

    Like you, Bela Lugosi is my vampire standard, and, like you, have never seen the movie. Like you, I’ll have to remedy that.

    What I find interesting is how the vampire has evolved from an unnatural being to be feared, into one to be dated, or to aspire to becoming.

    Has our exposure made the unknown more familiar and therefore less fearsome, or are we conquering our fear by taking the sting out of what scares us?

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate them.

      Very interesting points on the evolution of the vampire and familiarity. That could be it. I hadn’t thought about it that way.

  2. So sorry to hear about your grandmother.
    After reading this post, now I really want to watch this classic! I think it’s a horror movie I could handle. =)

  3. My fav is Count (Nosferatu) Orlok. Max Shreck gets the vampire vib right without going over the top. All other vampires too histrionic by comparison, IMO.

    My condolences on your grandmother.

  4. So sorry to hear about your grandmother. That’s rough no matter the family situation. I’ll be thinking of you.

    And thanks for the great reminder of this classic:)

  5. Sorry to hear about your grandmother Sonia.
    I’ve never seen that film but I love Gary Oldman as Dracula. Spike from Buffy is probably my favourite vampire.

  6. Sorry to hear about your grandmother.

    This film is still one of the best standard adaptations of the book by Bram Stoker. I show clips from it when my AP students read Bram’s book.

    1. Thank you.

      It amazes me how much Bela Lugosi captured our imaginations and influence our perception of the vampire. He’s probably responsible for the evolution of the vampire into something “datable.” Although I’m sure that’s not what Bram Stoker or Bela Lugosi intended. But definitely a must see for any study of the vampire genre.

  7. I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother, Sonia. You and your family have my sincerest condolences. I just lost my father a few months ago so I wish you and your family swift healing.

  8. I’m sorry for your loss Sonia. Hope you get to spend good time with your family and remember your grandmother in all her greatest moments together.

    *Big hugs, LLC friend!*

  9. Hello, Sonia. I apologize for being away so long. I want to join the chorus of well-wishers who are terribly sorry for your loss.
    I’m 43, so Bela Lugosi’s poise and strength as Dracula, Nosferatu’s creepiness and Coppola’s vision pretty much frame my image of vampires. The vampires in my fiction do not sparkle, but they, along with those that do, bring much to the table, so I can’t find fault. I would say it would be pretty boring were they all the same.
    Have a great weekend.


  10. I’m sorry about your grandmother. I remember when mine passed. I still miss them.

    I don’t believe I’ve ever actually seen the Lugosi Dracula. I should get hold of that and watch it. Not sure who my favorite vampire is. I think it might be Spike. Or Drusilla. Yeah. Drusilla.

  11. Hi Sonia,

    Just want to add my condolences to the others: I am sorry for your loss. As my wife Paula says, it never goes away, but it does get easier.

    …About two years ago, at the Detroit Film Theatre, I saw a Spanish language version of Dracula. It was filmed at the same time as the Lugosi version. Indeed, it was filmed on the same sets at night while the Lugosi version filmed during the day. It’s pretty interesting to compare the two. I actually like it better – less campy than Lugosi’s (heresy I know :-).

    I agree Lugosi is mostly to blame for the ‘dateable’ vampire. But in his defense, I think Stoker’s novel is the same. That is, Dracula’s evil and attractive at the same time :-/

    My personal favorite is still Nosferatu. He’s really repulsive and scary.

    1. Thank you too.

      Sounds like an interesting film. Lugosi’s Dracula is a wee bit campy. I admit it. I had kind of of Stoker’s Dracula is scarier though but now I may have to reread. And Nosferatu is definitely still on my list.

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