Dracula (1931) ***

It’s hard to do Dracula wrong, and Bela Lugosi sure didn’t. Lugosi defined a character and genre for generations to come.

The cinematography in this movie is gorgeous, enlivened with a UHD remaster. When I think of the phrase “every frame a painting,” this is one of the movies that comes to mind, especially when Renfield arrives in the village at the beginning.

There’s no score to speak of unfortunately – but I really like how the quiet pervades the scenes.

Visually speaking, and in terms of performances, this movie slays as hard as Dracula himself. The seething sexual chemistry between Drac and Renfield is REAL. The ship section is fabulous, the aura around the wives is great. You gotta watch this one to appreciate all vampire media from the next century, I’m telling you.

It’s not perfect though. The adaptation chose pretty much all the most boring elements of the story to depict. Once we get away from Dracula, it’s pretty much a bunch of old white dudes talking to each other over the heads of flimsily characterized women.

All the interesting characters and relationships in Dracula they could have explored (including more from Dracula himself!), but they chose Seward, Harker, and Van Helsing in their dullest incarnations for the meat of this flick.

Such paring removes much of the suspense, any indication toward epistolary developments, and the dynamic between Dracula and Harker. Instead, Renfield is more cogent, and he acts like a passionate romantic hero, fulfilling dual roles as Renfield and Harker…while there is also still another Harker.

It’s all an hour long, just about, so even the slow parts are very tolerable, and it’s worth it for Lugosi’s iconic smolder.

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