I have been on a kick of playing through the Castlevania games, and Dracula has been on my mind a lot lately. After finishing up around 8 Castlevania games already, in the middle of Lords of Shadow and also finally watching Season 2 of the Netflix Castlevania series, I went back and watched the original Dracula film from 1931.
Almost 90 years later, this movie still holds up extremely well to the standard of what we perceive Dracula to be. All the mythos, rumors and everything Dracula is in pop culture is pretty much here.
Having watched the 90’s version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula back in early 2010, which is more of an acid trip than a movie, I wanted to compare the two as best as I could without having to rewatch anything. What I found was that if memory serves correctly is a lot of similarities.
Dracula has called upon someone named Renfield to act as a Real Estate agent to purchase some land in London. Renfield stays overnight and Dracula feeds on him and makes him a slave. There is much more to this but really this just sets everything up. I really didn’t think that most of the movie was going to take place in London. Transylvania is where the movie starts and abruptly leaves around 18 minutes in. I would have loved to see more of Dracula’s castle and even explain more of the relationship and part that his “wives” play. Since they get brought in for a split second and are never seen again.
When the boat Dracula and Renfield shows up in London, the boat’s crew is all murdered and Renfield is insane under Dracula’s spell. He gets thrown into an Asylum and we find out Dracula purchased land in London and had his soil moved, in boxes, to the new home in London. Dracula becomes a man about town during the night, feeding on who he wants and trying to find Renfield. He attends an opera and meets the owner and his lovely daughter Mina, and her fiance John Harker.
Dracula wants one of the daughters and feeds on her, all the while Dr. Van Helsing is starting to discover that there is a Vampire in their midst. He discover’s Dracula’s secret quite quickly and then the last part of the movie is Dracula kidnapping Mina and trying to turn her into one of his wives. The good Dr. and the fiance track Dracula to his castle and kill him.
There isn’t too much to this movie, with it being a 1931 production. I found that the movie itself was decently paced, but I would have liked to stay in Transylvania much longer than 18 out of the 75 minute running time. Dracula has that charming yet somehow eerie way about him. I loved Bela Lugosi’s cadence at the way his lines were delivered and how he made you feel uneasy, yet wanting to know more about him at the same time.
Like is said before, there were just certain aspects of the movie that I was got touched on more, like the wives. We don’t know who these are, what they do and how they came to be. We can assume from just the modern era and how Dracula works that he feasted on the Transylvania village and took these women from their homes and made them his loyal subjects, but it’s really not explained in the movie, nor do they really serve a purpose. They show up when Renfield faints and wants to feed on him, but Dracula appears and shoos them away and that’s the only thing we see of them. Why were they even there? My only guess is because the movie was apparently re-cut and edited right before the release and a lot of that edit introduced plot holes and other issues.
Coming to this movie and basically seeing all of it for the first time, I really did enjoy it, although the back half does move a lot slower. I would have enjoyed seeing Dracula as the central character