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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Dracula (1931)

Arriving in London from Transylvania, Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) sets his sights on the two lovely women (Helen Chandler, Frances Dade) residing in the mansion adjacent to the Abbey he has rented. But Doctor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) suspects Dracula's true nature ..... a vampire! While Tod Browning's horror classic retains its ominous unsettling atmosphere, the film itself is rather stagnant. Since Browning's FREAKS released the following year is more fluid, I'll chalk it up to the film being based on the 1924 stage play rather than directly derived from the Bram Stoker novel. With one exception, the acting is static with poor wooden David Manners being the most egregious offender. But Lugosi's iconic performance is perhaps beyond criticism as he remains the definitive Dracula. The one exception is Dwight Frye who adds a much needed jolt as the insect eating Renfield, his hysteria and creepy laugh being both amusing and ghoulish. The atmospheric B&W cinematography is courtesy of Karl Freund. With Herbert Bunston and Joan Standing.

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