DRACULA (1931)


U.S.A. • 1931 • BLACK AND WHITE • 35 MM • 75 MIN

The phenomenal success of Tod Browning’s 1931 version of Dracula is seen by many to mark the birth of cinematic horror. Based upon the Balderston and Deane stage production of Stoker’s novel, the film is quite stagy in places; but the opening sequences, as Renfield meets Dracula in his castle, bring together the collision of light and shadow that defined German expressionism with the setting and atmosphere of Gothic literature to create the blueprint for Universal horror.

It is in Bela Lugosi’s performance as the titular vampire, however, that the film made its true impact. Lugosi, dressed in evening wear with pale skin framed by dark lips and widow’s peak, gave Dracula an image that still resonates in our popular consciousness. His Hungarian accent also gave Dracula an iconic voice. Unlike Stoker’s vampire, who longed to melt into the crowds of contemporary London, Lugosi’s Dracula is marked by difference; he is both attractive and frightening because he is foreign.

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