Dracula (1931 film)
1931 one sheet movie poster (Style F)
|Directed by||Tod Browning
|Produced by||Tod Browning
Carl Laemmle, Jr.
|Screenplay by||Garrett Fort|
|Based on||Dracula (novel) by Bram Stoker
Dracula (play) by Hamilton Deane & John L. Balderston
Edward Van Sloan
|Editing by||Milton Carruth
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||85 minutes (1936 Reissue: 75 minutes)|
Dracula is a 1931 vampire-horror film directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi as the title character. The film was produced by Universal and is based on the 1924 stage play Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, which in turn is based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.
Renfield (Dwight Frye) is a solicitor on his way to the Castle belonging to Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) in Transylvania on a business matter. The people in the local village are fearful that vampires inhabit the castle and warn Renfield not to go there. Renfield refuses to stay at the local inn and asks the driver of the carriage that brought him to the village to take him to the Borgo Pass. The innkeeper's wife gives Renfield a crucifix for protection before he leaves. He is driven to the castle by Dracula's coach, with Dracula himself disguised as the driver. During the trip, Renfield sticks his head out the window to ask the driver to slow down, but is startled to see that the driver has disappeared, and a bat is leading the horses.
Renfield enters the castle welcomed by the charming but eccentric Count, who unbeknownst to Renfield, is a true vampire. They discuss Dracula's intention to lease Carfax Abbey in London, where he intends to travel the next day. Dracula then leaves and hypnotizes Renfield into opening a window. He faints as a bat appears and Dracula's three wives suddenly appear and start to close in on him. Dracula then arrives and waves them away before he attacks Renfield himself.
Aboard the schooner Vesta, bound for England, Renfield is now a raving lunatic slave to Dracula, who is hidden in a coffin and gets out for feeding on the ship's crew. When the ship arrives in England, Renfield is discovered to be the only living person in it; the captain is lashed on the wheel and none of the ship’s crew is discovered. Renfield is sent to Dr. Seward’s sanatorium which is adjoined with Carfax Abbey.
Some nights later at a London theatre, Dracula meets Dr. Seward (Herbert Bunston), who is with a group in a box seat area. Seward introduces his daughter Mina (Helen Chandler), her fiancé John Harker (David Manners), and the family friend Lucy Weston (Frances Dade). Lucy is fascinated by Count Dracula, and that night, after Lucy falls asleep in bed, Dracula enters her room as a bat and feasts on her blood. She dies in an autopsy theatre the next day after a string of transfusions, and two tiny marks on her throat are discovered.
Renfield has become obsessed with eating flies and spiders and Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) analyzes Renfield's blood and discovers his obsession. He starts talking about vampires, and that afternoon chats with Renfield, who begs Dr. Seward to send him away, because his nightly cries may disturb Mina’s dreams. When Dracula awakes and calls Renfield with wolf howling, Renfield is disturbed by Van Helsing showing him a branch of wolfbane. Van Helsing says its a plant used for protection from vampires.
Dracula visits Mina, asleep in her bedroom, and bites her, leaving neck marks similar to those on Lucy. The next evening, Mina tells of a dream in which she was visited by stranger with 'red eyes and a white, livid face'. Then, Dracula enters for a night's visit and Van Helsing and Harker notice that Dracula does not have a reflection in a mirror. When Van Helsing shows this "most amazing phenomenon" to Dracula, he reacts violently, smashes the mirror and leaves. Van Helsing deduces that Dracula is the vampire behind the recent tragedies.
Meanwhile, Mina leaves her room and runs to Dracula in the garden, where he wraps his cape around her and attacks her. She is found moments later by the house maid and Seward, Van Helsing, and Harker retrieve her, while Dracula hides behind a tree. Newspapers report that a "mysterious, beautiful woman in white" has been luring children from the park with chocolate, and then biting them. Mina recognizes the beautiful lady as Lucy, who has risen as a vampire. Harker wants to take Mina to London for safety, but he is finally convinced to leave Mina with them. Van Helsing orders Nurse Briggs (Joan Standing) to take care of Mina when she is sleeping, and not to remove the wreath of wolfbane from around her neck.
Renfield escapes from his cell and listens to the three men discussing vampires. Before Martin (Charles K. Gerrard), his attendant, arrives to take Renfield back to his cell, Renfield relates to Van Helsing, Harker and Seward how Dracula convinced Renfield to allow him to enter the sanitorium by promising him thousands of rats with blood and life in them.
Dracula enters the Seward parlour and talks with Van Helsing. Dracula states that because he has fused his blood with Mina's, she now belongs to him. Van Helsing swears revenge by excavating Carfax Abbey and finding the coffin where he sleeps; he will then thrust a stake through his heart. Dracula tries to hypnotize Van Helsing, but without success. Van Helsing shows a crucifix to the vampire and Dracula turns away and flees the house.
Harker visits Mina on a terrace, and Mina speaks of how much she loves "nights and fogs". Harker notices Mina’s changes, not realizing that she is slowly transforming into a vampire. A bat (Dracula) flies above them and squeaks to Mina. She then tries to attack Harker but Van Helsing and Dr. Seward arrive just in time to save him. Mina confesses what Dracula has done to her, and tries to tell Harker that their love is finished.
Later that night, Dracula hypnotizes Nurse Briggs into removing the wolfbane wreath from Mina's neck and opening the windows so he can enter. Van Helsing and Harker see Renfield, having just escaped from his cell, heading for Carfax Abbey. They see Dracula with Mina in the abbey. When Harker shouts to Mina, Dracula sees them, thinking Renfield had led them there. He strangles Renfield and tosses him down a staircase, and is hunted by Van Helsing and Harker. Dracula is forced to sleep in his coffin, as sunrise has come, and is trapped. Van Helsing prepares a wooden stake while Harker searches for Mina. Dracula moans in pain when Van Helsing impales him, and Mina returns to normal. Harker leaves with her while Van Helsing stays.
- Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula
- Helen Chandler as Mina
- David Manners as John Harker
- Dwight Frye as Renfield
- Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing
- Herbert Bunston as Dr Seward
- Frances Dade as Lucy
- Joan Standing as Nurse Briggs (in an error on the opening credits, she is misidentified as "Maid")
- Charles K. Gerrard as Martin
Bram Stoker's novel had already been filmed without permission as Nosferatu in 1922 by German expressionist film maker F. W. Murnau. Bram Stoker's widow sued for plagiarism and copyright infringement, and the courts decided in her favor, essentially ordering that all prints of Nosferatu be destroyed. Enthusiastic young Hollywood producer Carl Laemmle, Jr. also saw the box office potential in Stoker's gothic chiller, and he legally acquired the novel's film rights. Initially, he wanted Dracula to be a spectacle on a scale with the lavish silent films The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925).
Like those films, Laemmle insisted it must star Lon Chaney, despite Chaney being under contract at MGM. Tod Browning was then approached to direct this new Universal epic. Browning had already directed Chaney as a fake vampire in the (lost) 1927 silent London After Midnight. However, a number of factors would limit Laemmle's plans: Firstly, Chaney himself, who had been diagnosed with throat cancer in 1928, succumbed to his terminal illness. Furthermore, studio financial difficulties, coupled with the onset of the Great Depression, caused a drastic reduction in budget, forcing Laemmle to look at a cheaper alternative, which meant several grand scenes that closely followed the Stoker storyline had to be abandoned.
Already a huge hit on Broadway, the tried and tested Deane/Balderston Dracula play would become the blueprint as the production gained momentum. The screenwriters carefully studied the silent, unauthorized version, Nosferatu for inspiration. One bit of business lifted directly from a nearly identical scene in Nosferatu that does not appear in Stoker's novel was the early scene at the Count's castle when Renfield accidentally pricks his finger on a paper clip and it starts to bleed, and Dracula creeps toward him with glee, only to be repelled when the crucifix falls in front of the bleeding finger.
Decision on casting the title role proved problematic. Initially, Laemmle was not at all interested in Lugosi, in spite of good reviews for his stage portrayal. Laemmle instead considered other actors, including Paul Muni, Chester Morris, Ian Keith, John Wray, Joseph Schildkraut, Arthur Edmund Carewe and William Courtenay. Lugosi had played the role on Broadway, and to his good fortune, happened to be in Los Angeles with a touring company of the play when the film was being cast. Against the tide of studio opinion, Lugosi lobbied hard and ultimately won the executives over, thanks in part to him accepting a paltry $500 per week salary for seven weeks of work, amounting to $3,500.
The eerie speech pattern of Lugosi's Dracula was said to have resulted from the fact that Lugosi did not speak English, and therefore had to learn and speak his lines phonetically. This is a bit of an urban legend. While it was true Lugosi did not speak English at the time of his first English-language play in 1919 and had learned his lines to that play in this manner, by the time of Dracula Lugosi spoke English as well as he ever would. Lugosi's speech pattern would be imitated countless times by other Dracula portrayers, most often in an exaggerated or comical way.
According to numerous accounts, the production is alleged to have been a mostly disorganized affair, with the usually meticulous Tod Browning leaving cinematographer Karl Freund to take over during much of the shoot, making Freund something of an uncredited director on the film. Moreover, the despondent Browning would simply tear out of the script pages that he felt were redundant; such was his seeming contempt for the screenplay. It is possible, however, given that Browning had originally intended Dracula as a collaboration between him and Lon Chaney, his apparent lack of interest on the set was due to losing his friend and original leading man, rather than any actual aversion to the subject matter.
The scenes of crew members on the ship struggling in the violent storm were lifted from a Universal silent film, The Storm Breaker (1925). Photographed at silent film projection speed, this accounts for the jerky, sped-up appearance of the footage when projected at 24 frames per second sound film speed and cobbled together with new footage of Dracula and Renfield. Jack Foley was the foley artist who produced the sound effects.
Cinematic process 
The film/negative format used in the creation of this film was 35 mm. The aspect ratio is the 1930 standard of 0.800 in. by 0.600 in. Original prints were tinted Verdante, a color film stock of the Sonochrome by Kodak.
The film's histrionic dramatics from the stage play are also reflected in its special effects, which are limited to fog, lighting, and large flexible bats. Dracula's transition from bat to person is always done off-camera. The film also employs extended periods of silence and character close-ups for dramatic effect, and employs several intertitles and a closeup of a newspaper article to advance the story, holdovers from silent films. One point made by online film critic James Berardinelli is that the actors' performance style seems to belong to the silent era. Director Tod Browning had a solid reputation as a silent film director, having made them since 1915, but he never felt completely at ease with sound films. He only directed a few more, the last in 1939.
When the film finally premiered at the Roxy Theatre in New York on February 12, 1931, newspapers reported that members of the audiences fainted in shock at the horror on screen. This publicity, shrewdly orchestrated by the film studio, helped ensure people came to see the film, if for no other reason than curiosity. Dracula was a big gamble for a major Hollywood studio to undertake. In spite of the literary credentials of the source material, it was uncertain if an American audience was prepared for a serious full length supernatural chiller. Though America had been exposed to other chillers before, such as The Cat and the Canary (1927), this was a horror story with no comic relief or trick ending that downplayed the supernatural.
Nervous executives breathed a collective sigh of relief when Dracula proved to be a huge box office sensation. Within 48 hours of its opening at New York's Roxy Theatre, it had sold 50,000 tickets. Later in 1931, Universal would release Frankenstein to even greater acclaim. Universal in particular would become the forefront of early horror cinema, with a canon of films including The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and The Wolf Man (1941).
Censorship after the 1934 production code 
The film was originally released with a running time of 85 minutes. When the film was reissued in 1936, the Production Code was being strictly enforced. At least two scenes are known to have been censored and cut from the film. The most famous was an epilogue which played only during the film's initial run. In a sequence similar to the prologue from Frankenstein, and again featuring Universal stalwart Edward Van Sloan, he reappeared to reassure the audience that what they’d seen wouldn’t give them nightmares. Van Sloan would then calmly inform those with a nervous disposition that... "There really are such things as Vampires!" In a 1936 reissue, this epilogue was removed out of fear of offending religious groups by encouraging a belief in the supernatural. Also, Dracula's off-camera "death groans" at the end of the film were shortened as were Renfield's screams as he is killed; these pieces of soundtrack were later restored by MCA-Universal for its laser disc and subsequent DVD releases (with the exception of the 2004 multi-film "Legacy Collection" edition). However, Van Sloan's epilogue is still missing and presumed lost.
Today, Dracula is widely regarded as a classic of the era and of its genre. In 2000, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
To many film lovers and critics alike, Lugosi's portrayal is widely regarded as the definitive Dracula. Lugosi had a powerful presence and authority on-screen. The slow, deliberate pacing of his performance ("I bid you… welcome!" and "I never drink… wine!") gave his Dracula the air of a walking, talking corpse, which terrified 1931 movie audiences. He was just as compelling with no dialogue, and the many close-ups of Lugosi's face in icy silence jumped off the screen. With this mesmerizing performance, Dracula became Bela Lugosi's signature role, his Dracula a cultural icon, and he himself a legend in the classic Universal Horror film series.
However, Dracula would ultimately become a role which would prove to be both a blessing and a curse. Despite his earlier stage successes in a variety of roles, from the moment Lugosi donned the cape on screen, it would forever see him typecast as the Count.
Original posters from the 1931 release (see below pic, top row) are very rare and extremely valuable, typically auctioning for more than $100,000. Re-release posters (see below pic, bottom row) are also valuable. For example, the 1938 re-release one sheet sold for $20,000 in 2013.
This film, and the 1920s stage play by Deane & Balderston, contributed much of Dracula's popular iconography, much of which vastly differs from Stoker's novel. In the novel and in the German silent film Nosferatu (1922), Dracula's appearance is repulsive; Lugosi portrays the Count as a handsome, charming nobleman. The Deane-Balderston play and this film also introduced the now iconic images of Dracula entering his victims' bedrooms through French doors/windows, wrapping his satin-lined cape around victims, and more emphasis on Dracula transforming into a bat. In the Stoker novel, he variously transformed into a bat or a wolf.
The now classic Dracula line, "I never drink ... wine", is original to this film. It did not appear in Stoker's novel or the original production of the play. When the play was revived on Broadway in 1977 starring Frank Langella, the line was added to the script.
Five years after the release of the film (1936), Universal released Dracula's Daughter, a direct sequel that starts immediately after the end of the first film. A second sequel, Son of Dracula, starring Lon Chaney, Jr. followed in 1943. The Count returned to life in three more Universal films of the mid-1940s: 1944's House of Frankenstein, 1945's House of Dracula and 1948's comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Universal would only cast Lugosi as Dracula in one more film, the aforesaid Abbott and Costello vehicle, giving the role to John Carradine for the mid-1940s "monster rally" films, although Carradine admittedly more closely resembled Stoker's physical description from the book. Many of the familiar images of Dracula are from stills of the older Lugosi made during the filming of the 1948 comedy, so there remain two confusingly distinct incarnations of Lugosi as Dracula, seventeen years apart in age. As Lugosi played a vampire in three other movies during his career, this contributed to the public misconception that he portrayed Dracula on film many times.
Due to the limitations of adding a musical score to a film's soundtrack during 1930 and 1931, no score had ever been composed specifically for the film. The music heard during the opening credits, an excerpt from Act II of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, was re-used in 1932 for another Universal horror film, The Mummy. During the theatre scene where Dracula meets Dr. Seward, Harker, Mina and Lucy, the end of the overture to Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg can also be heard as well as the dark opening of Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony in B minor.
1998 musical score by Philip Glass 
In 1998 composer Philip Glass was commissioned to compose a musical score for the classic film. The score was performed by the Kronos Quartet under direction of Michael Reisman, Glass's usual conductor.
Of the project, Glass said:
- The film is considered a classic. I felt the score needed to evoke the feeling of the world of the 19th century — for that reason I decided a string quartet would be the most evocative and effective. I wanted to stay away from the obvious effects associated with horror films. With [the Kronos Quartet] we were able to add depth to the emotional layers of the film.
The film, with this new score, was released by Universal Studios in 1999 in the VHS format. Universal's DVD releases allow the viewer to choose between the unscored soundtrack or the Glass score. The soundtrack, Dracula, was released by Nonesuch Records in 1999. Glass and the Kronos Quartet performed live during showings of the film in 1999 and 2000.
Spanish-language and alternate silent versions 
In the early days of sound films, it was common for Hollywood studios to produce "Foreign Language Versions" of their films using the same sets, costumes and so on. While Browning filmed during the day, at night George Melford was using the sets to make a Spanish-language version, starring Carlos Villarías as Conde Drácula. Long thought lost, a print of this Dracula was discovered in the 1970s and restored. This was included as a bonus feature on the Classic Monster Collection DVD in 1999, the Legacy Collection DVD in 2004, the 75th Anniversary Edition DVD set in 2006, and Universal Monsters: the Essential Collection on blu-ray in 2012.
A third silent version of the film was also released. In 1931, some theatres had not yet been wired for sound, and during this transition period, many studios released alternate silent versions with intertitles.
See also 
- Dracula in popular culture
- Dracula (1979), based on the same Deane/Balderston play
- Universal Monsters
- Universal Horror
- Bela Lugosi filmography
- Vieira, Mark A. (1999). Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. p. 42. ISBN 0-8109-4475-8.
- "Dracula". The Film Daily (Volume 55) Jan-Jun 1931, February 15 Issue, Page 11.
- Michael Brunas, John Brunas & Tom Weaver, Universal Horrors: The Studios Classic Films, 1931-46, McFarland, 1990 p11
- Skal, David J. (2004). Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. Paperback ed. New York: Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-21158-5
- DVD Documentary The Road to Dracula (1999) and audio commentary by David J. Skal, Dracula: The Legacy Collection (2004), Universal Home Entertainment catalog # 24455
- In an interview with author and horror historian David J. Skal, David Manners (Jonathan Harker) claims he was so unimpressed with the chaotic production, he never once watched the film in the remaining 67 years of his life. However, in his DVD audio commentary, Skal adds "I'm not sure I really believed him." Source: commentary of film in 2-DVD set Dracula: The Legacy Collection, Universal Studios Home Entertainment (2004)
- Jackson, Blair (1 September 2005) "Foley Recording" Mix (magazine), accessed 1 July 2010
- Review (2000) by James Berardinelli at ReelViews.net
- Rewind DVD comparisons
- Fitzgerald, Michael G. (1977), Universal Pictures: A Panoramic History in Words, Pictures, and Filmographies, New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House Publishers, p. 60, ISBN 0-87000-366-6
- Lugosi played vampires in Mark of the Vampire (1935), The Return of the Vampire (1944) and Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952). Source: Fitzgerald, p. 60
- "Philip Glass + Kronos Quartet: Dracula". Nonesuch Records. Retrieved 2009-05-12.
- Horsley, Paul (2000-11-01). "The Glass Monster Menagerie: Composer, Kronos Quartet Turn Dracula into Performance Art". The Kansas City Star. p. F6.
- Dyer, Richard (2002-02-01). "A 'Nuevo' Sound from Kronos". The Boston Globe.
- Economy, Jeff (2000-10-27). "A Triple Treat of Dracula". Chicago Tribune. p. 3.
- Weaver, Tom; Michael Brunas, John Brunas (2007). Universal Horrors: The Studio's Classic Films, 1931-1946. McFarland. p. 35. ISBN 0786491507. Retrieved March 24, 2013. "For decades it remained a lost film, scarcely eliciting minimal interest from the studio which produced it."
- "Dracula (1930)". dvdreview.com. Retrieved March 25, 2013. "Universal's original negative had already fallen into nitrate decomposition by the time the negative was rediscovered in the 1970s."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Dracula (1931 film)|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Dracula (1931)|
- Dracula at DBCult Film Institute
- Dracula at the Internet Movie Database
- Dracula at the TCM Movie Database
- Dracula at AllRovi
- 1998 score by Philip Glass
- Dracula at the Internet Broadway Database (play by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston)