Friday, February 15, 2013

Bela Lugosi was My Date for the Vampire's Day Soiree!

The cast of Dracula prepare for the soiree! 




During the post-Christmas sales, I was lucky enough to snap up the Blu-ray set of Universal Monsters - The Essential Collection at a bargain price. Those wonderful, old creature features never seem to be shown on Australian TV these days, so I'm really looking forward to enjoying a weekly monster movie with my family over the next 8 weeks. The first disc was the 1931 film, Dracula, and serendipitously, watching it has coincided with this year's Vampire's Day Soiree, hosted by Holly's Horrorland.


First of all, it has to be said, that this early incarnation of Dracula, directed by Tod Browning, and starring Bela Lugosi as the title character, is highly unlikely to terrify a contemporary audience. As we watched, my husband and I used the opportunity to explain to our son just how old the movie was and pointed out that certain effects, and some of the exaggerated and melodramatic gestures and expressions of the actors, were a hangover from the era of silent films.



The point of watching this version of Dracula is not to scare yourself silly, but to appreciate the artistry and legacy of this classic of both its era and the horror genre. The sets and cinematography are beautiful, ranging from haunting to stylish, and certain scenes are genuinely creepy and disturbing. The Blu-ray edition has been re-mastered in high definition, so the picture quality is amazing.


In spite of the fact that they have little screen time and no dialogue, the imagery of Dracula's brides is particularly evocative and powerful. My father had a book on the history of vampires that was filled with screenshots from vampire movies and I would examine it endlessly as a child. I distinctly recall being both frightened and mesmerized by the photograph of the brides in Dracula's crypt.  

Being Batman fans, my husband, son and I knew that comic book artist and writer, Bob Kane, had cited Dracula as one of his influences in the creation of the Caped Crusader, but we let out a collective gasp when we saw the bat graphics in the opening credits of the film. I discovered a blog, called Cinema Styles, that has removed the titles from the image so we are able to get a better look at the bat illustration underneath.



And finally, I'll leave you with the cutest and kookiest moment of the movie, when, as the sun sets and Dracula awakens in his crypt, a wasp/bee emerges from its own little coffin.

I'd like to thank you so much for joining me for the Vampire's Day Soiree and if you would care to mingle with the other guests, just stroll on over to Holly's Horrorland.

27 comments:

  1. i don't think i ever saw the bee thing... maybe. dracula is the real deal, when you say the word "vampire"...

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    1. Hi Jeremy,

      I had to suppress a squeal over the bee moment... it was just that awesome! :D And yes, Dracula is the über-vamp!

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  2. Oh, i got that box too, a couple of weeks ago!!
    Magnificent extras, there is also the son of Lugosi!
    However, if you have not seen it yet, tell me about the expressions of Dracula in the spanish (included), even more over the top! Let me know! ;)

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    1. Hi occhio sulle espressioni,

      I haven't seen the extras yet, but I'm very excited about them! I'll let you know when I've had a chance to watch the 'Dracula' bonus features. :)

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  3. I do love all the Dracula remakes, but I think Bela will always hold a special place in my heart. When he says, “Listen to them. The children of the night. What music they make.” I still get all misty-eyed. :o)

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    1. Hi Insomniac's Attic,

      I know just what you mean! I find myself getting fonder and fonder of these gentlemen of classic horror. There's an elegance and charm about that era that is lost now.

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  4. Wow, 1931. 82 years ago. Europe had yet to be hit with WWII.
    I have always been a film buff and watched anything horror-like I could get my hands on as a child. But it's probably been 20 years since I saw any of these old black & white's now. Maybe worth a re-visit?

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    1. Hi Ms Misantropia,

      I know, it's amazing to think how old that film is, and it kind of blows my mind thinking of Bela as a child of the Victorian era! Yes, it's definitely worth a re-visit if you get the chance! :)

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  5. Oh! I remember that cute little moment with the bee! Very nice detail. The backgrounds in Dracula really were elegant. Actually, the whole film has an elegant feel, like Bela is about to go to the opera. Well, Dracula does go to the opera at one point in the story, but I meant through the whole movie. :) Cool Batman trivia!

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    1. Hi Justine,

      Oh, that bee moment was just adorable! The animals featured in the crypt, like possums and armadillos, were quite bizarre. I'm looking forward to watching all the DVD's bonus features to see if there is any mention and explanation of elements like that.

      Yes, the film is visually stunning! The creepy crypt scenes are so evocative and the scenes in London are really elegant. Did you notice the gorgeous iron-work on the front of the building when Dracula goes to the opera?

      I love that bat illustration in the opening credits! The Art Deco style makes it particularly Batman-esque.

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  6. I completely agree. Those old-time horror movies are classics and true works of art. I wish I had one to watch tonight. The 1931 version of Dracula would have been excellent. But wait! I do have some episodes left to watch from the original "Dark Shadows." I think I'll do that, even though the episodes I have are pre-Barnabas Collins.

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    1. Hi Nightwind,

      Oh, a little vintage 'Dark Shadows' sounds fun! It's hard to imagine 'Dark Shadows' without Barnabas though. Did the show have supernatural storylines prior to his arrival in Collinsport?

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  7. It was always my favorite because it's the basis of Batman, The Munsters, half of Halloween, and modern Goth. I always loved Bats! Dwight Frye is priceless in this. I love the period of Bram Stokers Dracula - horses, buggies, capes, top hats, and Victorian architecture. I have Dracula (1931) on my iPad for quick reference - is it a giant bee or a miniature coffin? I never noticed that oddity! Good review - I enjoyed your impressions!

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    1. Hi Matt,

      Yes, 'Dracula' (1931) has had an incredible influence on popular culture. I've been searching for info on the "bee". Apparently, it is really a Jerusalem Cricket. I haven't had a chance to watch all the bonus extras with the DVD yet, but I'm hoping there will be some reference to the animals in the crypt scene. I'm guessing that a Jerusalem Cricket looked close enough to a bee with the stripes, but was easier to wrangle for filming purposes. Regarding size, I've seen speculation online about the giant bee vs miniature coffin question. I'm hoping that mystery might be solved in the DVD documentaries too, but I'm crossing my fingers that it's a tiny coffin. That is way more fun and kooky! ;)

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    2. Oh, and I meant to add, Dwight Frye is amazing! The scene where he creeps across the floor towards the unconscious maid is, in my opinion, the most disturbing moment in the movie.

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    3. Yes, if it turns out that it was intended to be a mini-coffin in the story then that would be interestingly cute! By the way, I hope you do a mini-review of all the monsters in the eight pack - no pressure though!

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    4. Haha. Well, I'm definitely hoping for mini-coffin!

      I have actually been thinking it would be fun to do a post on each of the monster flicks as I progress through the set. :)

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  8. I've seen it for the very first time last year at my buddy's mini-Halloween-party, but it was a cheap and badly German-dubbed version and I didn't like it at all - but I plan to re-watch it soon to fully grasp the awesomeness of that classic.

    There was also a Spanish version of the movie with the same settings but a different cast, shot at night when the US cast went home, or something like that. Did you see it? Many people think it's better than the Lugosi-version.

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    1. Someone told me about the Spanish version yesterday and said that it's better than the one done in English--a little more risque I was told.

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    2. Hi Maynard,

      It's definitely worth watching the remastered high-definition edition if you can. Obviously, due to its age, certain elements of the movie are very dated to a modern audience, but with the superior picture quality, the beautiful sets and cinematography are given an opportunity to shine.

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    3. Maynard and Nightwind,

      The Spanish version is on my DVD as one of the bonus extras, so I will get an opportunity to see it. I've read very differing opinions about it online. I'll let you know what I think once I've seen it. :)

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  9. So what did your son think of 1931 Dracula?

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    1. Hi Chris,

      He enjoyed it. He watches 'The Walking Dead' with us, so he's used to a quite different pace and type of imagery, but he's been getting a bit of an education in classic horror lately and is learning to appreciate the older films for their place within the larger context of the horror genre.

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  10. Another fun post! Next year I will join in on the fun of this blog hop. I still haven't seen Dracula. To be honest, the only Unversial Monsters I've seen is Frankenstein but then again, good ole' Frank holds a special place in my heart. ;)

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    1. Thanks, Jenny! Yes, you have to join in next year! :)

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  11. I must watch this again soon! I don't remember the bee scene.
    I also didn't catch the Batman symbol. Awesome observations!

    Thanks again for being a loyal Soiree supporter! ^♥^

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    1. Hi Holly,

      Thanks! Oh, the bee and the bat are utterly squeal-worthy! Haha. Definitely watch out for them next time you get a chance to see the movie.

      And my pleasure! I do so love your soirees! :D

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