Film 22: Dracula

Dracula (1931) dir. Tod Browning. USA.

The vampire Dracula has been the subject of more than 30 films; something deep within the legend is suited to cinema. Perhaps it is the joining of eroticism with terror. The vampire’s attack is not specifically sexual, but in drinking the blood of his victims he is engaged in the most intimate of embraces, and no doubt there is an instinctive connection between losing your virginity (and your soul) and becoming one of the undead. Vampirism is like elegant, slow-motion rape, done politely by a creature who charms you into surrender.


Is the 1931 “Dracula” still a terrifying film, or has it become a period piece? The “most chilling, genuinely frightening film ever made,” vows the reference series Cinebooks. Perhaps that was true in 1931, but today I think the movie is interesting mostly for technical reasons–for the stylized performances, the photography, the sets. There is a moment, though, when Lugosi draws close to the sleeping Lucy, and all of the elements of the material draw together. We consider the dreadful trade-off: immortality, but as a vampire. From our point of view, Dracula is committing an unspeakable crime. From his, offering an unspeakable gift.

— Roger Ebert

Abigail:  This is such a confident film.  All aspects work together to create a creepy atmosphere.  It was interesting to see how influential the set dressing is.  And how ingrained into culture the strange “Transylvanian” accent has become.  This wasn’t a particularly enjoyable film, but it was fun to extrapolate its influence.

Forrest:  “Dracula” has an awful lot of accumulated cultural baggage, but watching the movie swept it all away.  Lugosi’s Count is a wondrous and unnerving creation, the supporting cast was uniformly brilliant, and it built a world as thoroughly and effectively as Marvel has today.  Its production essentially defined our conception of Halloween, from cobwebs to bats, and its central story is as weirdly sexy (albeit rather different) as the book upon which it’s based.  It’s not difficult to see why this was as influential as it was — its shadow is long, even if you can’t see its reflection in a mirror….

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