Halloween Endurance Test: Dracula (1931)

Just what everyone wanted: more bats. (Be prepared, faithful readers, for in the last few months I came across many a classic Universal horror movie set, and managed to pick up a bunch. So this year you’ll be getting a learning about how to milk a cash cow.) What more can I say about the original film that I didn’t already say two years ago? Not much.

Bela did learn all his lines phonetically, though he was already famous for his portrayal of Dracula in numerous stage productions. Director Todd Browning was a drunk who nearly ruined the film with his ineptitude. (It was famously overshadowed by a Mexican production using the same sets; filmed at night after Browning’s crew had gone home.)

This year we’ll focus on this edition’s special features. First, watching Dracula with Philip Glass‘ score immensely improves the film. Strangely filmed with almost no background music, Glass’ orchestration helps set the tone.

Universal pulling Stephen Sommers aside to host a featurette, on the other hand, stinks of commercialism. Now I understand the man had just produced/directed Van Helsing, and the studio wanted a tie-in. That’s understandable. But please find someone with a bit more knowledge of the source material.

(Seriously, was David J. Skal too busy to host the featurette? He’s a respected name in the horror community; having written books on Dracula and its ilk. Christ in a sidecar, he does the feature commentary on the disc!)

After watching all the “classic films” (House of Dracula? Really?), Sommers was hit with a bolt of clarifying inspiration: Dracula is a tale of love! The Count just wants to be loved, and can’t ‘cuz he’s a reanimated corpse! (Wondering how the Van Helsing movie turned out so bad? Just reread that last line. After all, it can’t be easy ruining a film containing all of Universal’s famous monsters.)

A quick glance through any book on vampires will find at least one chapter on the novel Dracula. Noting, as they all do, that Bram Stoker was a man trapped in a unhappy marriage to a frigid wife, who visited prostitutes and caught syphilis. Hence, Dracula is about carnality, not love. (To quote Mr. Iggy Pop, “I just wanna fuck; ain’t got time for romance.”) Any worth grader can explain the innuendo inherent in “sucking,” Mr. Sommers.

(To further explore Stoker’s exploits with the “ladies of the night,” please see Lair of the White Worm. Two guesses what the diseased white worm really is.)

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