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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dracula (1931)



I've taken to putting a movie on at bedtime, usually something black & white and quietly spooky/atmospheric. I hadn't seen Dracula in the longest time and thought it'd be a nice bedtime movie. I was astonished how unclean and freaky it remains: the deep deep blacks of the shadows and Lugosi's cape; the unearthly lust in his facial expressions; the (that word again) unclean swath of his brides as they ooze across the screen. We even hear him kill a child - how the hell did they handle this in 1931?

Had the chance to see a 35mm screening of it last week and the thing holds up. It's no surprise that Bela Lugosi is so deeply associated with the role, even though he only played the role on screen twice (the other time was in, perversely enough, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein); he played the role on stage for years prior, and when confronted with the designs in Tod Browning's film must have been able to slip into character like that. Even when Garrett Fort's screenplay doesn't serve (there's a reason he's not an auteur associated with it) Lugosi's presence - his thirsty leer, his pained world-weary expressions, his angular body language - is more than enough to serve the character's iconic status. Dracula's a public domain character, and has been played in countless movies by countless actors, but I don't doubt that the majority of movie watchers think of Lugosi first when they hear the name...Dracula.

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