[LIGHT 2016] DRACULA (1931)

For this fourth part of the folder UNIVERSAL MONSTERS (our retrospective: HERE), we’re going to address one of the movies that I tried the plus in the selection. The prospect of seeing the very talented american director Tod Browning, the origin of the cult Freaks, tackle the myth of Dracula promises to be a film quite exceptional. However, after the small disappointment of the Man who laughs, yet directed by a renowned author, it was possible to have a few doubts about the ability of the series to regain the grandeur that characterised the Phantom of The Opera. Do not take the suspense any longer ; as soon as the screen title, and the appearance of the sublime music of Tchaikovsky, a feeling that awakens in the viewer, and never left him during the 75 minutes of the film. This feeling that we will witness a major work of art, that will captivate fully and to make us forget all concept of time. The least we can say is that Tod Browning made quite honor to the book of Bram Stoker and a book adaptation is admirable in all points.

If the success of the film is based on many criteria perfectly controlled, there is one that jumps out at you very quickly ; Tod Browning is a great director. In any case, the novel by Bram Stoker is already very visual, and engages easily to a film adaptation, as it allows you to game on the shadows, the duality and the classical imagery of the horror (bats, large mansions, wolves, etc.). The american director gives thus to their heart and adorns his film with a symbolism that is ubiquitous, while taking advantage of the huge sets and the opportunities that gives him Universal. As a result, a film is formally perfect, filled with ideas of staging and biases that make it fly. Generous on the effects, the director avoids the off-field yet common in this kind of film, and allows any – one more proof, if it was still needed after the apparent freedom granted to Rupert Julian for the Phantom of The Opera, Universal seems to be listening to their directors. The photography is superb, and above all, very smart in its apparent simplicity. It wants to often be fairly quiet, avoiding the play of shadows and lights too pronounced, but when she leaves this area to provide us with frameworks and a visual world that is very similar to the time of some plans, the effect is immediate and the scene instantly becomes captivating. The absence of music (except grand opening) is also a lot of good, ensuring a tension accentuated by the staging very fixed Tod Browning ; I think in particular of the sequence in which Mina tells of her dream before being interrupted by Dracula. The protagonists consider themselves, seek themselves, always filmed at the height of look before you involve the audience in the narrative, and the lack of background music makes the time very long, almost disturbing. A bias bold, and well controlled.

Helped by his chief operator, and the monumental production that characterize the films of the series UNIVERSAL MONSTERS, Tod Browning can also count on players all more excellent than the others. Of course, if there is one that impresses with his charisma and talent, he is Bela Lugosi. Upon his arrival to the screen, and up to the last minute, his Hungarian accent emphasized by the lack of music and his playing very smoothly brings a special dimension to the work and the character of Dracula. All the more that the director does not seek ambiguity, and place it directly as a creature of evil, all while filming with a sobriety that contrasts a lot with what Murnau and what will Francis Ford Coppola of the same base material. Thus, the actor gets most of the attention while the scene fades to him, and he makes us enjoy his interpretation rather classical but quite delicious account. In front of him, in one of his first roles, Edward Van Sloan played a Van Helsing absolutely brilliant, confident and very well served by dialogs spoofing the vampire, as if everything revolved around these creatures. This gives an appearance almost neurotic, in any case, obsessed to the character while making the figure of Dracula, more impressive still ; this is the example of a writing that is clever, arriving in a little over an hour to make a living for several characters without neglecting a single one. The characterization is flawless, the scenario in itself is just as important. It adapts perfectly to the aesthetic of the work, and allows you to Tod Browning to take pleasure from in terms of staging. Then, of course, a few liberties have been taken from the novel by Bram Stoker, but when it also serves well the vision of a director, it is difficult to complain about it.

”Tod Browning performs a major work, whether on the movie or pure on the representation of Dracula on the big screen”

The Dracula of Bela Lugosi will also be the first foray of the account in the talkies, in addition to being the first film of this retrospective allows us to hear the voices of the actors. If the previous works were running quite the intertitles and were able to get the mute quality, >Dracula gets a lot of its strength by its dialogues and the voice sometimes the honeyed, sometimes icy of its main actor. Tod Browning performs a major work, whether on the movie or pure on the representation of Dracula on the big screen. By its staging upscale and thoughtful, and his casting perfect end-to-end, american director manages to revive interest in the series UNIVERSAL MONSTERS of the most beautiful of ways, and confirms his immense talent the following year with the film Freaks, which would not have denoted in the series.


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The Light Festival, will take place from 8 to 16 October 2016, dan stous the cinemas of the grand Lyon.

– programming

– our coverage

– our retrospective UNIVERSAL MONSTERS


Original title : Dracula

Production : Tod Browning

Scenario : Elliot John L. Balderston, Garrett Fort

Main actors : Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, Edward Van Sloan

Country of origin : United States

Released : 1931

Duration : 1h15

Distributor : Universal Pictures

Synopsis : Renfield, responsible for concluding a real estate transaction with count Dracula, goes to his castle in the Carpathians, where the aristocrat, who turns out to be a vampire, will mesmerize put it under his orders. Landed in England, Dracula wastes no time to create new similar among the local society by starting with the young Lucy, the daughter of the director of the asylum…



1923 – Our lady of Paris (★★★★☆)

“an excellent way for Universal to establish itself as a studio major”

1925 – The phantom of the opera (★★★★☆)

“a nugget of visual and omen yet beautiful things for the rest of the series”

1928 – The man who laughs (★★★☆☆)

“not a bad movie, but it could have been much more”
1931 – Dracula (★★★★★)

“Tod Browning performs a major work, whether on the movie or pure on the representation of Dracula on the big screen”
1931 – Frankenstein (★★★★★)

“an instant classic made to perfection”
1932 – The mummy (★★★★☆)

“a first film is flawed, awkward, but who let themselves be viewed with pleasure and even paying the luxury of moving his audience”

1933 – The invisible man (★★★★☆)

“the director tackles the themes of power and greed without concession and multiplies the sequences challenging morally”

1935 – The bride of Frankenstein (★★★★★)

“The work of James Whale stands out as the jewel ultimate of a series absolutely fascinating”

1941 – The Wolf man (★★★☆☆)

“THE LOUP-GAROU is still a film to see, registering visually and thematically, the continuity of the Universal Monsters, and who will enthrall you with the time an hour”

1954 – The creature from the black lagoon (★★★★★)

Jack Arnolds carries a film of great intelligence and an audacity all making honors the early masterpieces of the series, while creating his own myth”

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