For Reel

Dracula (1931)
October 30, 2016, 5:13 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Tod Browning
4.5 Stars
draculaIt is often remarked that Dracula becomes an utter slog once the Count makes his way to England—a criticism that both has to do with Bram Stoker’s original novel (the Jonathan Harker scenes do build up to an irresistible climax before the story all but hits the reset button) and the fact that this Tod Browning picture settles into a mode that seems more familiar of an early sound drawing room drama. But the so-called staginess of Dracula and the absence of a musical score is the key to its atmosphere, typified by Bela Lugosi silently lurching and interrupting the soundtrack with his slow, methodical line deliveries. Lugosi’s performance is great for a myriad of reasons, but it his postures and gestures that create the most compelling scenes—in fact, at its best, Dracula is ultimately a film about posture, particularly in the dynamic between the elegant Lugosi and the manic Dwight Frye as Renfield. If Browning’s film does indeed have the creaks of an early sound film, there is no other film from the period in which those creaks so effectively contribute to the mood—the fact that Count Dracula himself is characterized as a mannered, respectable man on the surface even contributes to a sense of the drawing room satire. Lugosi was such a remarkably charismatic man that he could hypnotize the audience while performing the slowest of gestures, and most of the pleasure of the film has to do with watching Lugosi’s Dracula eerily move through the space, more ghostly than the novel’s animalistic interpretation.

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