Movie: Dracula (1931)

Because Frank rocks a cape just as sexy as Dracula, our next movie up in the Rocky Horror Science Fiction Double Feature movie binge is: Dracula (1931)

Release Date: 14 Feb 1931
Runtime: 75 Minutes

IMDb Synopsis: The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.

The Tyler Courier-Times / Tyler, Texas
12 Apr 1931, Sun  •  Page 10

Wiki Entry: Dracula is a 1931 American pre-Code supernatural horror film directed and co-produced by Tod Browning from a screenplay written by Garrett Fort. It is based on the 1924 stage play Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, which in turn is adapted from the 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. The film stars Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, a vampire who emigrates from Transylvania to England and preys upon the blood of living victims, including a young man’s fiancée.

Produced and distributed by Universal Pictures, Dracula is the first sound film adaptation of the Stoker novel. Several actors were considered to portray the title character, but Lugosi, who had previously played the role on Broadway, eventually got the part. The film was partially shot on sets at Universal Studios Lot in California, which were reused at night for the filming of Drácula, a concurrently produced Spanish-language version of the story also by Universal.

Dracula was a commercial and critical success upon release, and led to several sequels and spin-offs. It has had a notable influence on popular culture, and Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula established the character as a cultural icon, as well as the archetypal vampire in later works of fiction. In 2000, the film was selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Republican and Herald / Pottsville, Pennsylvania
21 Feb 1931, Sat  •  Page 3
Albuquerque Journal / Albuquerque, New Mexico
15 Mar 1931, Sun  •  Page 7

IMDb Trivia and some Photos

When this film was re-released after the Production Code was strictly enforced in 1934, many edits and deletions were ordered by censors. The censors removed Renfield’s scream as he is being killed and Dracula’s moan as the stake is driven through his heart. These two audio deletions were later restored.

A Spanish-language version, Drácula (1931), was filmed at night on the same set at the same time, with Spanish-speaking actors.

The large, expansive sets built for the Transylvania castle and Carfax Abbey sequences remained standing after filming was completed, and were used by Universal Pictures for many other movies for over a decade.

Bela Lugosi was so eager to repeat his stage success and play the Count Dracula role for the film version, that he agreed to a contract paying him $500 per week for a seven week shooting schedule, a paltry sum even during the days of the Depression. In fact, his salary was only one quarter that of actor David Manners who played Jonathan Harker. However, this fact might be misleading. Although David Manners earned $2,000 a week, he likely didn’t pocket all of that money. Manners was under contract to Warner Bros./First National, which had “loaned out” their contract player at a rate considerably higher than the performers’ weekly salary. Hence, much of Manners’ salary went directly to Warner Bros./First National.

Among the living creatures we see in Dracula’s castle in Transylvania are Opussums, Armadillos, and an insect known as a Jerusalem Cricket (Stenopalmatus Fuscus). This insect was common in Southern California, which may explain its cameo in the film. The inclusion of armadillos was due to the fact that armadillos had occasionally been seen digging in graveyards, which led to the mistaken belief that they would dig their way into coffins and eat the cadavers.

Dracula’s castle was a painting on glass in front of the camera. The coach traveling along the road was real but the background was not.

Several folkloric elements often associated with Dracula are not visible in this film. At no point does Dracula display fangs. Also, the famous vampire bite mark on the neck is never shown either, although, twice, characters examining victims’ necks do talk about bite marks.

Universal’s original plan was to make a big-budget adaptation of “Dracula” that would strictly adhere to the Bram Stoker novel. However, after the stock market crash of 1929 and the beginning of the Great Depression, Universal chose not to risk an investment on such a sprawling film. Instead, it adapted the much less expensive Hamilton Deane stage play.

The peasants inside the inn are praying The Lord’s Prayer in Hungarian.

While in full costume, Bela Lugosi delighted in strutting up and down the set while proclaiming “I am Dracula!”. He would do the same while looking in the mirror. This was his actor’s way of preparing his mental state for the role. Lugosi, a classically trained actor from Hungary, was utilizing one of the many acting techniques that he had learned in order to get into character and bring out the best performance.

The studio did not want the scene where Dracula attacks Renfield to be filmed, due to the perceived gay subtext of the situation. A memo was sent to the director stating “Dracula is only to attack women.”

The shooting script features a scene not found in the film in which Van Helsing kills Lucy following her transformation into a vampire. In the scene, Van Helsing brings John into the graveyard to prove the existence of vampires. There, they witness Lucy walking into a mausoleum. After consoling John, Van Helsing pulls a parcel from his pocket and makes clear his intentions to follow Lucy and destroy her. At this point, the film was to have cut back to a scene of Dracula abducting Mina.

Cast Credits:

Bela LugosiCount Dracula
Helen ChandlerMina Seward
David MannersJohn Harker
Dwight FryeRenfield
Edward Van SloanVan Helsing
Herbert BunstonDoctor Seward
Frances DadeLucy Weston
Joan StandingBriggs – the Nurse
Charles K. GerrardMartin (as Charles Gerrard)

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