Monday, September 27, 2010

Random Notes on Dracula (1931)

As part of a vague idea of tracking what I actually watch I had planned to write a review of some sort of every film I watch for the next little while. However, the film I watched whilst ironing shirts last night was Tod Browning's 1931 classic, Dracula, and I don't imagine that anything I say about that movie is likely to be in any way new or interesting. So instead - some random thoughts (which at least have the benefit of brevity).

1. Transylvania must have insanely vindictive contract law - how else to explain both the fact that the coach driver does take Renfield to make his appointment with Dracula, or that Dracula is so confident that Renfield will turn up at midnight?

2. Renfield starts off being played by Harold Lloyd, then slowly turns into Harry Enfield, before ending the movie as Peter Lorre, complete with vocal impersonation.

3. I bet Steve Reich has heard the incidental music - I spent the whole movie expecting elderly Jewish voices to start speaking, in the style of Reich's brilliant Different Trains.

4. The bats are rubbish, but given the staginess of the entire production, that seems appropriate.

5. It's a far simpler story here than it often is in future, but the longing in Lugosi's "to die, to be truly dead, that must be glorious" is a beautifully layered performance which briefly undercuts Draclua's otherwise iron cast self-belief.

6. Charles Laughton obviously saw this movie - the random interpolations of armadillo, possum, spiders and insects is strangely reminiscent of Night of the Hunter.

7. While there are some very nice shots - Renfield framed in the stairs of the ship full of corpses is a particulary effective moment - the scene where a maid and John Harker, standing on the balcony, see (off screen) a wolf running across the lawn and relate this in detail to the occupants of the dining room is laughably poorly done, like Nick Briggs' early audio plays.

8. The ending is very odd indeed, to those used to modern horror movies. Having found Dracula's coffin and broken off a piece of wood with which to stake him, the camera cuts to the Harkers' reunion and the only evidence of the destruction of the vampire is a sound of hammering from off-stage. Cut back to Van Helsing emerging from the crypt and the Harkers essentially saying 'come on, let's go out of here'. Van Helsing shakes his head and says no, he'll follow on in a minute...and then the film ends, just when you were expecting the obligatory 'twist'.


Bookmark and Share


Blogger TimeWarden said...

My favourite "Dracula" movie is "Taste the Blood of Dracula", the fourth of Hammer's seven film cycle. As well as being a tract on the hypocrisy of Victorian values, it's as much a romance as a horror film with James Bernard's brilliant music score soaring between spelling out the revengeful Count's evil name to hymn-like triumphalism at the climax.

Did you know Jonathan Harker was actually based on an ancestor of actresses Caroline and Susannah?

10:21 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home