Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween and the Precode Era

To celebrate Halloween, we decided to watch the 1931 Dracula with Bela Lugosi in the title role.  What can we say about this iconic film? To get a bit of perspective, we looked at a scene (the "I never" scene) from the 1931 Spanish-language version which was shot on the same set as Lugosi's film.  Carlos Villar (also known as Carlos Villarias), who plays the infamous Conte Dracula, probably ends up being unfairly compared to Lugosi. Sure, he's good, but Lugosi's Dracula is charismatic. It is why, when we think of Dracula today, we still tend to think of Lugosi. He's overstated at times, but he is arresting. It is hard to take your eyes off of him.  And of course, they could not make this sensual a Dracula for years. Perhaps the Frank Langella version 1979 is an attempt to recapture the sexual nature of the Count on film. 

We also talked a lot about the  way in which certain films (this one and Frankenstein, in particular.  Both, by the way, from the Precode era. Frankenstein was released only a few months before Dracula) completely overpower their original work.  Frankenstein the movie, has so entirely kidnapped the book, that when we say "Frankenstein", who do we automatically think of? - the creature, of course. And it is the wonderful Boris Karloff that we remember. We forget that "Frankenstein" is the DOCTOR, not his creation. And I think, even with all the Frankensteins that have come after, we forget that there ever was a Creature other than Mr. Karloff. A tribute to his portrayal, and the wonderful makeup created by Jack Pierce.

Dracula, the book certainly is very sexual And it is wonderful that this mood was able to be captured on film.  Though, the film goes away from the book frequently (we lose Lucy the vampire, and Jonathan Harker does not go to Transylvania), we were rather taken from one major change - Renfield as the lawyer who ends up as Dracula's first victim.  It makes rather a nice touch to have this explanation for Renfield's madness (and an explanation as well for his rebellion against Dracula when Mina Seward is threatened).

We found a nice montage of clips from the film that might be of interest:

Happy Halloween all!!

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