Tag Archives: Nosferatu

Dracula (1931)

1931 theatrical release poster. This is one of several styles used to promote the movie.
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Todd Browning’s Dracula is considered a classic movie and is praised for its acting and the atmosphere it connotes. It was not the first movie adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel. Nosferatu was the first but since it was made without permission, was yanked from the theaters, and disappeared for a long time. That movie altered the story in keyways hoping to make it just different enough to pass muster. The 1931 movie borrowed from the stage version, a bit from the book, and a bit from the Nosferatu movie. While the story differs from the book, it makes up for it with great acting and made Bela Lugosi (who had played Dracula on stage) a household name.

For its time, Dracula was quite scary. Unlike today where blood and guts are shown in horror movies (and television or streaming ones as well), it was all about atmosphere to relay the horror of Dracula. The story opens with Renfield (not Jonathan Harker) on his way to meet with Count Dracula. He is warned by people to wait until the next day but says he must go. He is told about how they believe vampires live in that castle, which he scoffs at. He is given a crucifix to protect him. At Borgo Pass he is quickly tossed out with his baggage and the carriage speeds away. A carriage awaits him to take him to Castle Dracula. On the way he leans out and sees a large bat flying where the driver ought to be. When he gets to the castle, the door opens, and we see Dracula walking down the stairs to greet him. The entry is pretty much in ruin, unlike the book, and there is no greeting like the book where he is welcomed. An interesting spooky part is a large spider web that covers one part of the stairs. Dracula passes through it with no issue, but Renfield has to cut through it, and we see a large spider nearby. Dracula makes a comment about the spider living off blood and notes blood is life. The interesting scene (not the in book either) conveys that Dracula is a supernatural being.

After having his meal and showing Dracula the paperwork on Carfax Abbey, he retires to his room but not before cutting his finger and Dracula looking at him in a terrible way. In his room after opening the window, he falls to the ground. Dracula’s brides are there but are sent away by Dracula. The scene shifts to the Demeter where a crazed Renfield is serving his master and is found after the ship is boarded to find the crew dead. He is sent to a sanitarium run by Dr. Seward. We see Dracula attack a young girl before going to the theatre where he meets Dr. Seward, Jonathan Harker and his fiancée Mina Murray, and Lucy Westenra. That night he attacks Lucy while she is sleeping. We shift to what appears to be a medical examination of Lucy by Van Helsing noting that despite transfusions she dies. And the curious marks on her neck get his attention as well.

Meanwhile Renfield’s fascination with consuming flies and then spiders get Van Helsing’s attention. Renfeld wants to be sent away so his cries will not affect Mina. When Van Helsing shows him wolfsbane and how he fears it, he notes it is used to ward off vampires. Van Helsing in a meeting with Seward and others believes a vampire is at work. Meanwhile Dracula starts feeding on Mina causing her to relate strange dreams and her being fatigued. Dracula, who met them at the theatre, shows up. And it is here that Van Helsing’s suspicion that a vampire is about is confirmed. Dracula casts no reflection in the mirror of the cigarette box. Later when Van Helsing opens it in from of him, Dracula quickly tosses it away and for a moment we see his true face. After he regains control, he asks for pardon and departs. Renfield later relates he allowed Dracula to enter the sanitarium as he promised him lots of rats. Dracula returns later to confront Van Helsing by saying Mina is now his and for Van Helsing to return to his own country. Dracula tries to hypnotize him but fails. And Van Helsing uses a crucifix to force Dracula to retreat.

By now Mina knows about Dracula’ biting her and realizes her fate. She tells Jonathan that their love is finished. A vampire bat looms overhead, and she tries attacking Jonathan, but fails. Mina is being protected by wolfsbane around her neck and other protections, but Dracula uses hypnotism to get the maid to remove then and takes Mina. Van Helsing and Harker see Renfield escape and heading towards Carfax Abbey. Dracula believes he led them there and kills him. Van Helsing and Harker search the abbey and Harker finds Mina. Meanwhile Van Helsing finds Dracula in his coffin and kills him (offscreen). Mina then returns to normal, and the movie ends with Dracula dead and Mina free of his control.

The movie is now considered a classic and with good reason. While the story deviated substantially from the source material, it makes up for it with great acting and atmosphere that modern day horror movies fail to convey. And it became a template for vampire movies that would come after it (either made by Universal or by others later). Most vampire movies (with few exceptions) hue to the dusk to dawn nature of the vampire though, in the actual book, Dracula is free to move about during the day. However, the sun limits his abilities, and he has to stay in whatever form he is until sunset. Reviewers were shocked when Francis Ford Coppola had Dracula walking around by day in London in his movie. Had they read the book, they would not have been.

There were subsequent sequels to Dracula by Universal but none of them (except one- Abbott & Costello Meets Frankenstein 1948) had Bela Lugosi in them. After the movie, Lugosi sought to distance himself from the role believing he would be typecast. He did star in many movies with Boris Karloff but failed to grow beyond mad scientist type roles due his thick Hungarian accent. He was diagnosed with sciatic neuritis and became addicted to the prescribed drugs morphine and methadone. The drug dependence and his alcoholism contributed to him not getting major acting roles after 1948 relegating him to low-budget movies like Ed Wood’s Plan Nine from Outer Space (1957) which he died before it came out.

Bela Lugosi died of a heart attack on 16 August 1956 which occurred when he took a nap. His wife and daughter decided to bury him with his Dracula cape and cloak. Some later said he didn’t want that, but his son confirmed it was a decision that both he and his mother made consistent with his wishes. He was nearly broke at the time and his family could not afford his funeral. Frank Sinatra quietly paid the expenses for it. He is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.


Ebert, Roger. “Dracula Movie Review &Amp; Film Summary (1931) | Roger Ebert.” Roger Ebert, 19 Sept. 1999, www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-dracula-1931.

Pfeiffer, Lee. “Dracula | Tod Browning’s Horror Film Classic, Bela Lugosi [1931].” Encyclopedia Britannica, 29 Sept. 2023, www.britannica.com/topic/Dracula-film.

Fear: The Home Of Horror. “Dracula (1931) Original Trailer | Classic Monsters.” YouTube, 31 Oct. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSPNLK1wWaU.


Halloween 2011-My Vampire Movie List

That time of year has come again, of pumpkins being carved into lanterns and all manner of scary decorations and costumes being put on display. Watching scary movies is part of Halloween and there are many to choose from. Night of the Living Dead usually appears somewhere on the dial. George Romero’s low budget flick delivers the goods. Seeing reanimated corpses feeding on the living has spawned countless imitators, most of them forgettable except the original Dawn of the Dead which still delivers. Dracula has spawned many movies too though few actually tell the original story. Most often the story is shortened, characters changed or deleted, and even the ending altered. That does not mean the movies are bad just telling the story in a different way.

Here is my list of favorite vampire movies (in no particular order):

1. F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922)
This classic silent was the first Dracula movie but due to legal issues, the script was rewritten with a different story and a different vampire (Count Orlock). Only Mina and Jonathan Harker remain. However Stoker’s widow sued and Prana Films went bankrupt as a result of the judgment. The negatives were ordered destroyed but bootleg copies were shown. It is now considered a film classic.

2. Dracula (1931) is famous for Bela Lugosi. Tod Browning changed the story  (using the Renfield character for Jonathan Harker for one) but Lugosi fit the bill standing six feet tall with an aquiline nose and high cheekbones, and speaking with a thick accent since he was born near Transyvania. The movie cemented the depiction of cinematic Dracula with the cape and other features. For Lugosi, it typecasted him and his was never able to get past it (not unlike George Reeves of the Adventures of Superman).

3. The Horror of Dracula (1958)
Jimmy Sangster’s script for Hammer Films brought Dracula into technicolor and an erotic element where women want Dracula to kiss them. Christopher Lee became the new Dracula (and for several Hammer movies) depicting him as a tall, thin, and ruthless vampire. Once again the story is altered from the book but the story and acting quality is superb as is the ending. Peter Cushing plays Van Helsing becoming Dracula’s nemesis in a few other Hammer films. Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968) was a good sequel but nearly all the Hammer Dracula movies after that were not so good and mostly forgettable.

4. Love at First Bite (1979)
A comedic turn that became a success because it was funny. George Hamilton plays Dracula who is driven out of his castle by the Communists and heads to New York. There after some misadventures with his coffin, he meets Cindy Sondheim (Susan St. James). The Van Helsing character is portrayed by Richard Benjamin in the role of Dr. Rosenberg, a psychiatrist. He fumbles countering Dracula and Cindy ends up the count in the end. The movie has great lines like “Children of the night, shut up!”

5. Dracula (1979)
Frank Langella continues the notion from Horror of Dracula that the count seduces women and they accept it. Langella’s performance was pretty good in this regard though the movie was far from scary like other Dracula movies. Lavish in using actual locations in Cornwall, it has a mixed reviews among Dracula movie buffs. Many like the romantic Dracula while others find the movie boring and its ending unsatisfactory (Dracula is killed by sunlight after being hoisted above deck on the ship while trying to flee).

6. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Francis Ford Coppola’s treatment connects Dracula with the historic Vlad Tepes who fought against the Turks. His wife dies falsely believing him dead in battle (due to a forged note) and commits suicide. Since she cannot be buried since it was suicide, Dracula renounces his faith and blasphemes God desecrating the chapel. His desecration results in blood coming out of a crucifix which he drinks turning him into a vampire. Mina Westenra is a reincarnation of his dead wife which explains his interest in her. Coppola depicts Dracula in a number of ways from the old man greeting Jonathan to the young one that meets and seduces Mina. We also see the very dark side where he appears as a wolf (to attack Lucy) and a demonic figure as well. Coppola uses special effects well to show Dracula’s many ways of getting about. One criticism is how Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) is depicted. Hopkins depicts him as slightly mad, eccentric, and the suggestion he lusted after Lucy. The death is different as well for Dracula.

7. The Lost Boys (1987)
This a good movie in which a relocated family finds themselves in Santa Carla where the boys are drawn to an amusement park where vampires also hang out. Michael, the oldest boy, ends up falling in love with a girl who is part of a vampire gang (though not yet one herself) while the other boy gets drawn into the anti-vampire crowd. The ending is great with a surprise twist as to who the head vampire really is.

8. Near Dark (1987)
Outlaw vampires traveling around the country and Adrian Pasdar meets one of them. They are a vicious gang and Adrian is not quite ready for it. The ending is good for him (and the girl who brought him in) and bad for the vampire gang.

9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series, not movie)
The first three seasons, which deal with high school, are pretty good. A combination of horror, high school, and bits of comedy tossed in. The vampires and other monsters are generally scary and people die in the course of the show. Sunnydale is unlike any other place being a Hellmouth (where an entrance to that dimension exists) drawing all kinds of beasties. Buffy and her Scooby Gang are kept pretty busy. The college years (seasons 4-7) are not as good. It gets more dark, gothic, and in parts just plain boring. A few bright lights are Hush (perhaps the best horror episode ever and won an award) and Buffy vs. Dracula. When the show veered into an X-Files story arc (the government runs a secret program that seizes demons for study and an evil doctor is making her own monster from various demon parts) it went downhill but did get itself out of the mess but never recaptured what it achieved in the first three seasons.

10. Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
An excellent movie starring John Malkovich as Frederich Wilhelm Murnau, the director of Nosferatu. Instead of just playing the vampire Count Orlock, Max Schreck (played by William Dafoe) is the real deal. At first most think he is just creepy and scary always wanting to appear in character. But Murnau made a deal with him to give him the actress at the end. It is a very interesting movie with scary moments (especially at the end). Worth watching.

Some honorable mentions:

1. Count Dracula (1978, BBC)
A mostly faithful adaptation of the Stoker story. Louis Jourdan plays Dracula but is miscast here. He is too old and does not fit the part. Likewise the special effects are not that good either. However it does show things the others did not, like Dracula’s brides feeding off a baby. The script and acting is decent building it up the way Stoker did.

3. Salem’s Lot (1979)
This adaptation of Stephen King’s novel has some generally scary moments. The vampire is different from the book (a nosferatu type) and changes to King’s story also are problems. James Mason is excellent as Straker, the vampire’s assistant.

Salem’s Lot (2004)
When the remake was planned by TNT, I hoped it would follow the book more closely that first. While having the tone of the book and Barlow (Rutger Hauer) done right, it is less scary and more suspenseful than the first. Major changes to the story as well (where it begins and ends) cause problems. However the special effects are better than the original. Also Donald Sutherland as Straker was a mistake. Straker comes across as a loon rather than the ruthless and cunning assistant to Barlow.

In short neither are great and just okay. If you want the scare, go with the first. Avoid the movie Return to Salem’s Lot. A terrible movie.

Well that is it for this year. Have more vampire movies you want to add? Send us your comments.