VIDEO: Dracula (1931)

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It’s Halloween, and Sofie has decided to exploit the horror classics… in more ways than one. First up, it’s a special black and white episode as she takes on the classic that started it all, 1931’s Dracula, starring horror legend Bela Lugosi in his iconic role as Count Dracula. Featuring special guest appearances by all your favorite Agony Booth reviewers!

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  • Tedzey71

    “…Featuring special guest appearances by all your favorite Agony Booth reviewers!”
    Oh, I see how it is!

    • MichaelANovelli

      How am I not anyone’s favorite?  I’m the face of the site!  ;-)

      • Misinformed

        I know by the ;-) that you were joking around, but you were the first one I watched here when I found the site a week or so ago.  Your reviews of “Scott Pilgrim” and “Atlas Shrugged” convinced me the site was worth spending time on.

        • Sofie Liv

          It’s a bit hard to include the man when he doesn’t have the means to send me cameo footage currently.. as he seemed to have neglected to mention. Also, my intention was to collect the people specialising in horror. You could maybe argue that Atlas Shrugged is a movie that should make people scream in horror, by the mere knowledge of the back-story and it’s excistence, but I digress.

          oh and Misinformed, welcome to the site! hope you like some of the other stuff we people have to offer as well!

          • Misinformed

            I definitely like you, Sofie…  Your Wonder Woman review really won me over!  It was passionate and smart. 

          • Sofie Liv

             YAY! :D

          • Russell Brin (Facebook Sux)

            Wonder Woman is a topic we never seem to stop talking about, and DC and Time Warner never do anything about…they are pissing me off now!

          • MichaelANovelli

            Sofie, you’re clouding the facts of the matter with logic!  And, what’s worse, you’re clouding the logic of the matter with facts!  :-)

          • Sofie Liv

             Dammit I must be a smart person!

      • Torgeaux

        Yes, yes you are. You currently wear the snark crown and are, in my opinion the single best mean and hateful reviewer on this site.  Many are bright, cute and chipper, but you sir are where I go for a films disembowlment.

        • Sofie Liv

           Oh so we are naming favourites now.

    • Russell Brin (Facebook Sux)

      I was wondering the same thing… No Cecil, Joey, Sursum or Liam?   You people matter!  Damnit Jim the Agony Booth are reviewers not viewers!

      • Sofie Liv

         Well actually.. it was just the Horror reviewers I tried to collect for this.. and I know not all horror reviewers was in this single one video.. that’s because there are more than just one video, wait for it.

  • Dwlow812003

    A new sofie review, YAY! Shes like a ray of sunshine, that always brightens my day :)

    • Sofie Liv


  • Misinformed

    This was a fun video, Sofie and The Gang.  The black and white was a great touch.

    • Sofie Liv

       Well, when wanting to make a homage to 30’s cinema, do it right X)

    • Thomas Stockel


  • Mike

    I’m suprised Film Renegado made no mention of the spanish Dracula that came that filmed on the same set with a different cast. Still a fun and creepy video, so thanks to all involved.

    • Sofie Liv

      Well, Mike the thing is that EVERY country has at least one version of Dracula that is its own, Denmark even has a version of Dracula, he is just that universally an accepted figure.. and easy to pull out for your horror and kids movies.
      He is the second most filmed character of all time, the most filmed is Sherlock Holmes ;)

      All though the Danish vampire of my nightmares was “Orlaf.” whom was an elderly bald vampire that hated children with a passion. To top it off, he kept his fangs in a glass of water beside his bed, and I kid you not, those fangs were alive and had its own personality as a sadistic blood-lusting couple of flying fans, and every-time they flew into Orlafs mouth, he would become wild and sadistic as well, on his way out to bite people… that was a kids show.. hehe..

      Thanks :)

    • MichaelANovelli

      You want something fun and creepy?  Be sure to check out Full of Question’s next video, coming up.  If you watch the whole thing, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

    • Apart from Sofie not writting that in, I confess that I haven’t seen the movie yet, I’ve heard it’s equal, if not better than this version.

      • Sofie Liv

         I can see you stated on Twitter that you find the mexican version of Dracula, and well, I cannot explain the entire story on twitter, because of the word limit.

        Jerry, you didn’t find the mexican version, you found the Spanish.

        At the time in 1931, they were on a transition period in movies from silent movies into talking movies, and hadn’t quite figured out talkies yet, which is also why there are so many passages of silence in this movie.
        The Universal studio sort of panicked because they thought now making talkies would effectively prevent them from shipping over-seas, because people in Europe couldn’t speak english.. yet.. with silent movies they simply translated the text bobbles, and for some parts, they did show this dracula film as a silent movie with text bobbles things, but with talkies taking over it wouldn’t be enough.

        So they decided to shoot a Spanish version to ship to spain, along-side the American version, litterately, along-side, they used the same script, the same set and shoot the movies the same days, meaning the American movie would shoot their scenes first doing day-time, and then the Spanish movie people would budge in and shoot the exact same scene that just had been shot, doing nightime. Often even taking a look at the raw film of the US production to see if they could do it better. And there you go, Spanish Dracula. enjoy your movie :)

  • Damn you, Jackula! Once I’m free of this asylum & your curse, I will have my revenge! There is nowhere you can hide, Dark One!

    • Jack Shen

      Rats…rats…rats…all these I will give you…

      • Sofie Liv

         oh dear, here we go again.

  • Muthsarah

    I love cinema of the 1920s, and I’ve seen a lot of 30s films (I even have one in my Top Ten), so I’m not speaking from an “everything pre-Star Wars is black and white crap and gay” perspective, but….

    Dracula (1931) has not held up well over the years.  Films can be slow and atmospheric, like Ozu, or the better Mallicks, but this movie bears every sin of the early talkie era: glacial pacing, dialogue consisting mostly of throwaway lines, staging embarrassingly flat even by the standards of amateur theatre.  Like I said (paraphrased) in one of Ursa’s Mummy reviews regarding the Karloff Mummy: it’s a 40 minute movie told in a mere 80 minutes.  Frankenstein holds up pretty well considering, as does the even better Bride of, and to a lesser extent, the later Wolfman, but The Mummy and Dracula do not.  And I wish they did.  Back then, any film with sound was a gimmick, much as 3D today is frequently used as a selling-point of an otherwise mediocre production.  It didn’t matter if a film was technically proficient; so long as it had sound, there was an eager audience.  There are very, very few films from 1928 to 1935ish that still hold up today (and I’ve seen too many of them), mostly because the gimmick of sound required that filmmakers radically adjust their traditional views on film-making to this very different medium, and most, at first, did not know what they were doing.  They were re-learning from scratch.  They weren’t even producing filmed plays (which one might think would be their natural source), they were just having actors recite lines in front of a camera, with all the conviction and emotion of a first script run-through.  Compare that with the very late silent films, which built on decades of
    increasing artistic ambition and technical proficiency, to the point that the
    post-talkie silents (Chaplin’s City Lights and Modern Times for the most part) are even
    today widely considered to be far superior to their audial
    contemporaries.  Movies like this don’t even hold up to the rudimentary standards of theatrical drama in those pre-Method days.  Every character is wafer-thin, the pauses between lines is almost a joke in itself, and there’s more energy to be found in the crackling of audio interference than in any of the actors’ performances themselves.

    I’ll grant that this movie did set the standard for early vampire stereotypes, given that it was the first universally-experienced standard for how a gothic horror movie should look or sound (and the German expressionists did it so much better), but most of that is due to Lugosi’s natural accent and theatre-trained mannerisms, not to how this movie was shot, staged, or edited.  Can you imagine watching a play, even an old one, where the action moved as slowly as it did in this movie, and where the actors spoke their lines as these actors did?  I think it would have been intolerable; people would have walked out.  But the standards of cinema in the early 1930s was so low that people didn’t mind such things back then, and I suspect this movie carved out a place in the Hollywood pantheon sheerly by having good timing and being the first talkie vampire flick to the gate.  If I had a time machine, I would have loved to travel back then and see this movie with a contemporary audience, just so I could confirm to myself that people could have been genuinely frightened (as they supposedly were) or even enthralled by this movie; I understand they were, but I do not understand how.  The first time I saw it, I was bored and underwhelmed; I wasn’t expecting too much, but the movie nevertheless almost put me to sleep.  There are some very well-made sets, but most scenes are dull, with flat, procedural dialogue and stock characters.  Again, I love old movies, and I try to give them every benefit of the doubt that they deserve given the differences between the time they were made and the time I have always lived in (for instance, I don’t expect any comedy of the time to actually be funny today), but some products from that era do not weather the passage of time at all.  I compare this film to City Lights (also 1931), and I see two incomparable films: one professionally-made, technically marvelous, well-paced, with compelling characters and a balance of tension, pathos, and comedy, and I see another movie that is just boring as all hell, one Hungarian accent away from a bad freshman-level film studies production.  And because I know people back then were very capable of putting together a good movie, I can’t cut this lackluster production much slack.  The sets are pretty good, Lugosi’s good; that’s about it.  It was a product of its time, in a very lacklustre time for talkies.

    It’s still better than The Mummy (1932) an even more interminable experience, but to this viewer at least, it’s of interest only as an artifact, as a distant inspiration for later vampire motifs.  But – pardon my French – Nosferatu owns its ass in every way possible.  You don’t need dialogue to make a good movie, but you do need good pacing.  You don’t need blood and gore to make a good horror movie, but you do need a frightening monster.  You don’t need a strong villain to make a compelling thriller, but you do need a proper climax to build to.  Dracula (1931) didn’t have any of the above.  Nosferatu did, and it accomplished it nine years earlier, and without the benefit of sound.

    I just felt like ranting, as I wasn’t picking up on any qualitative comments on the film itself, and I feel like every review deserves some very basic analysis and criticism.

    • Sofie Liv

       Well.. yeah. I chose just to poke lovingly fun of this one I guess. I honestly think it’s hard to judge this movie because it has become such a staple mark for who Dracula is and what he is all about.

      Is it faithful to the novel? haha, no. None more than Frankenstein is to its original novel.. and yet it just has become that staple mark.

      Well, it’s James Rolfs favourite movie out of all the universal horror classic movies, so I am not alone in thinking it is still a good movie, and it’s interesting from a movie historical point of view.
      It is how-ever episode it’s made in a time where they hadn’t quite “Figured.” movies yet, and certainly hadn’t “Figured.” sound movies, at many times this movies feels more like a stage play than a movie.. which is probably because it’s mostly based on a stage-play so go figure.
      I grant you it, Nosferatu is the creepier more atmospheric movie (if you watch it with the right sound-track, the free youtube sound-track is ass, buy it on DVD folks.)
      And, I absolutely agree that Frankenstein is the better movie, I am not going to lie, Bride of Frankenstein is my personal favourite out of the entire classic universal bunch.
      I also think James Whales had a very important thing going for him, that few other of the universal directors had at that time.. gallows humour. James Whales seriously had a wicked sense of humour that springs out of his movies, and I like it a lot, James Whales having directed the Renfield scenes, that could have become wicked.

      I know I didn’t manage to analyzse much, but there was just surprisingly little to analyze at all.. storywise, it was very simply just. Renfield goes to castle, finds the devil, becomes insane return with devil, devil attacks next-door home, nex-door home exposes him, devil gets angry and takes pretty girl, next-door home charges after him and kills him, the end.

      Only little analyzing I could do would be on Renfield as he seems like an interesting layered character, he is not evil, he tries to warn them, he is just the victim whom was scared and manipulated by Dracula, yet his former sane nice self, seems to still reside inside of him, there’s potential for interesting story arching here.. but well, why bother with that? lets just kill him, the movie is called Dracula and not Renfield after-all.

  • Torgeaux

    I didn’t see this film in its entirety until well into adulthood.  I had known of it as a child by reading the heavily punned “Famous Monsters of Filmland” by Forrest Ackerman.  Although the humor was corny it was how I found out about classic horror movies.  I agree that by today’s standards the film seems badly dated and in a stage style owing more to 19th C. stagecraft than anything we are familiar with today.  But, much like the original Star Wars of 1977 it was ground breaking for it’s day. This movie is also about the time it was made in.  In 1931 the US had entered a deep economic depression with no end in site and few if any social safety nets to help the millions of the destitute.  A lot of America was terrified already and wanted to see films where an absolute and seemingly unstoppable evil was quickly and righteously erradicated.  I think a movie should be judged with an understanding of the mental set of the time and the country in which it was made. A good example would be “Zardoz.”  It wasn’t all that wierd in 1974.  Well, yes it was, but if you grew up in an era when clashing patterns, bell bottom jump suits for men and fucha shag carpets were normal it wasn’t so strange by comparison.

    Sophie, I did not know that Denmark had a “Halloween” tradition.  I guess savy marketers the world over see how much Americans spend on Halloween and are looking to cash in.  Really.  Halloween is the only thing that prevents Christmas sales ads from starting on July 5th here.

     I Loved it.  I like the ensemble reviews.  Very funny stuff.  Poor So Many Questions, she needs some answers to cool her fevered brain.  Film Renegado.  Don’t cry, one day the world will know the greatness of Mexico’s El Santo and what he has done to save us all from all sorts of evil with his skills in crime and monster fighting!  I personally think he should have just smashed Dracula’s coffin with his magnificent Aston-Martin into a hail of dusty splinters with Dracula transmogrofying (badly) into a fake resin cast skeleton under his right hand wire wheel!  Viva El Santo!

    • Sofie Liv

      well.. I do believe it’s a bit un-fair to judge some-thing thats 80 years old by todays standards.. honestly.
      Their very shooting format back then was just so different from how we do things today, and you know. there’s aspects of that old fashion I really enjoy and even sort kind of miss in modern movies. And well, it’s hard to judge the movie on its own merits when it just has such a massive legacy by now, and brought so much in how we view “Cliche horror.” today.. I mean dude, just this month. “Hotel Transylvania.” how many visual quos was taken directly from this movie? oh yeah, and Adam Sandler was absolutely trying to do a Bella Lugosi impression… even if he wasn’t aware of it.
      The history of the time, is of cause also very fascinating, and it also goes to explain why most other movies at that time were “happy movies.” because it was indeed a time where ordinary people worked harded and had very little to be happy about, so when they finally went to go see a movie it would NOT to be brought down by “Artsy.” things or dark deep stuff or any-thing like that. So all movies at that time were up-beat. not because people were dumber at the time (come on, Shakespear had exsited for a hundred years at that point.) but because the movies were a product of the time around it.
      It is indeed fascinating to view the line of how movies were in comparison to the real worlds at the time.

      Denmark does not celebrate Halloween.. only very recently has there been very modest import on store shelfs around the country. I just personally am really taken in by the Holliday, to me it seems like one of the funniest coolest things ever. And I absolutely want to go to US one day in October just to exsperience prober Halloween. So well.. I am keeping Halloween by my-self, simply because I want to.

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed :) 

    • [spoiler]And the Booth will soon ALSO know the greatness of el Santo![/spoiler]

  • Jack Shen

    I like that you pointed out that Tod Browning’s  Dracula is such a seminal film that most horror movie cliche’s originate from it.

    • Sofie Liv

      Actually.. only some of them arrived from this movie, I’ll point to Frankenstein for the rest.. and yeah I talk about that in that review as it gets released.

      I mean just think about it, the stormy night with lots of thunder, the look of the lab, the line “It’s alive it’s alive.” the look of the monster, an huge angry mob running through twith with pithcforks and torches, the burning wind-mill, the hunchbacked assistant, the mad scientist wearing a white lab-coat….

      ALL of that, is derrived directly from Frankenstein.. and not because Frankenstein was a cliche filled movie for it’s time. Not by a long stretch… it invented all of these things.

      So hot god damn things would have looked different in the “Cliche horror picture.” without that movie exsisting. Just.. wauw!

  • Nuclearademan

    Dwight Fry was an underrated actor in my opinion, he was the creepiest thing in the film and easily the best version of Renfield.

    I do like this version of Dracula but it took me a couple of watches to really get into it, the film is a bit slow and the acting minus Lugosi and Fry is either really bad or just dull.

    Hope you review one of the Hammer films in the future.

    • Sofie Liv

       I agree whole-heartedly, and believe me I have a great weakness for that actor. I am very very sad that we didn’t get to see him more often and didn’t get to see him in more diversed parts.

      Just in this movie alone, you see him being quite diverse.

      One thing is to act complete crazy and insane, that’s easy when first you are allowed. just to be an over the top mad-house.

      How-ever, here Fry gives a solid performance as a straight man before he gets that far, he looks pretty creeped out by Draculas presence but keeps on a face to be nice to his clients. And later when he went mad, he still comes across as sympathtic and well, conflicted. So that’s some nuanced acting man. Then later in Frankenstein he proofs that he can be funny to and have great sense of humour. So yeah.. waste of talent.

  • Bob (the other one)

    Great review of Dracula, now I am looking forward to your take on Frankenstein (which I hope will also discuss Bride of Frankenstein, which is even better and at least as influential in the genre).  I liked your use of black-and-white for the review, reminded me of how Tim Burton used b&w for “Ed Wood” to give a nice period feel.  Poor Bela Lugosi-  he went from this to making “Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla” and the films of his friend Mr. Edward D. Wood Jr.   

    • Sofie Liv

       I wont be talking about Bride of Frankenstein, simply because it’s my favourite movie out of the entire classic Universal line-up and I think it would disserve a video on its own so well.. I’m counting on still being around next year ;)

      Yeah.. I guess we all feel for Bella, especially after having watched Ed Wood. Glad you liked the review :)