Bram Stoker

Dracula 1931

Every year near Halloween, I find myself re-watching at least some of the classic Universal monster movies from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. This year, thanks to purchasing the Universal Classic Monsters 30-Film Collection, I’m pretty much revisiting all of them. Kicking off that list is Tod Browning’s timeless classic Dracula, which was the first Hollywood production of the character and also the risky endeavor Universal diving into the monster movie market. Of course, being more than 80 years old, there are no contemporary filmmaker commentaries available on this title. In the DVD box set, which packages together all the Legacy Collection discs, we are left with a commentary by film historian David J. Skal and the screenwriter from Dracula: Dead and Loving It. As much as I enjoy Mel Brooks’ works, I felt it was a better bet to go with the possibly drier but more insightful historian. This was a good choice as Skal packs quite a bit of information into this relatively short 75-minute film.

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Russell Crowe

It’s sort of fascinating that a vampire craze born from Twilight has shifted back toward Bram Stoker’s original vision: Tom Cruise and Sony are going vampire hunting with Van Helsing; Neil Marshall is boarding The Voyage of the Demeter; and now Russell Crowe might bring his Oscar statue to the set of Harker to play Dracula for Eli Roth. According to Deadline Romania, Roth is currently in talks to take over the chair for the Warners project where Jaume Collet-Serra used to sit. First of all, the prospect of Crowe taking on a classic character like this is pretty damned exciting. Granted, his Robin Hood was hampered by a lame movie, but Crowe would be walking in Bela Lugosi’s and Gary Oldman’s shoes (just to name a few). Secondly, it’s nice to see such a dusty character have so much life left in him – especially since it seems studios are more interested in a return to form (instead of simply sprinkling more glitter on everything).  

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Sitting in a theater watching a fair few people walk out in protest at the poor quality of Dracula 3D, you have to wonder whether they knew anything about horror legend Dario Argento, and if so what exactly they expected from the director whose name alone guarantees an audience. Because Argento has a certain set of skills, which aren’t necessarily reconcilable with what is great about film these days, but to give due credit, he hasn’t really deviated from the same tracks for decades, and the result is generally an entertaining affair all the same. This time out he’s taken the iconic Dracula story on, giving horror’s most famous character (played here by Thomas Kretschmann) his first 3D treatment, and adding a few other brand new touches to the iconic story of how the Count tricked Jonathan Harker (Unax Ugalde) into working for him in order to take his wife Mina (Marta Gastini) for his own. Along the familiar path we meet jealous and mostly naked vampire Tanja (Miriam Giovanelli), the infamous Dracula servant Renfield (Giovanni Franzoni), and the various pawns in the game, both victims and servants of the Dark Lord, with the prominent role of Lucy going to the director’s daughter Asia Argento. And of course, in the final third we are invited to enjoy the many pleasures of Rutger Hauer as Abraham Van Helsing.

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-


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