Film / Dracula (1931)

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Dracula1931poster.jpg
"To die... to be really dead... that must be glorious!"

"I am...Dracula."
"I bid you...welcome."
"Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make!"
"I never drink...wine."
— Some of Dracula's quotable lines

Dracula is a Universal Horror film from 1931, which made Bela Lugosi famous as the Classical Movie Vampire. His portrayal of Dracula is the one that most people think of when they hear the character's name (or even just the word "vampire"), whether or not they've actually seen the movie.

Being bored with Transylvania, Count Dracula decides to move into London for some fresh blood. After making the proper arrangements with Renfield, Dracula makes him his thrall and travels to England by sea, killing the crew of his ship in the process. When he finally arrives in London, he turns Carfax Abbey (the property he bought with Renfield's help) into his base of operations. He then takes special interest in Mina Harker, who lives at the sanitarium next door, owned by her father, Dr. Seward. As victims turn up and Mina Harker starts to act weirdly, Professor Van Helsing comes to help...

The film was originally planned to be a high-budget adaptation of Bram Stoker's original novel, but due to The Great Depression, it was instead adapted from a popular stage play of the time (written by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, and starring Lugosi in its Broadway production) on a fairly low budget. However, the producers did manage to collect enough money to film some of the early Transylvania scenes. Tod Browning, known for his silent-film collaborations with Lon Chaney (and his cult classic Freaks, released the following year) directed the film.

A Spanish-language version, Drácula, was shot at night on the same sets with different actors; it's often claimed it's actually the better film (mostly for its cinematography, pacing, and atmosphere), lacking only an actor of Lugosi's magnetism playing the Count. Instead it was Carlos Villarías playing Dracula, with Lupita Tovar as "Eva" rather than Mina. Barry Norton plays "Juan" Harker. George Melford directed. Both the Browning and the Melford versions of Dracula are in the National Film Registry, the Anglo version having been inducted in 2000 and the Spanish version in 2015.

In 1936, it was followed by a direct sequel entitled Dracula's Daughter.

For the 1958 Hammer Horror adaptation go to Horror of Dracula.

It is one of many films included in the "Universal Horror" canon.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Apart from making the disgusting, murderous and old Dracula from the book into a sex symbol, the 60-year-old Renfield is played by the 31-year-old, stunningly handsome Dwight Frye. (Admittedly, he's capable of some truly disturbing facial expressions, but still.)
  • Adaptational Wimp: Harker. His role in the film is limited to Mina's Love Interest and the skeptic to Van Helsing's advice.
    • Mina even more severely, reduced to a complete Distressed Damsel as opposed to the Team Mom she was in the original book, among other things.
  • Affably Evil: As Lugosi plays him, Dracula is always quite polite and cordial, with only his eyes showing when he's pissed.
  • All in the Eyes: The classic example.
  • Anti-Climax: In the end, a stake is simply put through Dracula's heart when he sleeps in his coffin. Then Jonathan and Mina walk up the stairs to greet the morning sun.
    • The film originally ended with Van Helsing talking directly to the film's audience but it was cut for the original re-release because the contents of the speech (which implied that vampires are real) violated The Hays Code. The footage has never been recovered, but a similar speech is in the original Broadway stage play the film was partially based on.
    • Dracula's dying moans and Renfield's screaming while Dracula breaks his neck were removed by censors, and not heard for decades until the film's DVD release.
  • Badass Cape: Dracula. His cape certainly looks badass when he's stretching his arms out right before getting to bloodsucking. Lugosi's badassery in his long cape is probably the Trope Maker.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The peasants at early parts of the film speak authentic Hungarian, including praying The Lord's Prayer—and it ends up an unintentional Actor Allusion to Bela Lugosi's origins.
  • Blood Lust: Dracula's bloodlust is demonstrated in a scene where Renfield accidentally cuts his finger, causing Dracula to stare hungrily at the blood.
  • Bowdlerize: The movie was originally 85 minutes long, but after the The Hays Code was put into effect, two scenes were cut (along with an epilogue - see trivia page for details) bringing it down to 75 minutes. The script was also much longer than what was filmed. The scenes deleted are present in the Spanish version, which resulted in more developed characters, more buildup, and better atmosphere.
  • Cardboard Prison: Dr. Seward's asylum can hardly keep Renfield in. He manages to get out of his room to wander around the premises even without his master's help.
  • Charm Person: Dracula's hypnotic powers are between this and Hypnotic Eyes.
  • Chewing the Scenery:
    Renfield: Rats. Rats. Rats! Thousands! Millions of them!
  • Classical Movie Vampire: The Trope Codifier.
  • Cobweb Jungle: Renfield has to go through one in Castle Dracula.
  • Cobweb of Disuse: Played with; much of the Count's castle is swathed in cobwebs that make it appear totally deserted. At least, they seem to imply nobody's been using it ... until a sneaky camera cut makes it appear that the vampire has walked straight through a large orb web without disturbing it.
  • Composite Character: Renfield combines elements of the novel's Renfield and Harker.
  • Creepy Basement: Castle Dracula and Carfax Abbey both have this.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The film follows Renfield for first 20 minutes.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Lugosi wasn't iconic in this role for subtlety. Behind the scenes, he reportedly loved to flourish in costume when he passed by a mirror. (When he died, Lugosi was buried in his Dracula costume.)
  • Evil Wears Black: Dracula's iconic cape and collar.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Said in the film.
    Dracula: There are far worse things awaiting man than death.
  • Forced Perspective: The shot of a bug crawling out of a miniature coffin.
  • Haunted Castle: Castle Dracula.
  • Herr Doktor: Professor Van Helsing is actually Dutch, but constantly peppers his English with German.
  • High-Class Glass: Dracula has a monocle hanging from his vest, though he's never actually shown wearing it.
  • High Collar of Doom: Codified this trope.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: It's Walpurgis Night when Renfield arrives at Transylvania.
  • Immune to Mind Control: Van Helsing falters briefly but is able to shake off the mind whammy.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: After the puncture wounds are discovered on Mina's neck, Harker turns to Van Helsing and asks what could have caused them, to which a voice answers, "Count Dracula!" Cut to the entrance to the room, where we're shown that a maid has just announced the Count's arrival.
  • Innocent Flower Girl: Count Dracula's first victim when arriving in London.
  • It May Help You on Your Quest: Subverted. The crucifix that the old lady hands Renfield in the beginning gets its own close-up shot. The object does come into play when Renfield meets Dracula and the latter is repelled. However, Renfield's doom cannot be evaded.
  • Large Ham: Dracula. Renfield also manages to steal every scene he's in after he is made Dracula's servant.
  • Laughing Mad: Renfield. Dwight Frye's cackling madness is one of cinema's most famous examples.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Dracula is dressed sharply, has a large castle, and sucks the blood of humans.
  • Melodrama: Given it retains many elements of a Silent Movie despite being a talkie, it ends up on this.
  • Melodramatic Pause: Dracula's speech patterns are filled with these.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Armadillos in Transylvania. Yeah, we know. Also, if you look closely, you'll notice the "rats" in Dracula's crypt were being played by opossums, which are also native to the Americas. Then again, so are vampire bats and nobody seems to complain about that...
  • Missing Reflection: Van Helsing notices Dracula's vampirism with a help of a mirror.
  • Mystical High Collar: Being a vampire, his collar also goes with his supernatural powers.
  • Ominous Opera Cape: Also codified this trope.
  • Only Sane Man: What Martin believes himself to be, said in a humorous exchange.
    Maid: He's crazy!
    Martin: They're all crazy. They're all crazy except you and me. Sometimes I have my doubts about you.
    Maid: Yes.
    [Martin slowly backs away]
  • Our Vampires Are Different:
    • Dracula is a largely emotionless bloodthirsty abomination that passes itself off as human, and there are plenty of cracks in that masquerade that make him seem more than merely eccentric to ordinary people; for example, Castle Dracula looks as though it's been abandoned for centuries, with Renfield surprised that anyone actually lives there; Carfax Abbey is in a similar state of disrepair, and he bluntly informs his bewildered neighbors that he has no intention of fixing it up. He also doesn't seem to like or be able to keep up his facade of normalcy for long periods of time, and he will leave, enslave, or kill you within minutes of any meeting. In addition, his idiosyncratic speech patterns make it seem like he hasn't used his mouth for speaking in a long, long time. He's less like a cursed man than some kind of malevolent, primitive, pre-programmed robot that doesn't fully understand how it should interact with human beings. Quite creepy indeed.
    • Interestingly enough, another spin on this trope occurs when Van Helsing discusses possible scientific explanations for vampires in response to a skeptic being a bit too quick to dismiss the idea of their legitimate existence.
  • The Power of Blood: As Dracula puts it:
    Dracula: The spider spinning his web for the unwary fly... The blood is the life, Mr. Renfield.
  • The Renfield: Renfield, of course.
  • Re Release Soundtrack: Besides the Philip Glass string quartet version, there was also a version found on the Dracula Blu-ray disc that took '40s and '50s stock music and made a new score out of it (or more accurately, a score, since the original film was mostly score-free aside from the intro and the concert scene). This score can be found on the French audio track, and strangely was mixed with the English audio when it was shown on a 2015 Svengoolie airing.
  • Say My Name:
    • "Mina! Mina! Mina! Mina!"
    • "Oh Jo-o-o-ohn! Jo-o-o-ohn!"
  • Scream Discretion Shot: The flower girl Dracula attacks in London gets off one scream before the shot cuts away.
  • Setting Update: The original novel took place circa 1897; the movie seems to be set in the time period of its making, at least judging by the costuming, and the fact that England has telephones and motor vehicles. As pointed out in the DVD commentary, the first hint of this is in the scene where Dracula arrives in London.
  • Source Music: There was no real musical soundtrack in the film because it was believed that, with sound being such a recent innovation in films, the audience would not accept hearing music in a scene if there was no explanation for it being there (e.g., the orchestra playing off camera when Dracula meets Mina at the theatre).
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: The wine Count Dracula serves Renfield is drugged, so the latter will fall asleep at the castle.
  • Tragic Monster: Dracula is less sympathetic than the Monster or Larry Talbot, but it's still rather evident that undeath is not a pleasant state.
    Dracula: To die... to be really dead... that must be glorious.
  • Überwald: The early scenes of Renfield's journey across Transylvania with Dracula's castle as his destination.
  • Undeath Always Ends: As is usually the case, the movie ends with the death of the vampire.
  • Vampire Vords:
    • It can't be stressed quite enough that Lugosi's thick accent was a major contributing factor to why the Dracula character became so famous. This contrasts with the Stoker version of the vampire, who spoke comparatively better English.
    • Early on, the lady handing her crucifix to Renfield: "Vait. Please."
  • Vampires Are Rich: As per the book, Dracula has enough wealth to buy property in England on-the-spot.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: It helps when you have the power of mind control and can get a Lucy or a Mina to leave their window open at night.
  • Villain Protagonist: Dracula
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Count Dracula is able to reshape into a bat or wolf at will. Son of Dracula (1943) was the first movie to actually show transformation sequences.
  • What Does She See in Him?: Mina and Harker... seriously? All he does is bully her, and when she tearfully tries to tell him about how Dracula forced her to drink his blood, Harker only talks about his (Harker's) right to know what the Count did to Mina. Honestly, she probably would have been better off a vampire.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to Lucy and her victims? Notably, the Spanish-language version doesn't have this problem; Van Helsing and company hunt her down and destroy her before focusing on Dracula.
  • Worthy Opponent: How Dracula sees Dr. Van Helsing, even going so far as to compliment him on his intellect. For his part, Van Helsing is quite cordial to the Count, himself.
  • You Are Too Late: Dracula says this exact line to Van Helsing after the latter figures out his true identity. He assures Van Helsing that his plans of turning Mina into a vampire can no longer be foiled:
  • You Have Failed Me: Dracula kills Renfield when he unwittingly leads Van Helsing and Jonathan to him.
    • Even before that, there are moments where he silently confronts Renfield, his eyes making clear just how pissed he is at the man's inability to avoid attracting attention.

The Spanish-language version contains:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Runs a full 1 hour and 45 minutes long, filling in quite a bit of the story, addressing problems of the Tod Browning version such as the What Happened to the Mouse? disappearance of Lucy.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Eva for Mina, Juan for Jonathan, Lucia for Lucy.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Lupita Tovar is more scantily clad than Helen Chandler was in the Anglophone version.
  • Large Ham: Anyone who thinks Bela Lugosi is hammy needs to watch Carlos Villarías.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Despite the lengthened running time not everything in the Browning version is found here: the scene where Dracula steps off the dock in England and promptly eats a flower girl is not included.
  • Shot-for-Shot Remake: Down to the actors actually standing on the same marks. Although, as noted above, the Spanish version has a good half-hour of material that was cut from the Anglo version.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Dracula1931