Before I start the introduction of this review, I want to remind everyone that Thursday, February 13th, is the last day to cast vote in the first poll of the 2nd Annual Gold Sally Awards! The second poll will be posted on Valentine’s Day! Here is the link to the poll:
In the past two years, I have reviewed a Valentine’s themed Hallmark movie on February 14th. But since this year’s polls for the Gold Sally Awards are taking place on Fridays and because Hallmark has chosen not to air a new Valentine’s themed movie on Valentine’s Day, I decided to do something different in 2020. Five days ago, 18 Cinema Lane received 180 followers! For this review, I chose to talk about Dracula for three reasons. 1. This movie was released in February of 1931. 2. The movie premiered on Valentine’s Day. 3. Valentine’s Day is a time when we show appreciation to those who have helped us along the way. My followers have definitely done that during my two years of blogging. With that, I have dedicated this special blog follower dedication review to all my followers in honor of Valentine’s Day! As I discuss this film, I realize Dracula is the fifth vampire movie I’ve reviewed on my blog! Who knew that vampires in cinema would be a recurring topic at 18 Cinema Lane?
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: For years, I have heard great things about Bela Lugosi as an actor. Even though this is the first film of Bela’s I have seen, I can understand why people give him this amount of praise! His portrayal of Dracula was commanding and captivating, effortlessly directing the audience’s attention towards him. Bela was very expressive through his facial expressions and body language. But the emotions in his eyes are what elevated his performance! Great examples of this are whenever Dracula appeared in front of his victims. Another expressive performance came from Dwight Frye! The character of Renfield was executed really well because of the versatility of Dwight’s acting abilities. Before and during his stay at Dracula’s castle, his demeanor was calm and collected. After becoming Dracula’s victim, his persona changes to being paranoid and on-edge. I was also impressed with Helen Chandler’s portrayal of Mina! Her on-screen personality was likable and sweet. Similar to Bela Lugosi, her eyes provided the emotion for her performance. A great example is when Mina is looking intently at her fiancé toward the end of the film.
The set design: I really liked seeing the overall set design in Dracula! It was constructed really well and fit the world the film’s creative team was trying to bring to life. Dracula’s castle and the Abbey in London were the two best locations in this movie! These places were grand in scale and felt larger than life. For Dracula’s castle, elements like spiderwebs and trees growing through broken windows created an unsettling environment. In the Abbey, a large, winding staircase was impressively captured on film. The locations in this movie were grandiose and had a sense of style to them!
The lighting: The way that lighting was used in this film was very interesting! Even though parts of the movie took place at nighttime, enough lighting was used to show what was taking place on screen. The times when Dracula is waking up from his coffin are good examples. Another creative way that lighting was used was anytime Dracula approached his victims. His eyes are the only things captured by the light, highlighting one of Bela’s best qualities as an actor. It also indicates how intense the power of his eyes is on humans. The lighting in Dracula helped make the project visually appealing!
What I didn’t like about the film:
Limited amount of music: The power of music can be very influential when it comes to film. Music can be used to set a tone for a particular scene or enhance the events happening on screen. In Dracula, however, music was used sparingly. Only two scenes and the opening credits is where music could be heard. The rest of the movie is music-free. Had there been orchestral music during moments when Dracula is in the presence of his victims, it would have brought a certain intensity toward those moments. It also would have highlighted the fear that can come from such an event. Sadly, music in this project felt underutilized.
Treading on familiar territory: It has been said that Nosferatu is the story of Dracula. But because of copyright laws at the time of the film’s creation, direct references to Dracula had to be removed. While watching the 1931 version of Dracula, I could tell that certain patterns in story-telling mirrored the 1922 silent film. In fact, certain events almost followed the predecessor beat-by-beat. Since I saw Nosferatu prior to seeing the 1931 picture, I feel like I knew what would happen, leaving little to no room for any surprises. While this movie did have some differences from the 1922 film, it wasn’t enough to create its own identity.
The run-time: Dracula is a one hour and fifteen-minute film. After Renfield meets Dracula in his castle, the movie kind of drags on, making it feel longer than its run-time suggests. Some moments felt like they were included to provide padding, such as the “woman in white” story. Personally, I think this film should have been less than an hour. This story is pretty straight-forward and has a recognizable character. If it were eighty or ninety minutes, the film could get straight to the point sooner.
My overall impression:
Dracula is a film that I found to be decent. There are aspects within the project that I liked, such as Bela Lugosi’s performance. However, the script played it safe when it came to the story. The creative team behind the movie didn’t really take any chances or try to think outside the box. In the end, the final product failed to create its own identity from its predecessor, Nosferatu. What I can say about this film is if you’ve seen Nosferatu, you’ve already seen Dracula. Compared to the other vampire movies I’ve reviewed, this movie would be placed around the same range as Queen of the Damned. While I liked both films for what they were, I think they could have been stronger. Before I end this review, I’d like to thank my followers for helping 18 Cinema Lane get this far! This blog has thrived every day because of you!
Overall score: 7 out of 10
What you do think of this special blog follower dedication review? Are you looking forward to seeing what I review when I receive 185 followers? Let me know in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!