THE THIRTIES would prove to be a truly golden era for Universal Pictures opening the way for greatest horror monsters to grace the silver screen ranging from Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, and The Mummy.
Leading the charge though, was one of THE most iconic characters, Count Dracula.
Based on the novel by Bram Stoker, the creature of the night, the nosferatu who oozes charm would need to have an enigmatic personality to portray him.
And Universal would find their man in Hungarian born Bela Lugosi, who made his name capturing the titular character on stage before winning the role for the film, despite not being the first choice.
Cinematic history would be made though the moment Lugosi saunters across the screen and speaks with his authentic Eastern European tones that sent women swooning.
But it wasn’t just Lugosi’s performance that would captivate and would path the way for Dracula to become a classic in its own right.
Almost stealing the limelight from Lugosi came through the guise of Dwight Frye’s maniacal portrayal of Renfield.
His haunting laugh sends chills to the bone and Frye injects enough erratic energy that it pushes the picture forward with adequate momentum and is a delightful contrast to Lugosi’s slow and decisive movements.
Combine that with Edward Van Sloan’s Van Helsing, a performance that set up a precedence for all those that would follow in his footsteps as Dracula’s key nemesis.
Above all of this though, credit should be bestowed upon the director, Tod Browning.
His career had been carved through his strong career, starting in the silent era back in 1917 with Jim Blumbo.
Browning would go on to form a formidable pairing with actor Lon Chaney in a total of 10 films together, including The Unholy Three, and the awesome movie, The Unknown, which also featured Joan Crawford.
Dracula wouldn’t even be Browning’s first foray into the vampire genre, directing London After Midnight four years prior.
He would also go on to direct cult favourite Freaks…“One of us. One of Us!” a year after Dracula was released.
Interestingly though, Browning’s detailed approach was strangely absent and rumours have circulated since that the production was often in disarray.
Browning even left much of the direction with cinematographer Karl Freund although he would never be officially credited for his involvement.
Despite this, the film was ultimately a success and would spawn a series of gothic horror movies that would stretch a further couple of decades and a further five more sequels.
- Paul Farrell