Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Dracula


(1931) ***

I had a hard time picking a rating for this one, so I just threw a dart with the 3 stars. I can't explain or defend it, so don't ask.

The problem is that while I appreciate a lot about this classic (Lugosi and the guy playing Renfield in particular), it's just not one I enjoyed very much. It felt like I was doing homework just to get through the whole thing.

Now, most of my complaints deal with the basic reality of making movies in 1931. The lighting and soundtrack survive in crappy quality, even on the remastered dvd I checked out. The director notably chose to have no music during the film, so the constant humming typical of old filmstrips just keeps up throughout the whole thing, broken only by sporadic bits of dialogue. It's fascinating as a document looking at the transition from silent to sound film, nonetheless.

But beyond the formal limitations that necessarily come with such early movies, I also question the overall direction--the pacing and editing seem haphazard to me. It's not until halfway through that we really get the first bits of character development, which makes it tough to really feel the menace. The whole thing also has a very episodic feel--apparently it was adapted from a stage version, and you can easily imagine the actors running offstage in between scenes.

It perhaps doesn't help that I'm currently supervising a senior honor's thesis on the Stoker novel, so I've got the original story on the brain, and it's much more sensual and modern and complex than this interpretation. But I don't like when people expect movies to remain truthful to source material, so I hope that's not affecting my opinion.

Anyway, I'd say it's certainly worth checking out for its significance alone, but it doesn't hold up as well for entertainment as some other early films I've seen. I prefer Nosferatu, for one.

6 comments:

JPX said...

Landshark, I would recommend watching Dracula with the commentary. I don't normally get into commentary on modern films but it's really interesting to hear about the history of a film that's 70 years old. Plus, you get to learn how everyone died in real life. I would also recommend watching the other 4 Universal Dracula sequels.

Landshark said...

Good idea...

DCD said...

Good review, LS! You always have such interesting perspectives on things.

Must be because you're wicked smaht.

Landshark said...

Hm, I hope you're not pulling a BDC on me, D. Using the word "interesting" when you really mean the person is making no sense.

Dude A: Blah nonsense blah nonsense blah...

BDC: "That's very interesting..."

DCD said...

HA! Totally NOT pulling a BCD. (Although I have been known to pull that very BCD line.) But this time, I meant that in all seriousness.

Octopunk said...

Nice review, balancing historical significance and not totally grooving on a film isn't easy.

I'm now trying to remember any times my dad (BDC) has ever said "interesting" to me...