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Tod Browning’s DRACULA (1931) marks the first time true supernatural horror was brought to the screen in America.

The audience aimed at was the adult audience not the 13 year olds of today.

The studio realized that for the film to work it could not be a fairy tale set in the past. It needed to be set in the now, in the present. Dracula needed to be presented as a threat to every person sitting in the theater.

The presentation needed to be as sober as possible for us to accept that Dracula has the power to transform himself into a bat, a wolf or whatever.

Throughout the film the horrors are quietly understated. Events hinge on anticipation, never on fulfillment, That would take us out of the film. Every frame has the touch of a master storyteller.

First run theaters once sat not hundreds but thousands. Beginning with D. W. Griffith’s THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915) first run “A” movies were seen at top Broadway prices. Show me a movie today that could fill a 5,000 seat theater let alone command top Broadway prices.

First run theaters at that time sat not hundreds like today but thousands.

Universal, as with the rest of Hollywood, teetered on financial ruin. The film had to be a hit or the studio was finished. It was a HUGE hit, beyond everyone’s expectations.


Student audiences tend to be knowing and blasé . They are the worst audience with which to experience a motion picture more than one year old. They see themselves as sophisticated. said Oscar Hammerstein III, “Being knowing and blasé is the most unsophisticated thing one can do. The truly sophisticated say, ‘I know nothing about that. Please tell me.”

Browning showed in what remains of his 1925 silent film LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT and it’s 1935 sound remake MARK OF THE VAMPIRE that he could more than deliver flourishes when presenting fake vampires. in DRACULA the vampire is presented as real.   That called for restraint.

While NOSFERATU (1922) horrifies with its rat like vampire DRACULA (1931) horrifies with a handsome man who would be a welcome guest in any home.

Hammer’s DRACULA (1958) is a superbly crafted action film that was aimed at the youth audience. I loved it when I first saw it. I still do but for me Dracula will always be Bela Lugosi. He got the lines Bram Stoker wrote. He had the presence to speak them with conviction.

When Bela Lugosi said, “There are far worse things awaiting man than death,” I and most others believe him.

DRACULA remains a very great film and a powerful one.–R.H.


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