Week 35: “Universal’s DRACULA (1931) Returns to the Big Screen in a Big Way!”
I’ve never been much of a fan of the original 1931 Universal Picture’s Dracula. I’m not a fan of vampire films and I’ve never really been a big fan of Bela Lugosi, so, this has never been one of my favorites of the Universal Monsters or films. The one thing going for the film is that it was directed by Tod Browning whom I’m a huge fan of due to his film Freaks (1932), which is one of my favorite films of all-time. This being sad, Dracula is a film I appreciate but don’t really watch as often as say Frankenstein (1931) or The Mummy (1932) or Bride of Frankenstein (1935). I was excited to hear that on October 28th Fathom Events was going to honor this film with a return to the big screen. Point of fact is that I wasn’t born when any of these films were originally released so being able to see one of the big screen has been a dream come true whether it be the Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Creature from the Black Lagoon or Dracula himself.
An added bonus is the fact that this was a double feature presentation of the original Browning film as well as the Spanish language version. I had never seen the Spanish version so that alone was a great selling point for me. This was also the first time I was going to be able to see a Browning film on the big screen so I was really excited!
It should be noted that I love and appreciate classic cinema. I was never able to watch these films growing up but I studied classic horror and noir films in college (despite my focus being on horror and animation) and I have a very deep love of these “old black & white” films. Being able to see one of these films back on the big screen is a rare occasion especially with an audience who can also appreciate the film.
Getting back to Dracula, the night was presented by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and as such had a wonderful introduction to both films especially right before the Spanish version in which the narrator discussed the advantages of director George Melford (the Spanish version) over Browning since both films were shot simultaneously and Melford was able to see what Browning was doing and improve upon his filming techniques. By comparison, it does show as the Spanish version is not only longer but also contains some vastly different cinematography choices that enhance the film. If nothing else, it was great watching the two films back to back in order to see the differences between them.
I have a newfound love for Browning’s Dracula. There are details that I never saw before and the image was sharp and crystal clear like I had never seen. This film truly was meant for the big screen. I may not be a Lugosi fan but this is by far my favorite film of his and I can now see why he was obsessed with the image and personae. I can honestly say that both the Browning version and the Melford version are magnificent films and that if you are a fan of the films and never watched them back to back I do suggest it.
I do have to say that Fathom Events has spoiled me a little as I now want the opportunity to watch some of the other Universal Monster films on the big screen. If you get the opportunity to see any of these films on the big screen you should take it as there is no telling when (or if) it will ever happen again.