Monday, February 15, 2016

Phil celebrates the 85th anniversary of DRACULA (1931)-February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day everybody! Now, I'm not a huge Valentine's Day fan, only because all it is really is a made up holiday created by a evil conglomerate greeting card corporation (I'm looking at you Hallmark Cards) for the only purpose of selling their lame holiday themed cards. However, today is a day for celebrating, but not for St. Valentine's sake. Nope, today is the 85th anniversary of one of the greatest horror films ever made. Yes horror hounds, I'm talking about the 1931 Universal Pictures classic DRACULA!!

Original Movie Poster (1931)
The film's official synopsis: Bela Lugosi stars as Dracula in the 1931 original screen version of Bram Stoker’s classic tale. Towering ominously among the shadows of the Carpathian Mountains, Castle Dracula strikes fear in the hearts of the Transylvanian villagers below. After a naive real estate agent succumbs to the will of Count Dracula, the two head to London where the vampire hopes to stroll among respectable society by day and search for potential victims by night. Directed by horror specialist Tod Browning, the film creates an eerie, chilling mood that has been rarely realized since and remains a masterpiece not only of the genre, but of all time.

Originally silent film actor Lon Chaney, star of THE HUTCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT had made a series of films with famed cult director Todd Browning for Universal Pictures. Browning's next project for studio was DRACULA and he was going to cast his friend for the lead role. However, on August 26, 1930, Chaney died from a throat hemorrhage.

The Hungarian born Lugosi created the role of Dracula on the Broadway stage and became a sensation. However, Universal originally didn't want Lugosi to portray the Count and as a result, wasn't even placed on their list of potentials. However, the studio gave him a test screening and eventually he was cast in the lead. The film was released on Valentine's Day in 1931. The rest, as they say, is cinematic history.

The film became a huge sensation and it spawned several sequels including DRACULA'S DAUGHTER, SON OF DRACULA and HOUSE OF DRACULA. Also, during the making of the Todd Browning classic, Universal was also simultaneously making a Spanish version of DRACULA for their Mexican market. Browning's cast and crew would film during the day and then director George Melford and his stars Carlos Villarías (Dracula), Lupita Tovar (Eva), Barry Noton (Juan Harker) and the rest of the Spanish cast and crew would film on the exact same sets at night. Also, they would look at the dailies from Browning's shoot and decided the they could do better. Some fans have said the the Melford version is scarier than Browning's. As for me, I love them both but I have to go with the Lugosi version and I'll tell you all way that is.

Universal Classic Monsters Blu-Ray Boxset (2012)
I first saw the film when I was four years-old. It was 1977 and our local television station KTVU Channel 2 out in Oakland used to show a lot of the old black and white horror movies from when my parents were kids. I remember playing on the living room floor and my dad sitting on the couch watching T.V. Then he told me to look up and look at what was one the screen. It was DRACULA and I distinctly remember just being in awe at what I was watching. The Gothic setting, the cobwebbed infesting spooky old castle, the howling of the wolves and then, standing on the staircase stood the iconic Lugosi as the caped clad vampire. It was the most amazing film I had ever seen. It was the very first horror film I ever saw and soon, I watched all the other classic Universal monster movies. But it was DRACULA that got me into loving horror movies and the genre and it remains to this day my favorite horror film of all time.

Over the years the film has been released on VHS, DVD, and then in 2012, Universal released a brand new restored version of the film for their Universal Classic Monsters Blu-Ray Boxset. Last year, the studio released the films individually for fans and horror film lovers. Now a whole new generation can watch these treasured classics in stunning Hi-Definition.

DRACULA is one of the greatest horror films ever captured on celluloid. It started off the Universal Monster cycle with Lugosi creating the look and sound of the vampire and became the standard for all other Dracula movies to follow. One of the most important movies in film history!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended and required viewing!!


DRACULA is currently available on both Blu-Ray and DVD and can be purchased at your local retailer or by visiting the Amazon website at http://www.amazon.com

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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