"I am....Drac-u-la. I bid you velcome." Thus does Bela Lugosi declare his presence in the 1931 screen version of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Director Tod Browning invests most of his mood and atmosphere in the first two reels, which were based on the original Stoker novel; the rest of the film is a more stagebound translation of the popular stage play by John Balderston and Hamilton Deane. Even so, the electric tension between the elegant Dracula and the vampire hunter Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) works as well on the screen as it did on the stage. And it's hard to forget such moments as the lustful gleam in the eyes of Mina Harker (Helen Chandler) as she succumbs to the will of Dracula, or the omnipresent insane giggle of the fly-eating Renfield (Dwight Frye). Despite the static nature of the final scenes, Dracula is a classic among horror films, with Bela Lugosi giving the performance of a lifetime as the erudite Count (both Lugosi and co-star Frye would forever after be typecast as a result of this film, which had unfortunate consequences for both men's careers). Compare this Dracula to the simultaneously filmed Spanish-language version, which makes up for the absence of Lugosi with a stronger sense of visual dynamics in the lengthy dialogue sequences. In 1999, a special rerelease of Dracula was prepared featuring a new musical score written by Philip Glass and performed by The Kronos Quartet. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
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