#398 and 399: Dracula (Draculi?)

Quick recap: The classic tale of the vampire Dracula, as filmed in 1931 and 1958.

                          Classic Dracula

Fun (?) fact: The Spanish version of 1931’s Dracula was filmed at night on the exact same set at the exact same timeframe as the English version.

and melodramatic Dracula

Thoughts and observations:

Having no time to do much of anything besides work these days, I feel it most efficient to combine two similar movies into one post. Interestingly, the 1001 Movies to See Before You Die list is chock full of various vampire films. I watched these two for Horrorfest this year but there are several more just waiting for my attention. In this post I will put Dracula head to head with…….Dracula, to see which film is the most Dracula of all time.

Opening scene: This round starts as a tie, since both begin with a traveler. The 1958 version edges ahead by just a bit because of the captured woman begging for help.

First Dracula appearance: no competition here, the 1931 version featuring Bela Lugosi is the champion. The first moments with him are creepy but also intriguing and I kept wanting more and more of this character.

Best looking mansion: Both mansions are creepy in their own rights but when I imagine the Transylvania castle, it’s the 1931 version that sticks with me. There’s just something about the appearance of abandonment that sends more chills than an ornately designed place. In other words, I would totally AirBnb the 1958 version and stay far away from 1931.

Renfield: This also goes to 1931 since 1958 didn’t have the character at all. Renfield should be necessary to any Dracula retelling.

Best Mina: This was a tough one! The 1931 version shocked me more but the 1958 version was just so dark. She was enthralled by Dracula and you could see how she both tried to fight but also gave in so easily.

Best Blood: Once again, 1958 is the winner. The director never shied away from any gruesome scene, and I can see a clear link between this film and later bloodbaths such as Saw and Hostel. 

Overall Impression: Despite sharing a number of characters and a basic plotline, these Draculas are so different. If you are looking for a classic retelling of Dracula, maybe something to show at a Halloween party, you can’t beat the 1931 version. But if you like your vampires to be oozing with sexuality, then the 1958 is the way to go. The 1958 version is also especially melodramatic, if that’s also your thing.

Watchability score:  4/5 for both films and a proper ending to a too short Horrorfest

Up next: Number 400!

#386- Neco z Alenky (Alice)

Quick recap: The classic story of Alice in Wonderland, if told by David Lynch and David Cronenberg. Probably not for children.

If this creeps you out, just wait!

Fun (?) fact: Unlike traditional stop motion films, Alice did not use any miniature sets for its effects.

Imagine a full size this!

Thoughts and observations:

I had a nightmare after watching this movie and it’s really no wonder I’m not more traumatized considering:

  • The white rabbit is full of sawdust and enjoys eating what leaks out of him
  • The movie takes place in a run down house where even the leaves piled up inside are somehow menacing
  • Whatever this is:

  • Alice turning into a life-size porcelain doll which she has to escape from

I could easily come up with 10 more examples but I think you get the point. This version of Alice in Wonderland is no fairytale. Director Jan Svankmajer envisioned something along the lines of an ‘amoral dream’ and he certainly was successful. I tend to have very vivid dreams and watching Alice’s journey trigged something familiar inside of me. I don’t know what that says about my brain but I can completely relate to this version. I especially loved the end when Alice woke up and saw all the parts of her dream surrounding her: the playing cards, the tarts and the stones. And then in the final scene she looks over and sees that the taxidermied white rabbit did actually bust out of his cage. She grabs a pair of scissors and says ‘off with his head’. I LOVE that the Alice in this movie is not a sweet girl but instead mischievous and sometimes just outright violent. I found myself both rooting for her and also enjoying when she got her comeuppance.

Watchability score: 4/5, if you can handle it

Up next: Chimes at Midnight

 

#372- Beauty and the Beast

Quick recap: Stockholm Syndrome is alive and well in this classic fairy tale of a Beauty being made to fall in love with a Beast.

me, knowing that Monday is just around the corner

Fun (?) fact: Many, many people preferred the Beast to his alter-ego prince that he transforms into at the end of the film. Upon viewing this movie, actress Greta Garbo is said to have screamed, ‘ Give me back my beast!’

Now he’s just another white guy!

My thoughts: Of all the Disney princesses, I think Belle is my favorite. It used to be Ariel but at some point I realized how very stupid she is and so she was eliminated from the ranking. Sorry, 5 Year Old Me. This version of Beauty and the Beast is not sanitized like the cartoon version but there are still many similarities between the two. In fact, Walt Disney wanted to do a cartoon version of the fairy tale back in the 40s but once he saw this film he thought it would be pointless. When the animated feature was released in the early 90s it had several homages to this version, like the castle design and the magical items.

I wasn’t all that impressed with this movie right after watching it because it just seemed like yet another fairy tale brought to life. But, some of the scenes have really stuck with me, almost to the point of wanting to rewatch because I think I missed so much the first time. For one thing, there is a wonderful horror element I didn’t know existed but it totally fits. All of the candles in the castle are held up by torsos and arms and the statues have eyes that blink and follow Belle but they never talk or interact with her in any other way. When she arrives to take her father’s place, I love how she glides down the corridor, mist billowing around her and blowing the curtains. And then there is this sexual element that I completely missed. As the Beast falls for Belle, his hands start smoking when she is near. He is literally hot for her. And there is a bunch of symbolism about him giving her his ‘key’ to his ‘treasure’ which just went over my head completely. Put it all together, though, and you get this fairy tale that has so much more depth than I gave it credit for at first. There are a few nit-picky things about the plot that confuses me, such as why it was so easy for Belle to break her promise to the Beast when she knew how evil her sisters were. But every story has its holes so I’ll just let it be for once and  enjoy a good tale.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Judge Priest

 

#304- Fantasia

Quick recap: 8 pieces of Western Classical music are illustrated by the Walt Disney company.

Me, after eating that whole pizza the other night

Fun (?) fact: To this day, Disney still receives complaints from parents about the ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ sequence. It was removed from the film for several years after so many people complained that it frightened young children but later brought back to teach those kids to suck it up.

I blame the large nipples

My thoughts: I made invited my seven year old to watch Fantasia with me, hoping to further cultivate a love of music like I have. I loved this movie as a kid, but then again, I’ve always had a thing for the Classical genre. My grandmother listened to it often and I remember falling asleep to various pieces at night, painting pictures in my head as the music swelled around me. Alas, this bonding moment with my son was not to be because he was asking to turn it off within 5 minutes. It wasn’t a complete wash, as you will see as I break down each segment:

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor– the animation was just a bunch of abstract art, which is basically the very definition of torture for a kid. The look in his eyes as the music continued was one of betrayal, since I had promised him he would enjoy it.

Nutcracker Suite- My kid loves The Nutcracker and wanted to listen to it constantly around Christmas. He enjoyed this segment better but would’ve much rather seen the ballet than the changing of seasons. The mushrooms dancing (albeit a little racist) was pretty cute.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice– Mickey Mouse saves the day! My son thought the animation was really funny, except for the scene when he chops up the broom into little pieces.

Rite of Spring- The animation for this one started with the birth of our planet and ended with all the dinosaurs dying off. My kid has never really been into dinosaurs so he was mostly bored. I was amused watching what people in 1940 understood about our universe.

The Pastoral Symphony– The setting for this piece is Mt. Olympus. There are various centaurs, unicorns, and gods and not a nipple in sight. It was really creepy after awhile, this nipple-less world. My son thought the baby pegasus were cute but lost interest once the centaurs started hooking up. I don’t blame him.

Dance of the Hours-My son enjoyed this one as well, but didn’t understand how an alligator could lift a hippo. Buddy, you have no problem with an ostrich ballerina but an alligator and hippo dancing gives you pause? Moving on.

Night on Bald Mountain- My kid’s favorite holiday is Halloween so I thought for sure this would win him over. NOPE. Not even the screaming ghouls did the trick.

I’m sad that this movie didn’t really hold up as I remembered. On the positive side, I know what I can put on as punishment the next time my kid drives me crazy.

Final review: 2/5, although I would’ve rated it higher had I watched alone

Up next: Man of the West