#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!

#397- Frankenstein

Quick recap: The classic story of Dr. Frankenstein, who manages to create a monster that wreaks havoc on the countryside and still lives happier ever after.

The monster even mauls the bride and SHE STILL MARRIES HIM

Fun (?) fact: Boris Karloff, who played The Monster, was such an unknown that he wasn’t even invited to his own film premiere.

I don’t get it either, buddy

Thoughts and Observations:

Welcome to another year of Horrorfest, that wonderful time of year when I only watch Horror movies from the 1001 Movies to See Before You Die list. In years past I have done themes but this year my goal is to watch whatever is streaming.

We start with Frankenstein, which is actually the perfect movie to kick off this celebration. As a monster, its terror factor falls somewhere between witches and werewolves. A bit scary when you think that it’s a dead guy, less scary when you realize his childlike nature. I talked my 11 year-old into watching with me, which was a task in itself because he has vowed to not watch any horror. ‘Space is frightening enough for me!’, he says more often than you’d imagine.

We both agreed that the effects were so good for this era and both regretted a little that we have lived only through the parodies and references. I think had I been around in the 1930s, this definitely would’ve creeped me out some. The first ‘reveal’ as Dr. Frankenstein coaxes The Monster into the light is so masterfully done. It gave me chills in a way I didn’t imagine a movie this old could. The fear was short lived as Karloff does such a wonderful job of playing a frightening monster as well as such a sympathetic man. My son felt the same until the scene where he drowns the little girl, and then he wanted only revenge. I’ll admit that scene of the father carrying his dead child through the wedding celebration was absolutely heartbreaking, but I still just wanted The Monster to be ok and maybe be loved by someone.

But that’s not to be, as we all know. I remember being shocked when I read Frankenstein in high school to find that it doesn’t end the same as the movie because to me at the time, they were one and the same. It says something to the makeup artists and designers that our version of Frankenstein comes directly from the movie and not the novel, even though it paints a much more horrifying picture. Even the beginning credits seem to downplay the novel, referring to Mary Shelley as ‘Mrs. Percy Shelley’. And the scientist seems more situationally mad in this adaptation as well, which I guess helps the audience to forgive him at the end for making something so awful.

Watchability score: 4/5 This made me want to binge watch all of the monster films of this time period

Up next: Only Horrorfest knows!

#379- Nosferatu the Vampyre

Quick recap: One of eight vampire films to come out in 1979, this one is a faithful retelling of the original Nosferatu.

Of course Dracula porn was a thing!

Fun (?) fact: Klaus Kinski, who played the title character, was apparently a big baby on set. His constant tantrums made him extremely difficult to work with, although Warner Herzog learned to use them to his advantage. Klinski wanted a more ‘excitable’ vampire, but Herzog disagreed. When Klinski wouldn’t budge on his opinion, Herzog made sure to goad him into a tantrum right before filming so that he would act subdued later on.

Thoughts and Observations:

Vampires can be creepy, weird, and yes even a little sexy, but they are definitely not scary. Especially with those pointy teeth and untrimmed fingernails. There were times during Nosferatu when I was definitely creeped out, like when the ship arrived at its destination and the villagers were met with a ton of rats and dead bodies. But the uneasiness never morphed into fear for me, though. Nosferatu seems like such an old-fashioned kind of monster, from a time when medicine was basically useless. That’s not to say that this film doesn’t have merit. I really enjoyed the time spent on the build up and the unease at what might be lurking around the corner. The end was especially enjoyable as the whole town came apart and basically just waited on their turn to die. The villagers dancing in the streets surrounded by coffins was wonderfully macabre. I don’t know the real story well enough to judge this adaptation so I was surprised when Dracula had been killed, only to realize a new vampire had risen and Lucy’s sacrifice was for nothing. A bleak ending always gets me into the Halloween spirit.

  • Renfield was my favorite character by far. He was so creepy and unhinged, like when he carried around a box of flies and kept trying to eat them. That was much scarier to me than the vampire because Renfield was so unpredictable.
  • I’m not afraid of rats and mice but a whole army of them disembarking from the ship to spread terror was so creepy. I would love to see a movie about the ship’s journey, as Nosferatu and his band of rats slowly take control of the crew.
  • The ghost boy playing the violin at the castle was anything but scary, however. As Jonathon Harker lays in pain from falling out of the tower window, this jerk kid stands by him and practices the violin. I didn’t realize he was a ghost at the time so the whole thing was just hilarious.

Final review: 4/5. Mysterious yes, scary no.

Up next: HorrorFest continues!

#356- Diabolique

Quick recap: A wife and the mistress team up to kill the husband, who’s really a jerk. After murdering him and dumping his body in a pool, things start to get weird. Even weirder than a wife and mistress teaming up!

My partner teacher and I when we are supposed to be watching the kids at recess

 

Fun (?) fact: Director Henri-Georges Clouzot beat Alfred Hitchcock to the rights to the film within a few hours. Don’t feel bad for ‘ol Hitchcock though: he later bought the film rights to another novel by the same author and called that film Vertigo.

Just a couple of teachers unwinding after a long semester

My thoughts: Before I start my review, let me just point out that two teachers having time to pull off a murder such as this one is ridiculous. Real teachers are so tired at the end of term that all we do is drink and sleep, not carry out heavily detailed plots to murder loved ones.

You’d think I’d also point out the absurdity of a mistress and wife teaming up but that’s where you are wrong because I loved it. If you take out the murder this becomes a buddy movie that writes itself. The wife, Christina, got on my nerves with her ‘delicate heart condition’ and wearing pigtails even though she’s like 30. But Nicole, the mistress, balances her out perfectly. The movie can be slow at times but the acting is so good that I didn’t really notice the lull. I’d love to add more about Nicole and Christina’s relationship but I can’t because there is a crazy twist that I just don’t have the heart to spoil right now.

seriously, the movie made me promise not to tell anyone

The entire movie is a slow build to something wonderful and actually terrifying so the pay off is worth it. After Michel’s murder, he keeps popping up everywhere, even though the women dumped him into a pool. The creepiest part for me was when the clothes he wore when he died were brought back to the school via a dry cleaners errand boy. It was such a tiny detail but all the possibilities as to how it happened made everything all the more spookier. That’s all I can say for now, except to go search this movie out for yourself and DON’T SPOIL IT!

Final review: 4/5

Up next: back to normal with La Dolce Vita