horror, USA, 1931

DIRECTED BY: Tod Browning


Bela Lugosi (Count Dracula),
Helen Chandler (Mina),
David Manners (John Harker),
Dwight Frye (Renfield),
Edward Van Sloan (Van Helsing),
Herbert Bunston (Doctor Seward),
Frances Dade (Lucy),
Joan Standing (Maid),
Charles K. Gerrard (Martin)

Garrett Fort

Karl Freund

Heinz Roemheld

Milton Carruth,
Maurice Pivar

Ed Ware,
Vera West


In the carriage that travels through the Carpathians towards Transylvania during Walpurgis Night before May 1, the only passenger is lawyer and real estate agent Renfield. His task is to arrange for Count Dracula, who lives in the castle of the same name, to rent Carfax Abbey near London, where the count intends to live.

When he arrives in a nearby village before going to the castle, Renfield learns at the inn that the locals believe that vampires live in the castle, and he is warned not to go there. However, he continues his journey, and after a ride during which the coachman disappears, and the bat leads the horses, he finally reaches the castle. In the ghostly building, Renfield is greeted by a charming, elegant and bespectacled count, who informs him that he intends to travel to England the very next day. But Dracula will soon hypnotize the lawyer, who will become a victim of the count and three ladies in his service.

Not long after, the sailing ship Vesta had an accident while docking in the port of Whitby near Carfax Abbey, and a furious Renfield was found among the passengers, eating rats and insects. While he is placed in the office of psychiatrist Seward, Count Dracula will meet the good-natured psychiatrist in a London theater, but also his attractive daughter Mina, her fiancé John Harker and family friend Lucy Weston. None of them have any idea that they will all soon become Dracula's victims, especially Lucy, who will be fascinated by the elegant and sweet-talking count.

Along with the iconic Freaks, a story about physically deformed members of a circus troupe that he realized in 1932, the fantastic horror Dracula is the most famous and most successful work of the American master of horror and researcher of the "abyss of the psyche" Tod Browning. Moreover, both films are actually emblematic works of the author whose biographical details are as interesting as his films.

As a teenager, Browning ran away from home and joined a traveling circus, where among the many jobs he performed, his biggest attraction stood out. He would take on the role of a hypnotized living corpse, or a kind of zombie, who would be 'buried' in front of the audience in a coffin with ventilation, and after a day or two taken out of the coffin. On the other hand, the time he spent in the circus undoubtedly influenced the way he portrayed the group of circus performers, their everyday life and mutual relationships in Nakaza.

Although the biographical data of a certain author are often not reliable guidelines in defining his poetics, in Browning's case they are too significant to be ignored. In this sense, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that his preference for dark and closed spaces full of discomfort, or claustrophilia, is at least partially conditioned by the experience gained in his youth.

Filmed a year before The Freaks, the free adaptation of the famous novel Dracula by the Irish writer Bram Stoker is not a direct screen adaptation of the novel published in 1897, but is primarily based on the Broadway performance of the play Dracula by the playwright Hamilton Deane from 1924, which was based on Stoker's novel, and which was somewhat reworked and revised three years later by the American writer John L. Balderston. It is precisely in this detail that a certain stylistic inconsistency of Browning's film is hidden: its first part relies intensively and quite effectively on the poetics of German Expressionism, which at the time influenced the perception of art-film in Hollywood, while the second part is clearly the background of a Broadway theater play .

Studio Universal, that is, producer Carl Leammle Jr., who was fascinated by Murnau's Nosferatu from 1922, was behind the entire project and wanted to film a lavish spectacle. Such plans were hindered by the arrival of the sound film and the great economic crisis, as a result of which costs had to be cut, so a theatrical play was taken as the main template, which had already proven to be commercially very successful.

From today's perspective, the first authorized film version of Dracula (Murnau's film was not) seems to a certain extent outdated and anachronistic, due to the sometimes sluggish direction and overly theatrical and over-emphasized acting, but it is undeniably a classic that at the time of its premiere became a big hit. cinema hit.

Dracula is strikingly embodied by the then 49-year-old Bela Lugosi, originally from Hungary, real name Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó, who thanks to this role and the role in Frankenstein's son by director Rowland V. Lee from 1939, was remembered as one of the most famous acting protectors of the classic of horror, together with Boris Karloff, who in the same year in 1931 embodied the legendary monster from Mary Shelley's pen in Universal's horror film Frankenstein.

It is interesting that the title role was not initially intended for Lugosi, but was to be played by Lon Chaney, the star of Wallace Worsley's The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Rupert Julian's Phantom of the Opera from the first half of the 20s, who, however, died of throat cancer during the preparation of the project. 

According to some sources, Browning was allegedly not overly interested in the film, which is partly why it was directed by Karl Freund, a respected director and great cinematographer responsible for the impressive visual grayscale of such masterpieces as Fritz Lang's Metropolis, George Cukor's Lady with the Camellias, and Largo Island. John Huston.

As an interesting point, it should be noted that at the time of the premiere, the Universal studio advertised the film as a love story, with the slogans 'the story of the strangest passion the world has ever seen' and 'the most unusual love that man has ever known', thus playing on the combination of eros and thanatos and attracting viewers by suggesting an unusual romance.

Text author: Josip Grozdanić

b/w, 75'