Watching the original Dracula for the first time in 2017 feels a bit absurd. But that’s the way it is. I’d never seen the movie before. Although when you put together every famous scene and still involving Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, I may as well have seen the whole film in pieces.
One of the biggest revelations for me is that Dwight Frye was a real dude. At this point, looking at his contributions to old horror movies, I really should’ve already known this. I have spent almost 30 years assuming Alice Cooper’s “The Ballad of Dwight Fry” was just about another one of the Coop’s lunatic creations. Turns out, it is so clearly and obviously inspired by Frye’s portrayal of Renfield in Dracula. One of my favorite things about existing in pop culture is that pieces of work you have lived with for decades can one day take on a new life.
The next revelation is how truly creepy Bela Lugosi is. I mean, I’ve seen the pictures and clips from the movie a ton of times, but in context of the film it’s pretty effective. I am looking forward to digging into his horror filmography, to be sure.
It’s fun to view the film for its historical importance and to consider what their technology at the time let them accomplish and also what it might have hindered them from doing. I will say, one thing that time has done to the story and character is aggrandize the whole thing. I’ve read most of Bram Stoker’s novel (not sure why I never finished it?), and maybe the epistolary format, which would have to be altered for the silver screen, is one reason. But over the years, the idea of Dracula as romance, as lust, as this unholy creature of the night who is in constant battle with Van Helsing, vampire hunter—well, those ideas are seeds in the 1931 film that have erupted in pop culture over the past almost 100 years. These concepts see fruition, for sure, in the 1992 Coppola film, which I only vaguely remember (for some reason I was picturing Christopher Walken as Drac?).
Suffice it to say, we’re looking forward to dipping our toes even deeper in the Universal Monsters water…heh.