Saturday, April 17, 2010
Having never seen Francis Ford Coppola's 'Dracula' or Todd Browning's original, I decided to sit down and watch the two of them back-to-back. While I greatly admired the audacity that went into Coppola's version (which translated into one of the most visually awesome movies ever to come out of the horror genre), I think the 1931 classic, partly because of its legendary status, stands above any 'Dracula' story ever told on film. Of all the old Universal monster movies, this one is the most 'classic' and easily the most well-made. It looks amazing for a movie from the early thirties; the sets are brilliantly conceived and Karl Freund's cinematography reminded me of some of the finest work done in black and white film noir. While the visuals in the movie definitely aren't as flamboyant as Coppola's vision, they're still equally dark and mysterious in their own way. But what I really liked about the movie was the simplicity in which the story is presented. Coppola's version tried various narrative structures to make the plot different, but his efforts didn't quite translate into success. Here, Garret Fort's script contains no pointless plot detours, no extra detail, and no nonsense. He keeps things very simple, which may or may not be in line with the original novel as I have never read it. But anyway, I enjoyed the simplicity of the story in comparison to Coppola's convoluted one. And finally, what nearly everyone cites as the central reason to see the movie is Bela Lugosi's haunting turn as Count Dracula. As weird and strange and brilliant as Gary Oldman was as Dracula, Lugosi still rules in the finest portrayal of the blood-thirsty, fanged legend.