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The Original Dracula Movie

Updated on June 26, 2010

Carl Laemmle's Universal Pictures created the Dracula movie in 1931 as one of the very first classic Hollywood horror films. It was a highly commended work of art directed by Tod Browning who has also made a name for himself as the director of two other films about vampires: Mark of the Vampire in 1935 and London after Midnight in 1927, which are also known by the alternate titles of Vampires or Prague and The Hypnotist respectively. In his 1935 film, Lionel Barrymore and Bela Lugosi shared Lon Chaney's two sided character. This classic Dracula movie brought such tremendous success for Universal, that Browning moved on to directing the truly out of the ordinary horror film Freaks in the following year, 1932 for MGM. The Dracula movie was a film that became famous for its cult status and produced enough controversy to cause it to be banned in Britain for almost three decades. It is hard to believe that it was well into the Sixties when UK audiences could legally watch movies about Dracula!

When Lon Chaney Sr. also known as "The Man of a Thousand Faces" died of throat cancer, Bela Lugosi, originally Bela Blasko, took over his part in this "talkie" horror Dracula movie. Bela Lugosi was a Hungarian stage actor who had a starring role in the Broadway stage play which was a huge hit at the time. Browning and Lon Chaney Sr. were coworkers on 10 films, which included the 1928 "West of Zanzibar", the 1925 "The Unholy Three" about three freaks from a sideshow, the 1927 "London After Midnight" and the 1929 "Where East is East". Lugosi made a name for himself as the ultimate screen vampire in the Dracula movie.

The 1897 novel Dracula by Abraham ("Bram") Stoker was the source for the plotline of the movie. (Garrett Fort's production of the screenplay was more in line with the noted stage play by John L. Balderston and Hamilton Deane.) The very first film production of the novel was a German silent movie which became a great classic: Nosferatu: A Symphony in Terror. It was released in 1922 and was an adaptation (albeit unauthorized) of Stoker's novel. The expressionist F.W. Murnau was the director and in his movie, the rat-like Dracula (Max Schreck) was given the name "Graf Orlock". In England the motion was released under the title of Dracula.

Certain parts of the Dracula movie were censored in overseas viewings such as: Renfield's scene in which he begged to be allowed to eat flies and spiders, the reading of the newspaper account of Lucy's victimization of children in her role as vampire bride, the emergence from a coffin of a gigantic bug and the appearance of the three zombie-like wives of Dracula in his castle. Such censoring of a Dracula movie seems difficult to believe in today's world when audiences have become accustomed (or is it better to state: calloused) to horrific violence which glorifies sadism and murder and the common sight of blood splattered movie screens!


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