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"Dracula" on DVD

Fangs for the Memories...

The most famous screen adaptation of Bram Stoker's tale of the undead, Universal's 1931 "Dracula" on DVD offers scare aficionados three times the fun for their money.

That's because you get not only the original version of the film, but Universal Home Video has thrown in the original Spanish version and the English version with a brand new musical score.

Plus other extras...

Bela Lugosi was the best film Dracula, appropriately charming and menacing depending upon the situation. This film takes him from his Transylvanian castle to London, where the pickings will be much better - since no one knows who he is nor would believe what he is.

Call it "staking a claim" in a new country.

Naturally, Professor van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) figures out who Dracula really is, and decides he'd better stake his own claim to fame.

The cast, including Dwight Fry as the tormented Renfield, is a first rate bunch of "B" actors and the entire production is appropriate creepy - though modern moviegoers won't find it particularly scary - except perhaps for the cheesy bats that are obviously being dangled from above. The sets are fantastic, however, and have inspired many a horror film that followed.

None of the hokiness spoils the good stuff in this movie, however, and it's a must have for collectors of the horror genre or classic films in general.

The original version is presented in its original theatrical form, with its original lack of musical accompaniment beyond the opening credits. On the whole, it's our preferred version, though it was certainly interesting to experience the new musical score.

The new score, written by Phillip Glass and performed by Kronos Quartet. The specially composed music is pretty good, but it seems a bit obtrusive. One advantage it has is that it turns the soundtrack into Dolby Digital 5.1, with multichannel music and with the voices directed to the center front channel (the original version uses the main stereo speakers for the voices).

Extras include a half hour (or so) documentary "The Road to Dracula," which outlines the genesis of the Dracula legend and its cinematic counterparts, a feature commentary by film historian David J. Skal (a fascinating glimpse at the Dracula mystique and how it was translated to the screen). There are also the usual chapter stops etc.

The Spanish version, which features its own menu and its own extras, was filmed at the same time and on the same sets as the English version. The English crew worked days, with the Spanish crew filling in the night shift. It's interesting to see the differences (besides language, of course) between two directors' and casts' interpretation of the same script.

The Spanish version defaults to an introduction (in English) by lead actress Lupita Tovar Kohner. You can add English subtitles to make the film more understandable, then sit back and enjoy.

The Spanish layer also includes English language production notes. Both versions are in the original full screen incarnation.

Neither version of the film appears to have been remastered, which is a shame. The audio and video quality are still good, though and the flaws in the picture don't really detract from your enjoyment of the movie.

Dracula, from Universal Home Video
75 minutes, Fullscreen, Dolby Digital
Starring Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan,
Written by Garrett Fort,
Directed by Tod Browning


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Updated May 13, 2006