Synopsis of Movie
“I am Dracula. I bid you welcome.”
The history of Universal’s famous 1930’s horror films all comes back to one Transylvanian count with a taste for blood. Based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name, Dracula plunged audiences into the dark world of vampirism, making an international star out of Bela Lugosi. The Hungarian actor had already played Count Dracula in a late 1920’s stage version, and after three years of performances, he practically owned the role. Director Tod Browning brought both the actor and the story to the screen in 1931, and the rest is horror movie history.
Taking a few liberties with the novel, the movie opens with young real estate agent Renfield traveling to the Borgo Pass and Count Dracula’s Transylvanian home. The outwardly charming count has recently purchased a deserted abbey in London, and Renfield finalizes the paperwork. That night, the count stops by Renfield’s chambers for a nightcap of human blood, turning the agent into his vampiric servant. The two set sail for England, aboard a ship filled with soon-to-be victims.
In London, Renfield is imprisoned as a madman and placed under the care of Dr. Seward. Dracula, meanwhile, takes an interest in Seward’s daughter Mina and her friend Lucy. The latter falls completely under the Count’s spell, and another late-night visit turns her into the undead as well. Called in by Dr. Seward, a Dutch doctor named Professor Van Helsing arrives to make his own diagnosis: this is the work of “Nosferatu, the undead, the vampire.”
Centuries old and able to transform into a bat or a wolf, the vampire survives by drinking blood from the necks of its victims, turning them into his undead slaves. Together with the help of Mina’s fiancé, Jonathan Harker, Van Helsing takes on the powerful evil of Dracula himself, hoping to end his unholy reign and save the soul of Mina, who has been taken as well.
Filled with creepy shadows, Gothic imagery and above all, Lugosi’s menacing form and Eastern European accent, Dracula brought chills of delight from moviegoers, who made it one of the biggest hits of the year. Universal unleashed a flood of horror classics, starting with Frankenstein later that year and continuing through the 1940’s. Drac got a few sequels of his own during this run, including Dracula’s Daughter in 1936.
At the start of this sequel, Van Helsing is arrested for his part in the events of the first film. Elsewhere in London, a mysterious woman named Countess Marya Zaleska has a few issues of her own with Dracula. She wants to be freed from her vampiric curse, but the draw of blood is too much for her to resist. Once more, the bodies begin piling up, and Van Helsing is called in for another test of his vampire hunting mettle.
The Count himself returned for the final two chapters in his Universal story. John Carradine took over the role in 1944’s House of Frankenstein and its 1945 sequel, House of Dracula. A one-on-one-on-one monster battle royale, the two films pitted Dracula against both Frankenstein and The Wolf Man. The Universal Dracula series ended with these monster team-up flicks, but the character went on to star in over 100 features, becoming one of the most-filmed characters in motion picture history.
“The strength of the vampire is that people will not believe in him.”
Movie Release History1931 - Dracula
1936 - Dracula's Daughter
1943 - Son of Dracula
1944 - House of Frankenstein
1945 - House of Dracula
Movie Sub Categorieslive-action
CastCount Dracula Bela Lugosi
Coach Driver Bela Lugosi
Mina Seward Helen Chandler
Jonathan Harker David Manners
Renfield Dwight Frye
Professor Abraham Van Helsing Edward Van Sloan
Dr. Jack Seward Herbert Bunston
Lucy Weston Frances Dade
Maid Joan Standing
Martin Charles K. Gerard
Coach Passenger Nicholas Bela
Coach Passenger Daisy Belmore
Harbor Master Tod Browning
Briggs, a Nurse Moon Carroll
Young Girl Passenger Carla Laemmle
Coach Passenger Donald Murphy
Grace, English Nurse Josephine Velez
Innkeeper Michael Visaroff