Classic Universal Monster #2 – DRACULA

During the Halloween season I always try to do a theme for the site. This year I will be talking about classic Universal Horror Films. Universal Pictures was pretty much built on their classic horror movies. All of the horror movies that they have made pretty much set the standard for horror films and the way that we view these classic monsters today. I consider all of these films favorites of mine. Whenever we hear the name Frankenstein, Wolf Man or Dracula, we automatically associate that monster with what Universal envisioned back in the early days of filmmaking. With Halloween coming up I thought it would be cool to give a list of my favorite Universal Horror films and monsters. The second film I will be discussing is Dracula.


Bela Lugosi stars as Dracula in this 1931 classic, and it defined his career. Producer Carl Laemmle Jr. originally wanted Lon Chaney to play Dracula but he was diagnosed with throat cancer, and died in 1930. Then when the great depression hit, the films budget had to be reduced drastically. Because of this a great deal of Bram Stokers storyline had to be cut out, and they had to go with a cheaper actor. Bela Lugosi was not their first choice, but he lobbied hard for the role and ultimately got it due to the fact that he offered to accept far less money than what his co-stars were making. He made $500 a week.


I know many people that have not seen this original version of Dracula. Some of them are turned off by the fact that it is in black and white, and that it was made in the 1930's. Just because it is an older film doesn't mean it's not good. It's incredibly entertaining. There are a ton of older films that are better than the crap we are seeing get made today. If you haven't seen Dracula yet then please watch it! It truly is a classic film that was a huge part in shaping how we all see Dracula as today.

Here are some things you may not know about the film that I found interesting:

A Spanish-language version, Drácula (1931), was filmed at night on the same set at the same time, with Spanish-speaking actors.

When Carl Laemmle moved Universal to California in 1914, a version of "Dracula" was one of the first projects being considered. It was over fifteen years before this version was produced.

Due to studio demands to cut costs, the film was shot in sequence.

Cinematographer Karl Freund achieved the effect of Dracula's hypnotic stare by aiming two pencil-spot-lights into actor Bela Lugosi's eyes.

The spider webs in Dracula's castle were created by shooting rubber cement from a rotary gun.

The Royal Albert Hall sequence of the movie was filmed on the same stage where The Phantom of the Opera (1925) starring Lon Chaney had been filmed.

The studio did not want the scene where Dracula attacks Renfield to be filmed due to the perceived gay subtext of the situation. A memo was sent to the director stating "Dracula is only to attack women".

Several famous elements often associated with Dracula are not visible in this film. At no point does Dracula display fangs. Also, the famous vampire bite mark on the neck is never shown either

There was no real musical soundtrack in the film because it was believed that, with sound being such a recent innovation in films, the audience would not accept hearing music in a scene if there was no explanation for it being there (e.g., the orchestra playing off camera when Dracula meets Mina at the theatre).

Bela Lugosi played Dracula only once more on screen, in the comedy Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

Bette Davis (who had a contract at Universal at the time) was considered to play the part of Mina Harker. However, Universal head Carl Laemmle Jr. didn't think too highly of her sex appeal.

Although he lived for 67 years after the film was released, David Manners (John Harker) claimed he never watched it.

Apparently morose over the loss of friend and collaborator Lon Chaney and in the midst of severe alcoholism, the normally meticulous Tod Browning was said to have been sullen and unprofessional during the shoot. Among his actions were to leave set, leaving cinematographer Karl Freund to direct scenes. He would also recklessly tear pages out of the script if he felt them to be redundant.

When Bela Lugosi died in 1956, he was buried wearing the black silk cape he wore for this film.

To read my last Classic Universal Monster article on The Phantom of the Opera, Click Here.

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