Karen: I had the pleasure of seeing the original Universal Studios Dracula this last Sunday on the big screen courtesy of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies (TCM). I actually saw Dracula twice: first the classic Bela Lugosi version was shown, and after a ten minute intermission, the Spanish-language version, made on the same sets but with a different cast, was shown. I highly recommend seeing classic films like these on the big screen; it's a completely different experience than seeing it on a TV set. The Lugosi Dracula was also the restored, high def version that is available as part of the blu-ray set of Universal Monsters films that came out a couple of years ago, and it's astonishingly clean and sharp. I know I was particularly amazed at how clear the sound was -no hissing or crackling!
I probably can't add anything new to the reams of commentary that have been made about this classic. I will say that the story seems almost truncated, like a Cliff's Notes version of the novel, with whole scenes whittled down to bare sketches (the time at Dracula's castle, the voyage on board the Vesta, etc.) although the Spanish version does slightly expand some scenes and adds a few shots that help tell the story a bit better. This was the first time I saw the entire Spanish language version, and while I can understand why some people might argue that it is the better production, there is one thing that keeps that from being true: Carlos Villarias is an absolutely awful Dracula! He is constantly mugging and grimacing, and his Count is utterly devoid of menace.
|Carlos Villarias as Dracula|
I want to say I am not connected to Fathom Events, TCM, or Universal in any way, but I encourage all of you to catch these films on the big screen. Fathom showed Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein around Halloween last year and it was fabulous. At both last year's and this year's shows, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz appeared at the beginning of both films to provide some insights into each movie. I've read a ton on the Universal films and nothing he said was new to me, but I'm sure it was enlightening to some of the folks in the audience I was with. I appreciate Fathom, TCM, and Universal putting these films back out there and keeping them alive in theaters. I hope that perhaps another generation of film-goers can experience them and understand what makes them so special. Please note that many theaters will also be showing this double-feature this Wednesday, October 28th, so you still have a chance to see it! Check out the Fathom website to locate a theater near you.