Director of Dracula and other movies of the silent and post-silent era.
Dracula (1931) -- Bela Lugosi's Dracula is still how we think of this character, even after several decades (and several remakes) later. And although there are other versions of this story that do interesting things (such as Murnau's, Herzog's, and Coppola's), this one is potentially still the best, telling the story in an economic way (the movie is only an hour and fifteen minutes long), trimming anything unnecessary from the Stoker novel (lots of this movie was based on a stage play, which is much more effective than the boring digressions Stoker went into). Many have noted the lack of a musical score, and those silences are a little uncomfortable, but this was of course a result of this being one of Tod Browning's first talkies after being a silent movie director for fifteen years, so he didn't realize (who did?) the importance of music yet. (Philip Glass and The Kronos Quartet, in an attempt to remedy this, created a score in 1999, but I haven't heard it yet.) At any rate, it's one of the few "flaws," if you can call it that. The lack of sexiness in the movie is also appropriate. Almost every vampire movie made after this one "figured out" that vampire = sex, so they put it in the forefront (Coppola even had someone being fucked by Dracula-as-wolf), but sex in a vampire movie is redundant and defeats the purpose of having a vampire at all. The higher the collars the better, and in this case, there's even a fade out before Lugosi bites anyone's neck, which implies sex more than if we saw him sink his teeth in. This version also lets us ask questions like "What kind of sex?" (an important question, seems to me), which other versions don't allow. Is the movie scary? Sort of. I'm sure it was in 1931, before all of what we see on screen has since become clichés. Many of Renfield's weird-outs are still very creepy, especially when they find him in the boat. In the end, the first of the Universal horror cycle is a classic that everyone should see. (See Lambert Hillyer for the sequel, Dracula's Daughter.)
Freaks (1932) -- A sort of polished sideshow act, doing the same kind of exploitation while being a little more nice about it. Once you come to grips with whatever you think of the premise of having real-life human oddities in a movie, the story itself is complicated as well, as the movie spends the first 90% of the movie showing the human side of these people, basically getting us on their side. Then the last 10% of the movie shows them in the most freakish and horrifying way possible: crawling and creeping around in a rainstorm with knives in their hands intent on mutilating someone who's not "one of them." A very cool and memorable movie you should see at least once.
Copyright (c) Apr 2005 - Apr 2006 by Rusty Likes Movies