cataloging

Running Commentary on Dracula (1931)

I've been participating in Mythgard's Dracula discussion for the last couple of months--which is a fascinating book and pretty much functions like a proto-SPN--and to close out the whole shebang, the group is looking at some of the more influential movie adaptations of Dracula, starting with the 1931 version starring Bela Lugosi. And SPN fans, if you've never seen it, you really should, because the much beloved episode "Monster Movie" is full of visual references to it. I'll probably wind up doing a comparison because it's really nifty to see in action.

Anyway, because of the discussion group, I happened to be taking notes as I watched the movie for the first time, and ... well, rereading them made me laugh, so I figured there might be some entertainment value in them for other people. It's a rather baffling adaptation.




- They've stripped out the subtlety of the original and gone for pure atmosphere.

- What's with the possums? (Wait, what's with the armadillos?)

- Johnathan's kind of dumb in this.

- Wait--Jonathan's actually Renfield? What?! Why??

- Not sure of the effect of making him American.

- (Visually this matches "Monster Movie" brilliantly--the shapeshifter is perfect as Dracula. And the set for the show-down scene matches Renfield's bedroom at Dracula's.)

- Dracula's character is rather more urbane than in the book. Also, he feeds on Renfield/Harker at the beginning?! Also also, he needs Renfield's help in the sea crossing??

- The storm seems random, not controlled by Dracula.

- Renfield's zoophagy isn't given an explanation.

- Dracula's London feeding seems reckless, almost OOC.

- Mina's character and relationship are rather different from book. More "silly girl", not at all clever.

- Dracula enters Lucy's room uninvited--a major break with the book's lore.

- The whole thing really is more of a monster movie as opposed to an epistolary horror-mystery.

- In Seward's asylum, Renfield's zoophagy is suppressed rather than explored as in the book.

- Van Helsing appears to be more of a mad scientist than a doctor.

- ....So basically this movie is just the book put through a meat-grinder. I can't figure out what anyone's motivation is.

- Wolfsbane!???! It's supposed to be garlic, you dopes.

- Also, what's with Renfield's obsession with Mina? They've never met onscreen. And why's he protesting Dracula's telepathic orders? Dracula doesn't need him to do anything. Dracula gets to Mina just fine on his own. (What are Dracula's orders to him? Can't figure out what's going on.)

- Jonathan is a dope. And Van Helsing is creepy, not adorable.

- Dracula does a much better job of infiltrating society than in the book.

- Why change Seward's role to that of Mina's father?

- Also, these filmmakers are definitely not feminists, given how they've completely trashed both Lucy and Mina's characters.

- WHAT THE HECK IS RENFIELD'S MOTIVATION?????? (Also: hey, he's doing the Gollum thing.)

- (Dean faints better than the parlor maid does)

- (Mina does look like Jamie. And there's some coffin-opening like in the Mummy scene from "Monster Movie")

- Very different relationship between Harker and everyone, especially [not sure what I was going to write here, got distracted by....]

- WHY WOLFSBANE???!!!? What the heck is wrong with garlic?

- Seward runs a pretty lax ship if Renfield can just keep getting out like this.

- None of this makes any sense. (Let me repeat it for the back: None of this makes any sense.)

- Martin is a very poor substitute for Quincy.

- Mina's outfit does look a bit like the brides' gowns at the beginning--one very small point to you, movie.

- What the heck is up with Van Helsing's closing line? (No, seriously--what the heck is that supposed to mean? Did someone accidentally remove the last 10 minutes of the movie?)