Critics Consensus

Bela Lugosi's timeless portrayal of Dracula in this creepy and atmospheric 1931 film has set the standard for major vampiric roles since.



Total Count: 46


Audience Score

User Ratings: 44,682
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Movie Info

"I am....Drac-u-la. I bid you velcome." Thus does Bela Lugosi declare his presence in the 1931 screen version of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Director Tod Browning invests most of his mood and atmosphere in the first two reels, which were based on the original Stoker novel; the rest of the film is a more stagebound translation of the popular stage play by John Balderston and Hamilton Deane. Even so, the electric tension between the elegant Dracula and the vampire hunter Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) works as well on the screen as it did on the stage. And it's hard to forget such moments as the lustful gleam in the eyes of Mina Harker (Helen Chandler) as she succumbs to the will of Dracula, or the omnipresent insane giggle of the fly-eating Renfield (Dwight Frye). Despite the static nature of the final scenes, Dracula is a classic among horror films, with Bela Lugosi giving the performance of a lifetime as the erudite Count (both Lugosi and co-star Frye would forever after be typecast as a result of this film, which had unfortunate consequences for both men's careers). Compare this Dracula to the simultaneously filmed Spanish-language version, which makes up for the absence of Lugosi with a stronger sense of visual dynamics in the lengthy dialogue sequences. In 1999, a special rerelease of Dracula was prepared featuring a new musical score written by Philip Glass and performed by The Kronos Quartet. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Dracula

All Critics (46) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (42) | Rotten (4)

  • An exciting melodrama, not as good as it ought to be but a cut above the ordinary trapdoor-and-winding-sheet type of mystery film.

    Oct 15, 2008 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • A sublimated ghost story related with all surface seriousness and above all with a remarkably effective background of creepy atmosphere.

    Oct 7, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • The opening scenes, set in Dracula's castle, are magnificent -- grave, stately, and severe. But the film becomes unbearably static once the action moves to England.

    Sep 25, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Not by any means the masterpiece of fond memory or reputation, although the first twenty minutes are astonishingly fluid and brilliantly shot by Karl Freund.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…

    Tom Milne

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • With Mr. Browning's imaginative direction and Mr. Lugosi's makeup and weird gestures, this picture succeeds to some extent in its grand guignol intentions.

    May 20, 2003 | Full Review…
  • Certainly it is Lugosi's performance, and the cinematography of Karl Freund, that make Tod Browning's film such an influential Hollywood picture.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Dracula

  • Nov 29, 2017
    One of the problems modern viewers will have with Tod Browning's 1931 'Dracula' (ok, at least this modern viewer), unfair as it may be, is that countless versions of the vampire tale have been told over the decades, so quite a bit of the shock value is lost. This version is told in a 'right down central' type of way, and unlike some of Browning's other seriously creepy movies from this time period which I love, it's hard to imagine anyone being scared or feeling tension which watching it. Browning tries to give us the tinglies with various things like bugs crawling about in the beginning, but too many of his effects seem like comical parodies, such as a rubber bat dangled in the window more than once. Unfortunately, I would also put legendary actor Bela Lugosi's performance in this category. His demeanor and slow cadence with words doesn't produce the intended chills, and he's not helped by Browning's tight shots on him staring into the camera. We can recognize this film as the adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel that influenced so many which would follow and give it credit for that, but it's not such a great movie to pull others together for at, say, Halloween time. You can do better for horror/scary/creepy even in the time period.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 13, 2016
    It knows how to create a very creepy atmosphere and benefits from a magnetic performance by Bela Lugosi, even though the movie didn't age so well (a deleted epilogue makes the last scene seem too abrupt today) and everything about it is more theatrical than realistic.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 15, 2014
    Memorable for it's mostly dead right casting more than it's often dead wrong direction, classic Universal horror flick Dracula rightfully birthed a worthy screen legend regardless of sloppy flubs. Owing more to Lon Chaney than Bram Stoker, the story gives filmgoers the silent treatment more often than not. After all, director Tod Browning helmed the subtitled '20s gem The Unholy Three starring Chaney and had that very same acting royalty lined up for this Stoker adaptation before the actor died from lung cancer. True-blue Hungarian Bela Lugosi assumed the role and the rest is film history. Heavily accented and looking VERY Eastern European, he brought a menacing authenticity to the part even if he hardly matches the book's description of a gaunt bearded count. In this unrated horror classic, the ancient vampire Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina (Helen Chandler). Actually, the film takes a lot of liberties (besides not taking an epistolary angle, the plight of daffy solicitor Renfield - not dashing solicitor Jonathan Harker - becomes the early focus), but the nips and tucks streamline Gothic terror to an appropriate degree given the rather Puritan era. And mind you, this is a pre-Code film! The graphic nature of Dracula is not the problem, however. Any bad blood gets spilled due to Browning. Given his often A-Grade horror pedigree (besides The Unholy Terror, The Unknown, and London at Midnight, he later helmed the excellent piece of shock theater called Freaks), much more was expected from his H'Wood talents. Continually seeing pieces of cardboard taped over bedside lamps to offset the studio lighting, for example, demonstrates a sloppy Devil-May-Care attitude that often kills the film's atmosphere. This is not to say that Dracula's not atmospheric, however. The low budget and early talkie parameters alone make the goings feel rather otherworldly and - cardboard aside - the shadowy backdrop sets an ominous tone. These proved to be the hallmarks of Universal Horror - Gothic horror tales that're oft-kilter casted and aesthetically dark in an age when movies were NEVER set entirely at night - and they started with this, a still impressive bloodless bloodletter. Bottom line: Vampire Bask
    Jeff B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 25, 2012
    Viewed today, "Dracula" is a huge bore that would remain forgotten to most if it weren't for Bela Lugosi's iconic performance. When it comes to the film's faults, Tod Browning is responsible. His clumsy direction results in poor acting, a sluggish pace and questionable shot composition. I respect the classic stature that "Dracula" has, but I suspect that the film is more known for its influence rather than actual content. I had a hard time staying awake.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer

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