After all these years, nothing gives me the chills more than the opening theme to Universal’s horror classic, “Dracula.” Whenever I try to determine the best stare in cinematic history, it belongs to the one, the only, Bela Lugosi.

Every Halloween, this is a film that will always be on my viewing list. Ever since its original release in 1931, “Dracula” has remained, and always will remain, a true horror classic for the ages.

In the land of Transylvania, the solicitor Renfield [Dwight Frye] travels to search for a signature of his client. Although, Renfield is not aware of the dark forces that lie ahead of him. Once he arrives at the castle, there he finally meets his client, Count Dracula [Bela Lugosi].

Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

Once under his control, the Count gets Renfield to transport him across the sea to London. Once there, Count Dracula falls into his own ways, by looking to control the lovely Mina [Helen Chandler] for himself.

In my eyes, “Dracula” is the definitive vampire film. Is some of the acting very theatrical? It is, yet given the period this film was made, it makes so much sense. Every time Bela Lugosi shows up on-screen, I always get a chill down my spine.

He doesn’t have to say much, he speaks with his eyes. But when he does talk, he delivers a line that is meant to be iconic. All of the other actors do a great job, but I have to give Dwight Frye some recognition for his haunting performance.

Due to sound in film being in its infancy, there is no soundtrack playing in the background. But for some reason, it works tremendously. The sound of film grain against a moody atmosphere, sets up a creepy vibe that even music couldn’t have done. Watching the fog descend upon the nighttime sets, is absolutely beautiful to look at.

Director Tod Browning creates a luscious mise-en-scene that many horror directors have tried to top for years. Except for another “monster” right after, nobody has reached his potential. “Dracula” rose to the top and has remained there ever since.

Rating: A+



While I go on and on praising “Dracula” and what an achievement it was, there was a follow-up that same year that is worthy enough to stand beside it. Thanks to “Dracula’s” success at the box office, Universal was ready to release another famous book adaptation about a “monster.” While it’s a different kind of monster, “Frankenstein” incorporates many of the elements that made “Dracula” so iconic.

With the help of his hunchback assistant, Dr. Henry Frankenstein [Colin Clive] strives to become the ultimate being, God himself. Both him and Fritz [Dwight Frye] are passionate about what may come out of this experiment. Once he has all the parts he needs, Dr. Frankenstein prepares himself for the possible resurrection of his creation. But once the monster runs loose on the streets, leaving havoc in his wake, Henry decides that he has to be the one to take him out of this world.

Where do you even begin to praise a film of this nature? Everybody’s great, from the expressive Boris Karloff to the cold and calculating Colin Clive. These two have great chemistry together as the creator and the creation. Colin plays the true archetype of the mad scientist, but is well-aware that he could be wrong. Karloff looks like a gruff one-dimensional monster, but deep down, everything is a misunderstanding.

“Frankenstein” is more dialogue driven than “Dracula,” yet the tone and atmosphere remain the same. The accompaniment of the film grain as background noise, helps sell this film’s dreadful tone. The interiors and the beautiful matte paintings create a dream-like atmosphere that you’re unable to wake up from. This time around, I noticed some inspiration from the German Expressionist movement of the 1920s.

Director James Whale did a marvelous job of putting together an all-star cast and an intriguing story. Karloff and Clive create lasting performances that are still recognized to this very day. So, come Halloween night, pull up a chair, dig into some bite size candy bars and enjoy an evening with “Frankenstein.”

Rating: A+


Matt Bilodeau can be contacted at mbilodeau@keene-equinox.com

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