A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this classic black and white Dracula contains some mild, but frank talk about death and blood, and some blood is shown. There are some subtle, but still creepy images, though most of the horror is suggested or offscreen. Sexuality has always been part of the Dracula legend, and some almost imperceptible innuendo is present in this movie. Some young viewers may find the movie a bit stiff, but as one of the most iconic movies of all time, they'll likely appreciate it's chilling imagery, if nothing else.
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What's the story?
Solicitor Renfield (Dwight Frye) arrives in Transylvania, and despite grim warnings from the locals, arrives at DRACULA's castle so that the Count (Bela Lugosi) can sign the papers on his new abbey in London. Later, Renfield has become Dracula's insane servant, and the count insinuates himself into London society, befriending Jonathan Harker (David Manners), his pretty financee Mina (Helen Chandler), and their friend Lucy (Frances Dade). After Lucy meets a strange fate, the suspicious Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) begins to investigate; he wants to prove that Dracula is indeed a vampire. But even if he can do this, can he stop the horrible creature?
Is it any good?
Dracula seems a bit stiff and stagy, and indeed it was adapted from the successful stage play of the time, rather than directly from Bram Stoker's famous book. Often, actions are described rather than shown. Moreover, director Tod Browning was forced to cast the star of the play, Bela Lugosi, rather than his first choice, actor Lon Chaney (who had recently died). Now, however, it's difficult to picture any other actor in the role, and almost all of today's vampire lore can be traced back to Lugosi.
Browning was more familiar with and adept at macabre material than any other director, and he instills the movie with a creepy, sinister mood that's hard to shake. Part of this is thanks to the master cinematographer Karl Freund (who would go on to direct the equally creepy The Mummy the following year), and part of it is thanks to some purely unsettling imagery. Perhaps best of all is the dialogue, which yielded many memorable lines. All in all, it's a chilling classic.
Talk to your kids about ...
What kind of character is Dracula? He's not the hero -- so what role does he play? What makes him so timelessly appealing?
- In theaters: February 14, 1931
- On DVD or streaming: September 26, 2006
- Cast: Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Helen Chandler
- Director: Tod Browning
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 75 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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