Trevor Elms’s review published on Letterboxd:
This film is very near and dear to my heart. Growing up my Grandfather was always raving about Bela Lugosi and his Dracula. How it could never be topped.
Personally, I was a big fan of Francis Ford Coppola's film starring Gary Oldman in the titular role; at the time. Him and I would have debates about which was better -- him going on about how and why Gary Oldman's could never be considered better.
Before he passed my grandfather convinced me to watch the "boring" black & white 1931 film. I fell asleep during it and we never got to really speak about it afterwards at length.
More than fifteen years later I decided it was time to watch it again, as a true adult I can look at the movie not just through his lens, but my own and see exactly what he was talking about.
Not only does this movie cut out all the fat that exists in the 90s version and focus solely on the most interesting parts -- there is very little about Bela Lugosi's truly unsettling performance that did not inspire Oldman's.
I found the performances from most characters to be good but Lugosi & Dwight Frye (Renfield) are on a level of their own. Truly uncomfortable performances mostly purely with control of facial expression and acting. Those damn eyes.
It speaks to the films' quality when special effects from the 1930s (like a flappy bat on a stick/string that doesn't move) do not take me out of the experience whatsoever. The acting, sets, & atmosphere do what they need to to make up for it.
Though, the special effects are also impressive for the time period I feel. This film is an absolute classic that brings a chill to my spine regardless of its age.