Franchise Fred Vs. The Universal Monsters: Dracula

Thanks to some overlap with the Frankenstein movies, I was able to complete the Dracula series in the Universal Classic Monsters 30 film Blu-ray ray collection. It’s probably got the fewest solo Dracula movies, indicated how this franchise struggled.

Having never seen the original Bela Lugosi Dracula, I was surprised how close it is to the Bram Stoker story. I’d always imagined it was a loose adaptation but it still has the Count (Lugosi) travel from his castle to England, seduce Mina Harker (Helen Chandler) and Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) stakes him once and for all (until the next one).

I’ve always been fascinated by the Spanish language Dracula, and surprised more movies don’t try to milk alternate films out of their standing sets. This and Gus Van Sant’s Psycho are kind of the only examples of two different movies shot entirely the same, though with different methods in each case.

The Spanish version is remarkably the same, but a little more natural so understandably considered superior. Maybe that’s just because I don’t speak the language so it doesn’t seem as broad when I’m reading the subtitles.

Dracula is first movie I’ve seen in this collection that doesn’t look perfect on Blu-ray. It is fairly scratched up. The Spanish version is more pristine until 19 minutes in. Then it’s back when they return to England.

Dracula’s Daughter picks up right where Dracula left off with Van Helsing staking the Count. It deals with Van Helsing having to explain to a secular world why he stabbed a dude with a stake. Meanwhile a countess (Gloria Holden) preys on the aristocracy.

I guess the Dracula sequels were hamstrung with Bela Lugosi not returning. It wasn’t a monster makeup that anyone could wear, or invisibility where you’d never identify with the actor. They make a good effort, a countess, the seductive Alucard (Lon Chaney, Jr. getting to be handsome for once), but it was always something else, not Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

The bat transformations get better and better though. The sequels feature high contrast so the black and white is more emphasized in HD.

House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein are repeated in the Dracula set because of the crossover. They were certainly more memorable for the collaboration than the solo Dracula sequels. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is also in the Dracula set. Despite Frankenstein in the title, Dracula has a major role in it too.

Written by
Fred Topel also known as Franchise Fred has been an entertainment journalist since 1999 and specializes in writing about film, television and video games. Fred has written for several outlets including About.com, CraveOnline, and Rotten Tomatoes among others. His favorite films include Toy Story 2, The Rock, Face/Off, True Lies, Labyrinth, The Big Hit, Michael Moore's The Big One, and Casablanca. We are very lucky and excited to have Fred as part of the We Live Entertainment team. Follow him on Twitter @FranchiseFred and @FredTopel

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