Archive for Dracula

Dracula (1931) Review

Posted in Dracula with tags , , , on October 1, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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DRACULA

**** Out of 5

Tagline- Carl Laemmle Presents the Vampire Thriller!

Release Date- February 14th, 1931

Running Time- 75-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Garrett Fort (Novel- Bram Stoker)

Director- Tod Browning

Starring- Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Helen Chandler, Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing

Released in 1931 Dracula is probably the most influential vampire film ever made and one of the biggest hits in the legacy of Universal Pictures. Since its release the good portion of vampire films have taken many elements from this film and every actor to portray Count Dracula is directly inspired by Bela Lugosi (and from time to time Christopher Lee). As much as I enjoy Dracula I’d rate it behind the first 3 Frankenstein films as well as the Wolf-Man, but with that said I actually think in some ways Dracula might hold up a little better than those films (along with the Wolf Man). Obviously in many areas the film is dated as 1931 is far, far behind us and times change and filmmaking techniques change. But I still find Dracula to be an effective chiller and while it may no longer be scary it’s still loaded with eerie atmosphere and I’d go as far to say that since the end of the 30s (and even the 40s) many horror films lack the eerie feel many films from this era had. Reading some reviews it’s quite a shame the modern audience are for a good portion complete dolts who laugh at the film. You don’t have to love the film, but its clear on some reviews these people aren’t very bright. By today’s standards Dracula may no longer be scary, but I can easily see how this film scared the hell out of audiences in 1931, but its a shame so many cannot appreciate this film for the classic is it since its still a highly enjoyable film. Like I said compared to other Monster movies I’d rate Dracula behind them and in the career of Tod Browning this is his most popular film and by far is most influential and his legacy, but personally I preferred Freaks, The Devil-Doll and Mark of the Vampire (also with Lugosi and a remake of Browning’s now lost silent film London After Midnight starting Lon Chaney, Sr).

I think everyone knows the plot behind Dracula so there isn’t a reason to rehash it, but as I mentioned before obviously Dracula will be dated, but I still think the film holds up very well and the script by Garrett Fort based off the Bram Stoker novel is well written and plotted and quite honestly I think the script would work well even today with obviously a few changes here and there. Garrett Fort writes an excellent film with mostly solid characters. As the film gets heavier in dialogue it does slightly drop off, but I’d say that’s more on the direction than the writing. Fort’s screenplay is a winner and set the bar for vampire films and while this wouldn’t be my favorite vampire film the iconic status of the film has never been topped and probably never will.

Director Tod Browning came from the silent era and if not mistaken this was his first talking picture and it does sort of show as Dracula can be a little rough, but this greatly adds to the film. Sometimes when a film is a bit raw it adds to the power and had they been made by a more experienced director results wouldn’t be the same. Films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left are rough around the edges, but that in part helps make the films so powerful and while Dracula is a completely different film I think the film being rough around the edges in part helps elevate the film. After Dracula I felt Browning would improve and make better films from a technical standpoint. Even though Dracula wasn’t my favorite Tod Browning film there are many aspects of the film I love than the films I liked more than this one. There are also stretches with no dialogue (mostly early in the film) and its almost like a silent film and this is where Browning really succeeds. Obviously the film is dated and certain techniques are decades and decades out of date, but even to this day Dracula still has plenty of eerie atmosphere and still retains a lot of its mystery and suspense. While this isn’t my favorite Universal Monster film I do think it might hold up the best. I love the visual look of Dracula and the scenes in Dracula’s castle in the opening is brilliant; I love the far wide shots and the lack of music really adds to the eerie feel and when I say Dracula holds up well I think the scene in Dracula’s castle is highly effective to this day. The 2nd half of the film when it gets a bit more heavy on dialogue, Dracula does slightly lose its edge and it seems to me the most effective scenes are those with little dialogue, but even as the film slips a little, Browning still crafts an eerie and mysterious film.

Dracula is the film that made Bela Lugosi an icon and there is very good reason for that; while some debate on Lugosi or Chris Lee for me there is no debate about it or on anyone else to play Count Dracula. Bela Lugosi is by far the best actor to ever play the role and nobody will ever top it. Lugosi is quite creepy and delivers one of the all time great performances. Edward Van Sloan sadly is forgotten by may despite starring in several of Universal Monster films. Besides Dracula he also appeared in the sequel Dracula’s Daughter, Frankenstein and the Mummy and as Van Helsing I’d go as far to say Edward Van Sloan is just as brilliant as Lugosi and like how nobody has topped Lugosi as Dracula, nobody in my opinion has topped Van Sloan.

Dracula is one of the all time greats and while the play like feel can hinder the film I again also feel the film holds up well and is still an eerie film. Lugosi and Van Sloan are a joy to watch and this is the vampire film that forever shaped those kind of films and the horror genre as a whole.

At the time of the blu-ray release Dracula was 81-years old and Universal delivers a brilliant transfer. Clarity and detail is nothing short of amazing and due to the age of the film Universal could have put less effort and people would chalk it up to age, but Universal stills shows respect for one of the films that helped shape the studio and this is by far the best Dracula has ever looked on home video. The audio is also excellent as gone is the hissing noise and you can now hear things you couldn’t on past releases.

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Top 10 Universal Monster Movies

Posted in Top 10 Universal Monster Movies, Universal Monsters with tags , , , , , , , on June 25, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

This list builds up to my top spot. In the future the list can change (well at least my 10th spot). But outside of number 10 the other 9 films will remain. So here we go my top 10 Monster Movies.

I left off Abbott & Costello mainly because I sort of forgot, but I also see it as its own film. If I were to list it I would place it 4th or 5th

10. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

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This was the first of the crossover films. It’s a solid film, but works best in the first half when it’s a Wolf Man sequel. Still a fun movie.

9. Ghost of Frankenstein

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This one is when the Frankenstein films became B-Movies. This marked the first time another actor played the Monster as Lon Chaney took over the role. This one is just a lot of fun despite the flaws.

8. Creature from the Black Lagoon

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50s camp at its finest. While the middle has some pacing issues the final act is rather creepy. Even with some sluggish pacing it never loses its charm.

7. The Invisible Man

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More campy than suspenseful, which was a James Whale trademark this film is just fun. Claude Rains is great in the title role and the F/X actually hold up well and still make me wonder how they did that.

6. Dracula (Spanish Version)

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At 104-minutes its quite long for a horror film from this era, but yet it works. From a technical side of things, the Spanish version is better, but Lugosi, Edward Van Sloan and Tod Browning’s eerie tone give the English version the edge, but I was quite surprised by how much I liked this.

5. Dracula

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While the film is dated obviously I actually feel it also holds up well in terms of writing and directing; the shots in Dracula’s castle early in the film is text book filmmaking on setting an eerie tone. Though at the end of the day Lugosi and Van Sloan are what makes this so brilliant.

4. Son of Frankenstein

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The last time Karloff played the Monster. This was a terrific film only problem is the Monster wasn’t given as much to do. As much as I love this film it lacks the James Whale touch, but its still a truly great film.

3. The Wolf Man

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Like Dracula, I think the Wolf Man holds up well and still can be quite eerie. Lon Chaney was brilliant as the tortured Larry Talbot.

2. Frankenstein

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Love the dark and eerie feel; this was such a great film and one of the horror flicks that forever shaped the genre. Karloff with no dialogue gives one of the greatest performances of all time.

1. Bride of Frankenstein

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Words cannot describe how much I love this film. This is easily my favorite Monster movie and nothing really comes close. Again Karloff is brilliant. Unlike the first this has a lot more camp value, but also some truly touching scenes. A masterpiece simple as that.

Dracula (1931 Spanish Version) Review

Posted in Dracula (Spanish Version), Universal Monsters with tags , , , on June 21, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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SPANISH DRACULA

**** Out of 5

Release Date- April 24th, 1931

Running Time- 104-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- B. Fernandez Cue

Director- George Melford

Starring- Carlos Villar, Lupita Tovar, Edwardo Arozamena, Barry Newton, Pablo Alvarez Rubio

The Spanish version of Dracula was shot at the same time and used the same exact sets as the English version and was released a couple of months after the English version. For quite sometime the Spanish version was quite rare, but now is easily found on DVD and Blu-ray releases of the English version. There are people who consider this version to be better than that of the Bela Lugosi version and I can actually see why and in many ways I like this film almost as much. From a technical standpoint I would actually favor this film and despite using the same sets the production values are a little stronger here and there is also a little more camera movement however what gives the English version the edge in my opinion is this one just doesn’t have the eerie feel Tod Browning created in the English version. For the most part the films are identical, but they are also quite different as the English version runs at 75-minutes and this one runs at 104, which is quite rare for horror pictures of the time. The good portion of horror flicks ran around 60-minutes with many not running much longer than 75-minutes, but the Spanish version of Dracula clocks in at 104-minutes and for the most part the film is very well paced.

From a technical standpoint I think the Spanish version of Dracula is the better film and despite using the same sets as the English version the production values are a little stronger and the one knock on the English version, which I guess is fair is that the production feels more like a stage play rather than a film and while I agree for the most part as it does at times feel like a play the Spanish version at least to me doesn’t really feel that way with a couple of scenes that have a play like feel. What gives the English version the edge is this one lacks the eerie feel of the English version. Spanish Dracula does have a couple of eerie moments, but that dark mysterious and eerie atmosphere isn’t present like the English version.

The screenplay by B. Fernandez Cue is more or less the same as the English version with a few changes here and there and like the English version the script holds up very well. Characters are strong and the film well plotted and I suppose Garrett Fort who wrote the English version gets more of the credit here since Cue does a straight up adaption for the most part and while I wouldn’t say the changes are for the better, but they still work and at least offer up an interesting alternate version.

Director George Melford delivers a fun film that while lacks the eerie atmosphere of the English version is the better paced of the two. Spanish Dracula turned out far better than I expected and like I said despite running at 104-minutes compared to the usual 60-75-minutes (English version was 75-minutes) the film never feels overly long and while I guess it could have lost a couple of minutes, Melford does a better job at pacing the film and has a little more camera movement, but again what gives the English version the edge is the eerie atmosphere, which this version can lack at times. Overall Spanish Dracula is a well directed film and its fun to watch to see an alternate take on more or less the same exact material.

Carlos Villar does a nice job as Dracula, but he lacks the charm and creep factor Bela Lugosi had in the English version and while Villar can be a bit campy in spots I’d actually rate him as one of my favorite Dracula’s, but just don’t go in expecting anything like Lugosi and you won’t be let down since he’s far inferior when compared to Lugosi. Edwardo Arozamena as Van Helsing was solid, but far inferior to the Edward Van Sloan and at times unlike Van Sloan who played the role straight, Arozamena can be a tad bit campy in spots. What I find actually really interesting is in the English version Helen Chandler who played Mina is very covered up and Lupita Tovar who plays the same character only named Eva is dressed a little more sexy and does bring some sex appeal to the film.

When a film is underground a lot of times it gets more praise and sometimes I can’t help, but think its people trying to be different just like when a film or TV show is really popular all of a sudden every review is bashing it and you have to wonder if its so hated how can it be so successful? In the case of Spanish Dracula I can see again how some might prefer it, but I also can’t help, but think its people wanting to be different as well. Spanish Dracula is an excellent film and I really didn’t expect to enjoy it nearly as much as I did and while again from a technical standpoint this was the better film, but the English version is loaded with eerie atmosphere and thus gives it the edge, but this version comes highly recommended.

The Blu-ray release, which can be found as an extra on Dracula gets off to a great start as the print is stunning despite being at the time of its release 81-years old. Clarity is amazing and early on it looks just as good if not better than the other films on the Universal Monster Movie Collection however at the 19-minute mark there is a major drop in quality where it gets grainy and has a few lines going down the screen and a couple of scenes lose a lot of detail and borders VHS. The print damage is actually a little distracting and made more so by being such a drop in quality as the start again is stunning. Though with that said at the 29-minute mark the picture starts to stabilize again and the print damage isn’t as distracting and within a minute or 2 the print once again looks beautiful in clarity with some great detail. The HD quality from Universal deserves all the praise it gets since putting less work into it and due to the age of the film nobody would question it, but Universal gave this film the proper treatment and is a revelation.

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Universal Monster Movie Photo Gallery

Posted in Universal Monsters with tags , , , , , , , on June 20, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

Well I figure to make my return here might as well get a theme going and I’m gonna focus on the Universal Monster movies. I’ll probably break it down in 2 volumes with another batch of reviews and photo galleries at a later time.

I haven’t been around here nearly as much I try and keep up with reviews from everyone else, but sometimes that goes out the window. So to kick things off here’s some awesome photos from various Monster movies from Universal

(Note all photos of the Frankenstein Monster are Boris Karloff unless otherwise noted).

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Lon Chaney as the Monster with Bela Lugosi

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Another of Chaney as the Monster

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Bela Lugosi as the Monster

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Glenn Strange as the Monster

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Glenn Strange as the Monster with Boris Karloff

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Batgirl Issue 14: Terror in the 3rd Dimension (Comic Review)

Posted in Batgirl comics with tags , , , , , on September 16, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

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Batgirl Issue 14: Terror in the Third Dimension

**** Out of 5

While most people spend their time reading Batman and Superman I’m reading Batgirl and Supergirl. What can I say I have a thing for strong action driven female characters and so therefore Batgirl and Supergirl very much appeal to me due to that. This issue of Batgirl features Supergirl with a horror twist, which really appealed to me as a horror fan.

Stephanie Brown (Batgirl) is spending her friday night playing games with her mother when Kara (Supergirl) shows up, desperate to be with someone her own age Steph and Kara head out for the night and end up going to see a Dracula movie playing in 3D, but Dracula (well a bunch of them actually) escape from the big screen and go on a rampage, but no need to worry as Bargirl and Supergirl got this covered.

This is a self contained issue so you could just pick right up and read it regardless if you’ve read the previous issues or not. This issue was a total blast with a fun and campy tone as Batgirl and Supergirl take down Dracula. Things are played up to camp value and this to me sort of has a retro feel. Like I said everything here is played light and fun and Stephanie and Kara work really well together both under their superhero personas and as regular folk. I just love the interaction between the 2 characters and this issue gave me a big smile while reading it.

The only downside is the story does move a little too fast and honestly I guess the best way to describe it is it feels like a page or 2 are missing, but don’t let that last comment prevent you from reading this since it was a lot of fun. The camp factor works well and I really enjoyed the interactions between Steph and Kara and also enjoyed it when they were Batgirl and Supergirl. This was just a really fun issue.

While it does move a little fast this is one of my favorites of the Batgirl series and this comes highly recommend if you just want some fun. Who needs Batman and Superman when I can read Batgirl and Supergirl!

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