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Dueling 1931 ‘Dracula’ returning to the big screen nationwide

By Jamie Lampros, Standard-Examiner Correspondent - | Oct 23, 2015

What better season than Halloween to have a special “Dracula” movie event in six northern Utah locations?

Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment are presenting the classic 1931 vampire film “Dracula” to theaters nationwide on Sunday, Oct. 25, and Wednesday, Oct. 28. Along with the iconic Bela Lugosi version, the Spanish language version, shot at night with a different cast, will also be shown. In addition, the film has been digitally remastered to eliminate all noise, scratches and other blemishes.

Weber State University adjunct art professor Steve D. Stones said that for horror fans such as himself, this showing is a big deal.

“I’ve always been a fan of classic horror films my whole life because they’re such a great escape,” Stones said. “Dracula really addresses some of the issues we all have to go through such as abandonment, death, what’s beyond death, the fear of someone coming after us and so forth. Dracula is one of the first talkie films to come out of the silent era so it was really a big deal back then.”

Stones, also the co-manager of the blog Plan9Crunch. said Dracula is a fascinating character because he attracts and repels at the same time.

“A lot of people are afraid of vampires, yet at the same time they are also attracted to them,” Stones said. “The Bela Lugosi Dracula is a very aristocratic, old-world European character. If you think about it, every other vampire film has tried to duplicate ‘Dracula.’ Even the Monster Mash tries to sound Hungarian like Bela Lugosi.”

Standard-Examiner editor Doug Gibson, who co-manages the Plan9Crunch blog with Stones, said modern audiences can more easily tag “Dracula” as a straight horror film, albeit an early one.

However, in 1931, Universal executives didn’t know how to market a film that at its core, involved an undead man sucking blood out of beautiful women.

“They were afraid of both pressure from censors and audience revulsion at the plot,” Gibson said.

As a result, Universal initially pitched the film as a sinister romance, with an ad tagline calling it “the story of the strangest passion the world has ever known.”

“Essentially, they pitched it as a romance,” Gibson said. “The Spanish version, which was lost for a long time, contained more passion than the Lugosi version, albeit with a bland Dracula.”

Lupita Tovar, who played the heroine in the Spanish version, was a sexual creature in the role, unlike Helen Chandler’s more virginal heroine to Bela Lugosi — but the ‘strange passion’ pitch only lasted a short while.

“When ‘Dracula’ was re-released in the late 1930s, it was advertised as a horror film,” Gibson said.

Fathom Events describes the plot summary like this:

After a harrowing ride through the Carpathian Mountains in Eastern Europe, Renfield enters castle Dracula to finalize the transferal of Carfax Abbey in London to Count Dracula, who is in actuality a vampire. Renfield is drugged by the eerily hypnotic count, and turned into one of his thralls, protecting him during his sea voyage to London. After sucking the blood and turning the young Lucy Weston into a vampire, Dracula turns his attention to her friend Mina Seward, daughter of Dr. Seward who then calls in a specialist, Dr. Van Helsing, to diagnose the sudden deterioration of Mina’s health. Van Helsing, realizing that Dracula is indeed a vampire, tries to prepare Mina’s fiancé, John Harker, and Dr. Seward for what is to come and the measures that will have to be taken to prevent Mina from becoming one of the undead.

Tickets can be purchased at fathomevents.com. The films are playing at several locations in Utah, and participating theaters are listed.


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