It practically goes without saying that the landscape of cinema history would be radically different had the classic, 1931 version of Dracula never been produced, or been as successful as it was. The film catapulted Bela Lugosi to fame and precipitated Boris Karloff's Frankenstein later that same year, beginning a 30-year legacy of Horror, Thriller and Science Fiction began at Universal Studios. It also cemented the image of the undead lord as a darkly seductive Hungarian in a dinner suit.
Given its seminal status, Dracula provides a clinic in what makes those creaky old Universal films so wonderful. What is it hiding in those shadows on monochrome celluloid that resonates so deeply with viewers, now almost 80 years on? In the North American horror tradition pre-1960, the horror and blood isn't necessarily the point of the horror film. The exploits of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Sr. and Jr., and Vincent Price are not merely a parade of "mixed up faces", as Famous Monsters of Filmland publisher Forrest J. Ackerman summed up the mainstream view of horror. Instead, through these films, we but up against the wonder and mysticism of the sublime in all its overwhelming, humbling, astonishing, horrifying glory.