Dracula V Dracula

There have been many movie versions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but the two versions of the story that remain most iconic are those made by Universal and Hammer and both have their fans with each camp claiming one is better than the other. Bela Lugosi played Dracula in Universal’s famous 1931 version and Christopher Lee took the part for Hammer’s full colour update of Bram Stoker’s original novel, and fans are also divided over which actor is the definitive Dracula.
The fact is that both films are such classics that it is futile to argue that one is better than the other, because each have their strengths and weaknesses. And although I prefer Christopher Lee in the role, it must be said that Lee’s performance took much from Lugosi’s earlier work and indeed no matter which actor takes the role, and no matter how hard they try and stamp the role with their own personality, there will always be something of Lugosi in their version of the character.  Everything about Lugosi’s performance is carried forward in each and every version of the story since – his looks, his manner, the way the character dresses and the way he used his eyes to suggest some kind of hypnotic influence.

Christopher Lee was a much more menacing character in Hammer’s version but the film benefited from a relaxed censorship system and full colour. When Lugosi’s version was made colour was still a long way off, and indeed sound was only just starting to make an impact. Indeed the opening lines in Universal’s Dracula, spoken by Carla Laemmle are the first words ever spoken in a  Dracula movie. It is worth noting that when Dracula was released not all cinemas had been fitted to provide sound and a silent version of the movie was also released.

 

Incredibly Lugosi wasn’t first choice to play Dracula, indeed the actor wasn’t even in the running and Lon Chaney was the actor originally cast but his death from cancer meant the studio had to find another actor. Paul Muni, Conrad Veidt and Ian Keith (who?) were all considered before Lugosi was cast for the small fee of $3,500.
It is true that Hammer’s version is easier to watch than Universals, but that doesn’t hide the fact that Lugosi’s Dracula remains an important cinematic landmark.

Lee made more Dracula films than Lugosi’s and became the character for an entire generation, but it is only his first Horror of Dracula that can stand comparison with Lugosi’s iconic movie.

So which is best? Well, dude you need to see them both.

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