Well, Halloween is almost upon us, and because of the season, I decided to put two classic horror films against one another in my latest Franchise V.S. Franchise post. Most people nowadays are a bit more familiar with the sympathetic monsters; usually involving vampires trying to be human, werewolves trying to find a cure for themselves or the Frankenstein monster trying to obtain his soul. While it’s obvious that these creatures have gone downhill in recent years, there are still the classic films that started them all and I decided to pit both of these classics against one another. This is Dracula V.S. Frankenstein.
NO! NO! NO!
NOT THAT MOVIE! GET IT OFF MY SCREEN!
I’LL NEVER REVIEW THAT ONE!
AHH! Anyhow, let’s get to the real post. This is Franchise V.S. Franchise: Dracula (1931) V.S. Frankenstein (1931).
Despite the way both of these monsters have been treated over the decades, they both started out as monsters that actually scared the crap out of people. But which one was the superior? Well, I will say this much: They couldn’t be more different.
In these films, Dracula is played by Bella Lugosi who brought trademarks to the character that would be forever associated with it such as the rhythm and accent of his voice and the general look of the character. In it, he was suave and elegant in public but demented and commanding in when alone with his victims and is very subtle in the way he stalks and chooses his victims. He doesn’t seem to have any clear motivation in doing what he does other than just to survive and be evil. Some people may criticize it for that but I honestly think that’s all a good monster needs and is the way they should be.
In Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s monster is played by Boris Karloff who is a bit more sympathetic. His motivation for killing and doing horrible things isn’t just for survival. It's out of his own ignorance and failures on the part of Dr. Frankenstein and his assistant, Fritz. His brain is that of a criminal and he suffers from abuse under Fritz and fears everything he doesn’t understand and is almost like fully grown and powerful baby who doesn’t know how to act in our world.
This may sound like an odd category, but both films had a character who were basically a mentor characters to all the others. And oddly enough, they're both played by the same actor, Edward Van Sloan. In Dracula, he plays Professor Van Helsing and in Frankenstein he plays Dr. Waldman. The main difference between the two is in the writing. In Dracula, Van Helsing is an old but strong and determined man who will do everything in his power to find and slay Dracula as well as save the souls of those he seeks to claim. In Frankenstein, however, the character of Dr. Waldman seemed to be a bit more of a closed minded nut. Most of his dialog consists of telling Dr. Frankenstein to destroy his creation and how it will destroy him. That's not necessarily bad but it gets old very fast and makes him less interesting and less memorable as a result. Van Helsing just seemed smarter, wiser, stronger and just an all-around better written character so for me it's a no brainer. Point goes to Dracula.
With both films, there are many different characters that vary in quality. For starters, you have Dr. Frankenstein who was the protagonist of the film whereas in Dracula it didn't really seem to have one which I always found a bit strange. Then we have the creepy lackey characters both films had both played by Dwight Frye. In Dracula, he plays as the crazy Renfield who succeeds in being sympathetic, creepy, and despicable. He helps Dracula out of fear and a lust for small animal lives but only seems to do so out of bad luck, (he sells Dracula his property in England and becomes a victim as a result). In Frankenstein, you had the same actor play the character Fritz who only seemed to be memorable because of his hunched back, fixing a sock in the middle of a scene, (wired but true), and his treatment of the monster. In the end, Fritz just wasn't that memorable or as well acted as Renfield.
The rest of the Dracula characters, however, are blown away by the cast of Frankenstein. They were just all around better acted and more interesting characters. Characters like Victor and Elizabeth were just better acted then Jonathan and Mina and Barron Frankenstein was just more interesting and entertaining then Dr. Seward. It's nothing I can really point out but if you see the films for yourselves you'll see exactly what I mean. Point goes to Frankenstein.
The plots of both of these films couldn't have been simpler. In Dracula, the protagonists are just trying to figure out what is causing all these mysterious deaths and end up battling Dracula. In Frankenstein, it's mainly about the doctor bringing the creature to life and trying to control it and then destroy it when he realizes the terrible mistake he made in trying to create it. In truth, I don't either concept is better than the other so it comes down to execution and in this, it's again in Frankenstein’s favor. In it, you got the sense that you were seeing that you were seeing most of, if not the whole story, whereas in Dracula it almost seemed like entire sections were left out of the story. Not to mention their many unresolved issues throughout the movie that were never address, such as Dracula's brides and the fact that Lucy is still running around killing people. In Frankenstein, again, it seemed like you got the biggest and best chunk of the story and I think that more than qualifies the point. Point goes to Frankenstein.
I decided to put these two sections together because there really isn't much point in separating them. In Dracula, the climax is just Van Helsing and Jonathan chasing after Dracula and Mina into Carfax Abby and wasn't very exciting or suspenseful. It just seemed like a dull finale to the whole thing. The actual ending sucked to. It didn't really end, as much as stop. Dracula is staked through the heart, Mina is set free from his influence and the last scene just has Mina and Jonathan walking up a flight of stairs as the sun rises. I know that sounds good, but trust me. It's not and was again a very disappointing ending.
Frankenstein, however, was just the opposite. You had the monster capture the doctor and both get locked in a windmill as the villagers attack the windmill as the doctor tries to escape the monster, is thrown off the wind mill by the monster and eventually the villagers burn it down with the monster inside. It gives closer to the whole thing and shows that Dr. Frankenstein is recovering from his injuries and wrapped up everything nicely. So again, it's a no brainer. Point goes to Frankenstein.
All Around Production Quality
Because both of these films are so old, you would think that their production quality would be crappy. But, much to my surprise, I was absolutely right. The audio was always kind of wired with this wired static humming going constantly and both films constantly jump cut from one scene or angle to another and it go old very fast.
But that aside, the production quality for the films wasn't that bad for their time. Both films had great sets that all looked legit, especially Dr. Frankenstein’s lab and the castles in Dracula but I think the sets in Frankenstein were a bit more appealing. Makeup wise, Dracula's lipstick and eyeliner can't beat the Jack Pierce makeup. Even the parts that I didn't like in both films, such as the cinematography, music and editing was a bit more appealing in Frankenstein. So again, in this regard Frankenstein is the superior.
With all that's has been said about these films I think it's obvious which film is the superior and that film is Frankenstein. Now granted I think that Dracula is the superior monster, and several of the supporting characters blow the Frankenstein characters away but all around Frankenstein just had more going for it. It almost seemed like Dracula was the beta tester of horror movies and that Frankenstein built on what Dracula had already done. But still, Frankenstein was ultimately the superior film. The acting, plot, and production value was all around better and that's what ultimately makes it the superior film.
So until next time, this is The Illusive One saying Happy Halloween.