Tod Browning, born July 12, 1880, went on to direct many films including the classic Universal Monsters picture “Dracula”. Commemorating his work on the 1931 gothic horror and monster movie, UMU looks back on Tod Browning’s “Dracula.”
There are many actors and films we conjure in our minds when thinking of the vampire, Dracula. Be it Christopher Lee’s haunting take in one of the Hammer films, the sensual version of the Count as played by Frank Langella, or maybe even Luke Evans heroic and more action oriented take in 2014’s Dracula Untold, there will always be the original Dracula that we all know and recognize – Bela Lugosi! But behind every terrific performance and memorable film is a visionary known as the director. In the case of Dracula, and what audiences and fans respond so well to today, that must be credited to Tod Browning.
Tod Browning, born on July 12, 1880, went on to make a name for himself through silent movies. He often collaborated with Lon Chaney Sr. and it was some time after Chaney’s death that Browning continued his work with Universal. What made Dracula such an interesting project was that it was not a silent movie as opposed to what Browning was used to making, along with being a feature that consisted of much studio interference in regards to direction and style. However, despite all of the troubles, Dracula would go onto becoming the godfather of sorts to Universal Horror and the Universal Monsters as it was the first film in a series that would lead to Frankenstein and The Mummy.
“[Tod] Browning always had some trouble adapting his kind of style of shooting to the style of film. When you see Browning work with Dracula, for example, there are long sequences in the film which are silent. I think Browning uses some of the silences to create a mood,” said Lokke Heiss, a film historian, during The Road to Dracula documentary. It’s interesting to take note that other historians, like Scott McQueen, believed that the extended periods of silence in Dracula were more due to the fact that Browning “was frightened by the mechanics of the sound equipment.”
Tod Browning was also assisted by Karl Freund, the director of photography, who’d go on to direct The Mummy (1933).
Dracula is one of the most recognizable and most loved of all the movies. It’s actually my personal favorite of the Universal Monsters movies and a film that not only still holds up to today’s standards, but is quite the beautiful film to watch, as well. Tod Browning’s Dracula is a true Universal classic and easily a film every film enthusiast and monster head must watch.
If it wasn’t for Tod Browning, we’d probably not have what we associate so close to horror such as the attire and overall atmosphere that was not seen ever on film before Dracula. And despite the questions of how much Tod Browning was involved in the production (according to actor David Manners, he hardly remembered Browning being present), we all owe so much to the Louisville, Kentucky native. Especially for those of us that love Dracula, vampires, and all the creatures of the night!
(Steven Biscotti – @reggiemantleIII)