To accomodate a customer who wants to by Carfax Abbey in London, Renfield
(Dwight Frye) travels to the creepy mountains of Transylvania, & visits the
man uin his old castle despite warnings from the superstitious townfolks ...
said customer is of course Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi).
Pretty soon, Dracula
- a vampire, just in case you didn't know - has brought Renfield under his evil
spell & the 2 are on their way to England on the schooner Vestra ... but
when she arrives, all her sailors have died from mysterious bloodloss, &
Renfield proves to be the only living soul on board ... but he's a raging
madman by now & is thus put into the sanitarium of Doc Seward (Herbert
Dracula has meanwhile moved into Carfax Abbey, that by pure
coincidence is the next-door neighbour of thje Doc's sanitarium, so Dracula -
like any good neighbour - introduces himself to the doc, his daughter Mina
(Helen Chandler), her fiancÚ Jonathan Harker (David Manners) & their
friend Lucy Weston (Frances Dade), who can't hide her fascination for the
Count's Eastern European charm ... & the next day she turns up dead, died
from massive bloodloss.
Baffled by this mysterious death, Doc Seward calls
on his colleague Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan), an expert into not only
medicin but also the supernatural, & he even formally introduces him to
Count Dracula ... which is when Van Helsing picks up his first clue, realizing
that Dracula - like every regular vampire - has no reflection in the mirror.
though, Mina starts suffering from severe bloodloss, too, & all of Van
Helsing's efforts to guard her from further vampire attacks add up to rather
little when seh seems to show no desire in being saved & routinely spoils
It is not until Dracula abducts Mina that Van Helsing can persuade
Jonathan to take action, & the 2 follow Renfield, Dracula's loyal subject,
to Carfax Abbey, where they can finally find Dracula lying helplessly in his
coffin, & stake him. Mina - not yet fully vampirized - is released from
The first quarter of the movie, taking place in
Transylvania, is simply superb, boasting an atmospheric use of Universal's
very artificial but still great studio settings, & consisting of little
dialogue but many eerie shots. When the action moves to London however, the
movie considerably loses momentum, favouring long, talky scenes over any real
action & thereby showing its stage origins. However, great performances by
Bela Lugosi & Dwight Frye make this a watchable movie nevertheless.