I love older horror movies, but I gotta be honest when I was younger and first saw Dracula on AMC for Halloween, I was pumped to finally see the classic that always gets referenced and remade and quoted, etc. And when it was finally over I thought, "Is that it? Seriously? That's what all this fuss was about?" It's been years since I've seen it, and my opinion still hasn't changed. Granted, I've read the book but that's not how I'm grading this movie. First off, the title card is this cartoon-looking bat (even though bats are almost NEVER mentioned in the book), there's a couple armadillos running around Dracula's castle in Transylvania, obviously fake spiders climbing up the walls, and there's even a coffin for cockroaches for Chrissakes!
Then again, I understand that certain, cheesier elements were the norm back then. I'm also a fan of Creature From the Black Lagoon and the original The Mummy, so I'm not prejudiced against old movies just because they aren't the same SFX-wise as modern films. But the story itself, even when not compared to the book, is a Goddamned snore fest. First off, we are TOLD everything that happens. And it's not things like "Dracula traveled to London," "Van Helsing spoke with Mina about her bite marks," it's MAJOR plot points like Lucy's death. Even then, we only get a minor mention of Lucy attacking children, let alone her death. That was a huge part of the story because it shows what vampires do to people, and we see pretty much zilch. Then we are TOLD how Renfield is always eating spiders and things, then we are TOLD how Dracula made Mina drink his blood, then we are TOLD how Lucy attacks children, etc. etc. etc.
On top of that, the characters are friggin' STUPID. Nobody is able to pick up anything shifty from Count Dracula, and everybody's a wimp. Johnathan Harker is either totally oblivious to everything going on or doesn't want to believe what's going on. For example, Mina tries to bite Johnathan which Johnathan sees as totally normal even though its never ever happened before, then when Van Helsing shows up with the crucifix Mina SCREAMS IN ABJECT HORROR, yet Johnathan's pea brain comes to the conclusion that Van Helsing's small crucifix is the culprit. This is after Mina has been very sick, suffered strange dreams, then suddenly appears better only at night and talks to a giant bat.
Mina is borderline useless, and I'm not saying it's because she's a victim. I'm saying it because certain important details, like being bitten on the neck, she attempts to keep from Van Helsing even though she is becoming inexplicably sick. That would be the equivalent to pissing blue for no apparent reason, and when the doctor is called to help you you instead tell the doctor that "Gee, everything's been fine I guess."
Dracula is an idiot too, he keeps having Renfield escape only to go to Dr. Seward's house, giggle like a freak and leak some of Dracula's plans to the vampire hunters, only to be captured and imprisoned again. Then at the end Dracula snatches Mina and goes back to the abbey, only to have her go stand in a corner while he jumps in his coffin in the hopes that the vampire hunters will go away.
About the only saving graces in this film are Renfield and Van Helsing. Renfield legitimately looks and acts like a maniac, and you can clearly see he's being tortured by Dracula's influence and his own conscience, and it makes you sympathize with him. Then Van Helsing is the only one who wants to confront the fact that Dracula is a vampire, while everyone else collectively shrugs and goes "Nah, he's just Transylvanian. Science says vampires are impossible, even though you yourself are an extremely literate and well-respected professor."
I'll admit, I'll watch this movie once in awhile if I'm in a really nostalgic mood but Dracula is honestly the textbook definition of a classic film that did not age well. Not by any stretch of the imagination. On the other hand, I'd highly recomment 1922's Nosferatu. I love the depiction of Count Orlok as a vampire who has more in common with a plague than an undead nobleman. The way the deaths in Wisborg are handled give great weight to the death caused by the vampire, and his looks alone are more intimidating than Bela Lugosi's. I also love Hammer's Horror of Dracula. It also heavily modified the story of Dracula, but you really connect with the smaller cast and the vampire presents a threat that really puts Van Helsing to the test. It's become one of my personal favorites, and even The Brides of Dracula isn't half bad.
Men go to jail. DOGS GET PUT DOWN.