61 Days of Halloween: Dracula (1931 – Philip Glass Score)

Introduction

For an introduction to the concept of 61 Days of Halloween, as well as a list of previously featured titles, please go here.

Dracula (1931) Philip Glass Score

My reaction to my first viewing of Dracula was slightly more favorable than that of my first viewing of Freaks. I’ve seen this version at least twice, and I enjoy Browning’s work (and will look into more) but have yet to find the transcendence that others have in some of his titles.

Being a completist I seriously considered re-watching the original cut of the film before watching one with a newly orchestrated score by the genius that is Philip Glass. I decided to pass on yet another viewing and it was a decision that was almost instantly validated. I remember many of the beats precisely. I was able to finish many lines of dialogue, mainly Lugosi’s, and that’s because it’s memorable not just because all the lines have a very deliberate reading.

So I didn’t feel I was missing anything by comparison. One thing that I found peculiar, which is not uncommon in early talkies, is that the soundtrack is fairly quiet. People wanted to hear dialogue and the now-primitive-seeming sound-design. It seemed a few years would pass before scores would swell anew. And, that’s a bit difficult to adjust to in a horror film. Some, like The Birds, work especially without music; others need it.

Granted the scoring in a horror film can be looked at as invoking Pavlovian response (this music is eerie therefore you are scared) but it’s very much a part of the fabric of horror cinema, and a sight better than jump-scaring an audience to death.

The score laid over this version is not only brilliantly cyclical and quasi-monotonous as is Glass’ signature but the spotting, the decisions about where music would be overlaid is extraordinarily precise and inspired. It absolutely elevates the film to new heights because it’s done with a tasteful understanding of what kind of score would befit a film such as this.

This is as opposed to something like the Moroder version of Metropolis, which sought to put an ’80s interpretation of futuristic music on the film. The music, while good in isolation, is now dated and doesn’t jibe properly with the film.

There’s a fine line between artistic restoration and musical graffiti; Glass’ work at the service of Dracula is the former and Moroder’s production of Metropolis is the latter.

61 Days of Halloween- Freaks

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Freaks

Freaks (MGM)

I was told by a film professor that this was the only horror film he’d ever seen that had any sort of ‘timeless resonance’ with him. Upon seeing the film and reading these reviews I’m left scratching my head. The one word that came to mind as I was watching this movie was “flat.”

Also, there are a few misconceptions about this film:

One, aside form the ending there is no horror in this film it is a drama that toes the line uneasily with melodrama, melodrama in a bad sense as the word is not necessarily always a pejorative.

Two, I don’t find the freaks vulgar and/or offensive which is what categorizing this film as horror indicates. While their plight is sad and this film does portray their objectification well but in the end all it does is feed on our juvenile fear of the odd-thing which frankly doesn’t frighten me.

Freaks was a shocking film and controversial upon its release, however, now it merely comes across as dated. If you wanted a list of milestones in horror film history this film would be there, however, on a ten best list I’d most definitely exclude it. Milestones and great films are not always one in the same.

6/10