Barry Norton

Drácula (1931, George Melford)

A lot of Drácula’s hundred minute runtime is spent with Eduardo Arozamena talking really slow to José Soriano Viosca and Barry Norton. Arozamena’s Professor Van Helsing (so nice to have such a familiar “brand” you can just talk about the characters and assume some passing familiarity) and Viosca and Norton are the guys who need to believe him about vampires. Dracula–played by Carlos Villarías–is after Norton’s fiancée Lupita Tovar. Viosca’s her father, though the film never really does anything with it.

Viosca and Norton are basically just around to hear Arozamena’s exposition. Director Melford does all right with it, actually. He seems to understand how much information they’re conveying because he usually breaks it up with some of Pablo Álvarez Rubio’s antics (as Renfield). Through some luck, screenwriter Baltasar Fernández Cué understands Rubio’s importance in the film. He opens the picture, he introduces the viewer not just to Villarías but to himself. Rubio is the only actor in the film to get a scene (or two) to himself. Everything else in the picture involves regular cast members. And Rubio’s really likable. It makes him a great tormented victim.

So Drácula is long. There’s no music and very little ambient sound. It’s often just watching Villarías walk around (in what appears–oddly–to be a London After Midnight homage). Melford’s lucky to have Tovar, who’s able to get enough sympathy from the audience just from her performance because there’s really not much character in Cué’s script.

As Tovar’s friend, Carmen Guerrero only gets two scenes and the script gives her more character. She’s good too (or gives the impression of having the ability to be good, but the film dumps her early).

Besides Norton, who’s terrible, and Viosca, who’s ineffective, Drácula is well-acted. Villarías’s got to play a walking, talking monster, which–when the film doesn’t give any character to said monster–might be the specific problem of Dracula adaptations, and he does stumble. But Melford gets a genuinely creepy conclusion when he finally kidnaps Tovar.

Tovar’s great. Did I already call her out?

Arozamena’s kind of fun as Van Helsing. He almost plays it like a comedy.

There are some editing problems (cutting in the footage from Tod Browning’s English language problems Dracula), but Arthur Tavares does well with this version’s footage. And George Robinson’s photography is magnificent. He’s so graceful Melford’s often employed dolly shots come off well.

Drácula’s pretty good. Not great, but pretty good.



Directed by George Melford; screenplay by Baltasar Fernández Cué, based on the screenplay and play by Hamilton Dean, John L. Balderston and Garrett Fort and the novel by Bram Stoker; director of photography, George Robinson; edited by Arthur Tavares; produced by Carl Laemmle Jr.; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Carlos Villarías (Conde Drácula), Lupita Tovar (Eva), Barry Norton (Juan Harker), Pablo Álvarez Rubio (Renfield), Eduardo Arozamena (Van Helsing), José Soriano Viosca (Doctor Seward), Carmen Guerrero (Lucía), Amelia Senisterra (Marta) and Manuel Arbó (Martín).

Murder at Glen Athol (1936, Frank R. Strayer)

Murder at Glen Athol should be just a little bit better. The script has a number of twists, with Strayer handling them ably, but it’s just too short as it turns out. The film runs under seventy minutes, which would be fine for a B mystery, but Glen Athol (the title is problematic–Glen Athol is never said in the film) has a lot more going on.

First, just because it opens the film, there’s detective John Miljan and his sidekick, James P. Burtis. Miljan’s a debonair detective of the Nick Charles variety and Burtis is a rough and tumble ex-prizefighter. There’s some really funny bickering between them at the beginning and some throughout the film (Burtis’s performance isn’t quite good enough to make it work as well as it should), but once Irene Ware shows up as Miljan’s love interest… her effect on the hetero life mates isn’t really explored.

Second, the murder investigation reveals a complicated situation of blackmail and cover-up. Since the murder occurs twenty plus minutes into the film, there’s not much time for Miljan to make discoveries. Instead he does it mostly in summary–he explains the entire solution without the audience having seen key features on screen.

Strayer keeps a tight pace, so I doubt he would have needed more than ten more minutes to fill the story out.

Still, it’s a decent mystery; Miljan turns in a great performance.

Speaking of Strayer, he does wonders with a visibly tiny budgeted production.



Directed by Frank R. Strayer; screenplay and adaptation by John W. Krafft, based on the novel by Norman Lippincott; director of photography, M.A. Anderson; edited by Roland D. Reed; produced by Maury M. Cohen; released by Chesterfield Motion Pictures Corporation.

Starring John Miljan (Bill Holt), Irene Ware (Jane Maxwell), Iris Adrian (Muriel Randel), Noel Madison (Gus Colleti), Oscar Apfel (Reuben Marshall), Barry Norton (Tom Randel), Harry Holman (Campbell Snowden), Betty Blythe (Ann Randel), James P. Burtis (Mike ‘Jeff’ Jefferies), Lew Kelly (Police Sgt. Olsen), Wilson Benge (Simpson) and E.H. Calvert (Dist. Atty. McDougal).

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