Dracula or Frankenstein?

Just as fans of comedy duos often fall into either the Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy camp, or diehard sci-fi junkies express more enthusiasm for either Star Trek or Star Wars…horror film devotees are likely to feel more affection for either the Dracula or Frankenstein sagas.

We may say we love ‘em both, but when push comes to shove, if you dig deep enough into a monster kid’s soul (be careful while you’re in there!) you’ll discover that either Bram Stoker’s thirsty vampire or Mary Shelley’s tragic creator and his creation holds that very special place in a macabre movie lover’s heart of darkness.

‘Tis the season, so I put the question to Ghouly–I mean Movie–Irv. Who’s his favorite frightener?

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My answer is exactly the opposite, so that makes us a terror-ific team in that we’ve got the whole (freshly dug up) ground covered. Now it’s your turn to get in the horrorday spirit and tell us which creepy character wins your favor when it comes to giving you the willies.

 

  • Wayne P.

    You mean we cant choose Dracenstein or Frankula? Drats! Well, I agree with Irv somewhat in that Franky is the monster of the two and not simply a mere blood-sucking human who, of course, did very well at it (and yes, F is the creature created by Dr. Frankenstein…am guessing it saved on further naming-rights competition later on to have just one name/title;). But, when it comes to sequels it may be more of a wash. I also love the spanish-language version of Dracula a lot and its much more ‘sexy’ than the Bela Lugosi original article, trust me on that one please! Last, but not least to George and me too no doubt, I know how much we both love the fab Lon Chaney Sr., as a great actor; so, I still cant help but wonder: what if? had he lived to play the lead in Dracula as director Tod Browning had envisioned!

  • Masterofoneinchpunch

    I love both films (though out of the whole Universal series involving either Frankenstein or Dracula I would pick Bride of Frankenstein; thank goodness Young Frankenstein is not Universal or else I would have another conundrum on my hands) and really neither are overly frightening. But for me Whale was the better director and I am a big Karloff fan (heck I’m a big Lugosi fan as well) so I pick Frankenstein. Though this is a bit like choosing your favorite child or favorite Peter Sellers film.

    Heck there is a highly acclaimed Spanish film where the Monster (Karloff’s version) was part of the motif (kudos if you can guess the title; even more kudos if you have watched it.)

    While I liked the direction of the Spanish version of Dracula better than Browning’s approach, Carlos Villarías has nowhere near the presence and panache of Bela Lugosi.

    Could this be as difficult as debating Chaplin vs. Keaton?

    • GeorgeDAllen

      MOIIP, the Spanish film to which you refer is undoubtedly “Spirit of the Beehive” — which not only have I seen, but I own! A fine picture.

      • The Mofessor

        A great film, but boy does it take a long time to get to the monster!

  • Wayne P.

    Does anyone else out there in MU fanfaredom think that Kenneth Branagh’s “Mary Shelley’s Frankesnstein” (1994) was a closer take on the actual gothic novel? I did and the book itself deserves better treatment than its received on cinema unless there are foreign language versions out there that am not aware of. The chase of Dr. Frankenstein by his creation over the earth and up to the North Pole made for fascinating story-telling, whether in print or on film!

    • Gayle Feyrer

      It was closer to the book, but not close enough, and hideously self-indulgent. I love the book, and wish they’d finally make a masterful movie of it. I love the Boris Karloff monster, but he’s not an intelligent creation like the books.

  • duke1029

    I saw both films on a double bill in a 1951 rerelease by Universal. I found DRACULA talky and boring, and except for the cellar scenes in the ruined Castle Dracula and Carfax Abbey, not frightening, only soporific. It didn’t occur to me at the time that armadillos are a New World species not found in Europe, but the inclusion did help the scene’s atmosphere. The tedium was counteracted by “Frankenstein.” It was alternately fascinating and frightening and gave me some, sleepless nights in the following days. The impressionistic sets, especially the stylized graveyard, were very effective. I still remember the reverberation of the shovels in the dirt as Colin Clive and Dwight Frye iunearthed the coffin, the echo betrayng that it was filmed inside on a studio set but very, very effective nevertheless. . The release of the Universal classics to Shock Theater in the New York area in 1957 confirmed my feelings that Tod Browning’s and Lugosi’s “Dracula” is stodgy and stage-bound while Whale’s and Karloff’s “Frankenstein” brilliantly cinematic. Despite “Dracula’s” slow pacing, Lugosi’s performance did become the paradigm and gold standard for future screen vampires.

  • Footcenter

    I have to agree with Irv , Frankenstein is certainly a better film, Karloff was amazing in the role, as was the rest of the cast, & while Lugosi is iconic as the count, indeed Lee stole the role for my generation. That being said, both films are true classics of the genre & both help define the legacy of their stars

  • Gayle Feyrer

    More affection? Dracula definitely. Better movie, Frankenstein. Themematically they are worlds apart.

  • pat

    The Frankenstein monster has given me the willys all my life, (I am now in my 70s). I was also scared by the first version of “The Thing”. Now zombies are in – hey wasn’t the Frankenstein monster a zombie?

    • Bobbyd

      The Thing keep me awake at night for a long time. Franky was the best monster between the two stated but the Thing was the scariest.

    • Tom K.

      @ Pat: No, Frankenstein’s “monster” was a compliation of human body parts collected from involuntary “donors”, re-assembled and re-activated by Doctor Frankenstein. If you assembled a car like this, things could ” go wrong “, and did. Be sure to check that Organ and Tissue Donor Box on your Driver’s License !

  • Daisy

    Sure, I love them both, and neither are scary at all by today’s standards. But both are good, gothic fantasies with memorable monsters, and I enjoy whichever one I am watching. If I have to state a preference, it would have to be Dracula. Bela Lugosi is great, but just as good is the unsung “monster”, Renfield, played by Dwight Frye. Together, they make a memorable team that has often been imitated and parodied, but never beaten.

  • Sally Stark

    I love them both, but given a “Desert Island” test, it could ONLY be FRANKENSTEIN!!!

  • Movie Fan

    What always scared me about movie monsters is they were once human. Brought back to life, they are empty, soulless buckets of flesh. Their brutality brings them no pleasure or joy, no sense of revenge, no satisfaction. They kill because that is what they do. Vampires were once human, and when brought back to life, they retain a twisted sense of humanity. They enjoy enslaving the innocent or the corrupt – one is equal to the other as long as the process is drawn out and excruciating – or revel in killing their victims outright after greedily feasting on their victim’s blood. Vampires exist to inflict pain and misery. Monsters simply exist, with no emotion as they kill, maim and destroy.

  • MikeyParks

    To me, Dracula (Lugosi) has an air of dread/stench of death about it that wasn’t present in Frankenstein. Don’t get me wrong; I love both.

  • glasspolish

    Neither Frankenstein nor Dracula movies actually scared me, even when I was very young, I did find both characters somewhat unsettling. But the movie that really brought a lingering memory and stirred my soul was a made-for-TV Frankenstein movie: “Frankenstein: the True Story” with Michael Sarrazin as the “Monster” and a stellar cast. Although the movie could not be considered “great” by most standards, the emotional impact was huge. A creation who was loved like a son by his creator and in turn loved his creator, who loathed him when he began to degenerate. The monster could not understand the reversal of affection. I don’t want to spoil it for those who have not seen it, so I will not go into any further detail.

    • jerrycstanaway

      The novel says Dracula had a mustache. WHY THE HELL DIDN’T LUGOSI PLAY DRACULA WITH A MUSTACHE?

      • GeorgeDAllen

        The ‘stache of course is never a guarantee of a classic Dracula performance (see: Zandor Vorkov and “Dracula vs. Frankenstein”) nor a fabulous Dracula movie (see: Jess Franco’s “Count Dracula”…on second thought, don’t. It’s not so hot, despite Christopher Lee looking more like the Stoker count and getting to say more of the Stoker text)…but a furry-lipped Lugosi sure would have been interesting. All in all, though, I think non-mustached Draculas have done better than their more hirsute cinematic counterparts.

  • Tom K.

    Karloff’s Frankenstein !

  • Bruce Reber

    For me – just gotta be the Frankenstein monster and the iconic portrayal by the great Boris Karloff – based on the book by Mary Shelley. As for Dracula, Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Bram Stoker’s blood sucker was just too campy IMO.

    • Wayne P.

      The original Frankenstein movie from 1931 was a classic but is not even closely related to Mary Shelley’s novel of that name. The closest movie version came in 1994 with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Kenneth Branagh, but there is still considerable difference of opinion, as noted elsewhere in this comment stream, on exactly how close that came. Either way, the suspenseful book, which is more gothic mystery than horror tale, definitely still needs a better cinematic treatment!

  • diacad

    Agree with Irv – Frankenstein’s monster is it. Dracula is good, but doesn’t even come close. Furthermore, “The Bride Of Frankenstein” (1935) is the first sequel and the best of them. It has that brilliant score by Franz Waxman (no score in the original), plus a great deal of sly humor. The outstanding ensemble of actors, supported by hokey electrical machinery and bizarre camera angles, must have had fun making this wonderful sendup of “horror” movies past and future. Most of the others to this day seem to take themselves far too seriously, with the exception of Abbott and Costello’s 1948 romp with both monsters.

  • http://www.wirralwriter.co.uk/ Alan Scouser

    My fave Frankenstein Monster is Boris Karloff. My favourite Dracula is Christopher Lee. And my favourite Wolf Man is Lon Chaney Jr.

  • Debbie

    I love both but my fave is Bela as Dracula. No one else even comes close. Although back in the 70′s, Frank Langella used to do a commercial “I love New York…… especially in the evenings.” An absolutely magnificent speaking voice. That was the first time I had seen Dracula as a sex symbol. He was currently starring in the Broadway hit “Dracula” and he was “hot”.

    • GeorgeDAllen

      Ah, the famous “I Love New York!” commercial! Previously in this space, I have shared my special affection for the cinematic incarnation of Langella’s Dracula (it was my first R-rated movie in the theater), but now I have the perfect excuse to provide this link to Frank’s unforgettable ad for the Big Apple, courtesy of langellafan’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQTpWQ4Si4w

  • Carolyn Ferrante

    No problem here! Frankenstein is cool, savvy, plays with children, experiences fear and joy…Dracula is a drag! He lacks charisma and is single-minded. You might say he sucks.

    • James Ferrante

      Agree, Franky was the best and right up there with Godzilla as “Best of Monsters.” I watched a movie called Black Thursday (if correct) at a friends’ house in the `60′s. I had to walk home afterwards “in the DARK”. I got tennis neck looking for the Witches that were following me and then there was “the bridge”. The wind was whistling through and I knew I had to stay on my toes at full speed & never take the time to look back as SOMETHING might be on my heels. I don’t think an Olympic champion could’ve caught me for 2 blocks that night. That black & white movie was the scariest in my childhood.

      • Carolyn Ferrante

        James, Are we twins who were separated at birth? I was a teen in the 1960s, and it sounds like you were, too! Did you notice that we have the SAME LAST NAME? Did you by chance ever see the film, “An Affair To Remember”? It starred Cary Grant, who name in this charming movie was: Nicky FERRANTE. Deborah Kerr was in the film, as well.

        • James Ferrante

          Hi Carolyn; Yes, I did notice your last name. One reason I answered this was because the te on the end isn’t used much. Mostly ti in Italy. I was born in Hartford, Conn. in 1953. There could be a relation. I’ll have to check that film out. Thanks; I’m at: jim32cpe@hotmail.com

  • Jim

    They are both wonderful movies, and if you throw in Bride of Frankenstein, the edge might seem to go to Old Bolt Neck. But here’s why I lean towards Dracula: as much as I love the Frankenstein movies, the character of the monster is kind of a limited affair, just grunting and waving the arms around, in the end. Lugosi makes something oddly poetic out of the vampire, and the eerie silences (never, never watch a version of Dracula with some stupid music added on!) completely carry the Dracula movie to the top. I never get tired of it.

  • Dick Mann

    Lugosi’s Dracula far and away. He is just creepy.

  • Scott Allen Nollen

    KARLOFF–BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN–TRANSCENDENT MASTERPIECE–JAMES WHALE
    And Boris didn’t just “grunt and wave his arms”; he conveyed multitudes of meaning with pantomime (coming from the silent era) that is more naturalistic and profound than the pages of Oxfordian discourse spewed by Mary Shelley’s original. Lugosi is also great, but unfortunately, Todd Browning;s film is only creepy at beginning and end, with that static filmed play in between. As history will show you, Karloff and Lugosi had quite different career paths. But Bela was darn good as the Count, definitely.

  • badleg60

    The major difference between the two and the reason why Frankenstein is the better film is the direction of James Whale, who had it all over Tod Browning as a director. Browning s success with Chaney Sr was due to the factor that he let Chaney pretty let Chaney do the directing. Joan Crawford said that in The Unknown., Chaney did everything, setting up the shots and telling the other actors what to do.Except for the marvelous beginning, which Karl Freund actually directed, the movie looks like a filmed stage play, only Lugosi’s brilliant performance saves the day. Whale had a great eye for setting a scene and directed a wonderful performance from Karloff as well as Clive.

  • moonchickk

    ”””’DRACULA”’—–IS DEFINITLY THE #1 SCARY –CREEPY–GUY—–I SAW THE MOVIE ”BELA LUGOSI”’ DRACULA AS A CHILD —I STILL SHUDDER WITH GOOSEBUMPS AND COVER MY NECK AT NIGHT—I LOVE GARLIC!!!!!

  • williamsommerwerck

    The problem for me is that Boris Karloff (William Henry Pratt) was a superb actor. (I use that adjective deliberately and knowingly.) Bela Lugosi was not.

    The fact that Karloff had a successful career as a respected actor, while Lugosi died in poverty, a drug addict (which was only partly his own fault), cannot help but bias my judgment towards Karloff’s performance as Frankenstein’s monster. There is also the fact that “Bride of Frankenstein” is not merely a great horror film, but a great film, period. Lugosi never appeared in a film of comparable quality,

  • dirkwrestler

    Frankenstein would be the more tragic character because he doesn’t know what hes doing or why he’s being hunted; theres no malicious intent. Dracula knows full-well what hes doing!!!

  • WA

    Frankenstein!

  • Kelley

    Dracula!

  • Paul W

    Though Frankenstein was always my favorite (more interesting and a tragic character we could indentify with as well as be scared of), I probably should have been more aftaid of Dracula since the Frankenstein monster could only kill me, but Dracula could get my soul. With the popularity of vampires today, when I mention how vampires are actually evil and can take your soul, kids look at me like, “Yeah, so what’s the catch?” Sorry, Van Helsing… too late.

  • Ken

    Dracula

  • Robert Kraus

    One of my favorite all time is Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstine

  • E-HOOPER.COM:

    The “Frankenstein” creature as visualized by the screenwriters at Universal Studios (and by makeup artist Jack Pierce) is … well, immortal. Storytellers then knew the difference between psychological terror and blood-spurting horror. Not so today, sad to say. Cheapshock is so much easier to achieve.

  • Mike from Novi

    “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” is the best horror-comedy, but Bride of Frankenstein is far superior to the first Frankenstein film, and it also has a sense of humor! It’s eerie that both the Director and Dr. in both movies were, in fact, “tortured-demented souls” and both died young, although perhaps from different causes? (Were they both alcoholics?) Good old Bela was an addict as well. Never mentioned., but another favorite of mine, has always been “A&C Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.

  • Creature from Black Lagoon

    IT IS “FRAWNKENSTEEN”….. Oh, then I am “EYEGORE”

  • Pappy

    Very close call but I have to go with Dracula .
    ” I don’t drrrrrink:::::: vine “

  • Rex Bobinette

    FRANKIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Revwong

    Karloff’s Frankenstein monster!

  • EDINBURGH

    Frankenstein ~ MISUNDERSTOOD

  • Dana Thompson

    Dracula rules, it’s such a classic and so spooky, I love Frankenstein too, great flick, great acting, but Lugosi as Dracula, it doesn’t get much better than that,

  • Rosalie

    Dracula, especially the BBC version with Louis Jourdan as the Count..

    • GeorgeDAllen

      Well done tip of the cape to Jourdan!– who remains one of the most underrated screen Draculas. The production as a whole is a little uneven (literally–with the shift between film stock and video often coming across pretty awkwardly) but it has plenty of its own creepy charms, too (the scene with the Count’s vampire brides and their infant meal is a particular goose-bumper), and I added that to the home library the second it was released.

      • Rosalie

        I so agree with you, George, Jourdan is one of the most underated screen Draculas. I think that version of Dracula followed the book most closely which I’ve read several times,

  • Daniel Shaw

    I am more interested in the history of the movies. I thought it was interesting that when the original “Dracula” was made, that there was a spanish version being made at the same time on the same set. It funny watching them side by side and comparing.
    As for “Frankenstein” ( I commend the people that know that Frankenstein was the scientist and not the monster) I found it interesting that in one of the Frankenstein movies that Karloff was in, that he did not play the monster. During this era not only did Karloff play the monster, but so did Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr. and Glenn Strange.
    I don’t sit there and figure which was better, just watch the movies and enjoy. They are alot better than what’s on T.V. now a days.

  • Helen S

    I didn’t think Frankenstein was scary…. Dracula was.

  • flyingtoupee

    I like both characters equally, and Lugosi was the quintessential Dracula. But as a movie, there’s no question that James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN is a masterpiece, and Tod Browning’s DRACULA, though interesting, flags very badly once Lugosi(and Renfield) leave Transylvania.

  • caligerry

    no disrespect to the other actors who played the role but none of them could touch karloff.but with lugosi only played his character twice-once seriously and once for kinda laughs he spooked me more.though chris lee did a pretty damn good job at raising goosebumps among other things.

  • rob m

    Frankenstein…..Dracula lags from the middle on……

  • Betty Parmaksizoglu

    Dracula beats all.
    But how about the Mummy?

  • Venomn

    Dracula is the Superior Universal Monster!

  • Thomas Majewski

    I’ll side with Frankie since vampires seem to be real.

  • John

    I think the fact that Dracula could look like a real person makes him all the scarier. Coming out of his coffin at night and being the evil predator plus the eeriness of the old castles and horse-drawn carriages along with the great musical score that enhanced the terror made it very scary!

  • Bill Brownlie

    I love Bela as Drac but believe the first three Frankenstein movies…the original plus Bride and Son, all with Karloff as the monster…are the best horror trilogy Universal ever made. Plus, James Whale directing the first two beats Todd Browning hands down. Also, Universal bungled the Dracula’s sequel. Lugosi was scheduled to appear but got dropped at the last minute. Now it’s hard to stay awake through Dracula’s Daughter.

  • Carioca

    I like Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster and Lugosi as Dracula in their first movies equally well, but the Dracula sequels just don’t hold my interest, while the Frankensteins, at least the first two sequels, do.

  • Antone

    Karloff breezes home in a race that was never close. Lugosi was so over-the-top that his best performances were late films like A&C Meet Frankenstein, where he mocked his own style.

  • Steven

    Bella Lugosi as Dracula was on the same par as Lon Chaney as The Wolf Man. The is no contest as Lugosi was ahead of the race against Karloff from the start with Lugosi as the clear winner. Karloff’s performance was boring at best due to nothing but stumbling and groaning which made his role comical. Lugosi had commanding screen presence and as Dracula was scary and intimidating. Unlike Karloff, Lugosi was an actor and had dialog unlike Karloff who had inconsistent and incoherent mumble due to Frankenstein being amateur at best when it comes to movie monsters. Dracula is the clear cut winner with Frankenstein being what he was in the start of this contest as he was in the movies, dead from the start.

  • jimjn

    The B man by far. To bring Shelly’s character to the big screen Karloff had to work between
    being an unknowing innocent, not just an evil creature. There was a certain bewilderment and
    sadness portrayed by Karloff in his rendition of Shelly’s monster. Hard to accomplish
    a multidimensional role like that without even talking, and with all that makeup on too. He pulled it off admirably, Also to this day, he is still the best Frankenstein monster of all time.

  • jimjn

    Just to add one more comment. As far as the classic monsters go, the only classic monster that even scared me when I was little was The Mummy bar far. A relentless, stealthy, powerful undead creature shrouded in actual myth and fact. Gave me nightmares.

  • Peter Sugars

    sorry cannot choose between them, i remember when i was a young teenager and they used to have theme nights on tv, Science Fiction , Gangsters or Horror . All the old B&W ‘s wish they would do it again now, You Can’t Beat The Oldies

  • Boobear

    Dracula definitely! Dracula was a bit of a romantic himself, only falling in love with one woman for all eternity. If only real men had his loyalty!!!!

  • http://www.sowhowins.com/ SimbasGuard

    While I have never seen the original classics *Ducks as objects are thrown* I have always preferred Dracula, as he is the one that started the vampire genera. Without Dracula there would never have been a Barnabas Collins or Nick Knight.

  • mike

    Boris Karloff and Bela Legosi were classics for Frankenstein and Dracula; the others that played them were far less.