The Story (continued)
To open the next scene, a crane shot moves down from the high metal gate of Seward's Sanitarium. The scene dissolves to the gardens and grounds of the sanitarium below, where the camera uneasily moves around through an odd assortment of attendants and patients. Suddenly, a terrifying cry is heard from the left, yet the camera wildly swings to the right to capture the hysterical reaction of one of two patients on a bench: "He probably wants his flies again!" While the patient laughs and screeches hysterically in the background, the camera tracks up to the second-story sanitarium room where two men struggle together. A truly crazy and tortured Renfield, who feeds on flies and spiders, begs his asylum attendant/orderly Martin (Charles Gerrard) to let him keep a spider for a meal [this recalls the Count's words: "The spider spinning his web for the unwary fly"]:
Renfield: (an off-screen voice) Oh Martin, please, please don't Martin. No, Martin! Please. Please Martin. No, Martin! Oh Martin please!
Martin: Here, give it to me now... (Martin procures the body of a spider and carries it with two fingers toward the window.)
Renfield: (in a tormented tone) No, Martin. Martin don't! Don't throw my spider away from me! (Martin disposes of the spider out the window) Oh Martin, no!
Martin (chastising): Ain't ya ashamed now! Ain't ya? Spiders now, is it? Flies ain't good enough.
Renfield: Flies! Flies! Poor puny things. Who wants to eat flies?
Martin: You do, you loony!
Renfield: (with eyes glaring) Not when I can get nice fat spiders.
Martin: All right. Have it your own way.
An eminent, white-coated scientist, middle-European (Netherlands) doctor and Professor named Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) is introduced in close-up. With thick glasses over his eyes, he sits at his desk pouring out and examining a dark-colored liquid from a test tube. As he rips off his glasses and the camera pulls back, four other dark figures are revealed around his desk awaiting his determination. An expert authority on the occult, he has been called in by Seward to explain the strange deaths. The unorthodox physician is testing a blood sample from Renfield at the Sanitarium, and attempting to secure proof through his findings that Renfield is "undead" - the mortal slave of a vampire:
Van Helsing: Gentlemen, we are dealing with the undead...Yes, Nosferatu, the undead, the vampire. The vampire attacks the throat. It leaves two little wounds, white with red centers. Dr. Seward, your patient Renfield whose blood I have just analyzed, is obsessed with the idea that he must devour living things in order to sustain his own life.
Seward: Well, Professor Van Helsing, modern medical science does not admit of such a creature. The vampire is a pure myth, superstition.
Van Helsing: I may be able to bring you proof, that the superstition of yesterday can become the scientific reality of today.
Afterwards, Renfield is brought to Van Helsing and Seward for an examination. The patient anxiously raves about wanting to be released from the hospital because his outbursts give Mina "bad dreams":
Renfield: Oh, Dr. Seward. Send me away from this place. Send me far away...My cries at night. They might disturb Miss Mina...They might give her bad dreams, Professor Van Helsing. Bad dreams.
(A wolf's howl is heard as the sun sets - Dracula rises from his coffin in the nearby Abbey.)
Van Helsing: That sounded like a wolf.
Seward: Yes, it did. But I hardly think there are wolves so near London...
Van Helsing: We know why the wolves talk, do we not Mr. Renfield? And we know how we can make them stop.
Van Helsing perceptively knows that the wolfish howling is the vampire's communication with Renfield. The doctor holds up a plant in front of Renfield - its scent makes him violently shriek, hiss, and back away. As he is taken back to his room to be closely watched, Renfield threatens that Miss Mina will be harmed. Van Helsing describes how the plant, named wolfsbane, is used in central Europe: "The natives there use it to protect themselves against vampires."
Later that night, Renfield, now a dessicated inmate of the lunatic asylum, is pleased to see his Master in the Sanitarium's garden, but then, Dracula silently and hypnotically commands the lunatic to obey him. The enslaved madman sobs uncontrollably: "No Master, please. Please don't ask me to do that. Don't! Not her. Please! Please don't, Master! Don't, please! Please! Oh don't!"
As Mina sleeps that night, Dracula flies in her room as a bat and preys on her. He approaches and bends over toward her neck in close-up, to suck the blood from her neck (off-screen), in another scene of lustful thirst. The screen discreetly turns black. As with Lucy, the delicate young woman's personality starts to change.
Troubled, she tells her sweetheart and fiancee, John, that she is having terrible nightmarish dreams and is fast losing her life-blood:
And just as I was commencing to get drowsy, I heard dogs howling. And when the dream came, it seemed the whole room was filled with mist. It was so thick, I could just see the lamp by the bed, a tiny spark in the fog. And then I saw two red eyes staring at me, and a white livid face came down out of the mist. It came closer and closer. I felt its breath on my face, and then its lips, ohhh,...and then in the morning, I felt so weak. It seemed as if all the life had been drained out of me.
Van Elsing overhears Mina's conversation with John, and asks to examine her throat. There, he finds two tell-tale bite marks - they first appeared the morning after the dream. John asks: "What could have caused them, Professor?" Just then, almost as an answer to the question, "Count Dracula" is introduced by a maid as a visitor. Although they have never met, the Professor is complimented by Dracula for being "a most distinguished scientist whose name we know, even in the wild Transylvania." Mina reacts expectantly toward Dracula's unholy presence - her breathing visibly accelerates as she watches him. When he turns toward her, she leans forward toward him with a imperceptible yearning. Dracula attributes Mina's bad dreams to his grim tales of his far-off country.
As Dracula talks directly next to Mina, John opens a small cigarette box with a mirror inside its lid. Van Helsing notices that although Mina's reflection is seen, Dracula does not cast a reflection. It is a pivotal moment in the film - a sure sign that he is a vampire. In a second view as Van Helsing [and the film audience] bends closer to the mirrored case for a better look, Dr. Seward and Mina both show a reflection but there is a large gap between them where Dracula stands. At another angle, as Dracula asks permission to inquire about Mina's health, he again casts no reflection. To confront the Count, Van Helsing shows Dracula "a most amazing phenomenon" that he stumbled upon a moment earlier. He opens the mirrored box right in front of Dracula. The Count immediately slaps it out of his hands, and then humbly apologizes to escape detection: "Dr. Seward...I dislike mirrors. Van Helsing will explain." With a wild, mad look on his face, Dracula compliments the well-known vampire hunter Van Helsing before hastily exiting:
For one who has not lived even a single lifetime, you are a wise man, Van Helsing.
After Dracula makes a quick apology and suddenly leaves, Harker strides to the terrace and notices "a huge dog" running across the lawn where the vampire retreated. Van Helsing realizes that Dracula transformed himself into a wolf to prevent them from following him. The scientist, who has dedicated his life to battling the undead, identifies Dracula as "our vampire." He explains something about the characteristics and habits of vampires:
A vampire casts no reflection in the glass. That is why Dracula smashed the mirror...The strength of the vampire is that people will not believe in him.
Meanwhile, Mina has left the house and is soon victimized by Dracula. The vampire lifts his black cape and wraps it around her, entirely enveloping her. Van Helsing continues his explanation to his listeners inside:
A vampire, Mr. Harker, is a being that lives after its death by drinking the blood of the living. It must have blood or it dies. Its power lasts only from sunset to sunrise. During the hours of the day, it must rest in the earth in which it was buried.
Van Helsing expects that Dracula must have brought his native soil with him, boxes of earth large enough for him to rest in, from Transylvania to England.
A crazed Renfield enters the room and tells them that it is too late, his predictions have come true: "I begged you to send me away but you wouldn't. Now it's too late. It's happened again...." He turns to John and implores him to take Mina far away: "Take her away from here. Take her away before..." Suddenly, a bat flaps at the open window, apparently listening to the conversation. Renfield trembles with fear, realizing Dracula will punish him for betrayal. The camera glides slowly toward him as he exclaims: "No, no Master. I wasn't going to say anything. I told them nothing. I'm loyal to you, Master."
When Van Helsing questions Renfield's association with Dracula, Renfield denies any knowledge: "I never even heard the name before." The lunatic is warned that he will die in torment if there is innocent blood on his soul. Renfield shivers: "Oh no. God will not take a lunatic's soul. He knows that the powers of evil are too great for those of us with weak minds."
A loud scream is head, and a maid rushes into the house, crying that Mina's body is lying "dead" on the lawn. While they all rush to attend to Mina, the maid is left alone with Renfield. He gives an insane-sounding laugh, causing the frightened maid to faint and slump to the floor. Then, crawling on his hands and knees up to her body, Renfield reaches out for her. [The denouement of the scene was excised from the final version of the film.] Mina is carried in, alive, but under Dracula's spell and influence.
Later that evening, Lucy, the vampire's bride, (a mysterious "Woman in White"), makes an attack upon some children, heard crying in the distance by a policeman. A white-shrouded figure - Lucy - is seen walking in a trance away from the scene into the darkness. Martin reads the next day's newspaper account of the attack to two curious asylum nurses:
Further attacks on small children committed after dark by the mysterious Woman in White took place last night. Narratives of two small girls, each child describing a beautiful lady in white who promised her chocolates, enticed her to a secluded spot, and there bit her slightly in the throat.
Van Helsing questions Mina about her friend Lucy. Mina confesses that Lucy has become a victim of vampire Dracula's lust for blood:
Van Helsing: And when was the next time you saw Miss Lucy - after she was buried?
Mina: I was downstairs on the terrace. She came out of the shadows and stood looking at me. I started to speak to her, and then I remembered she was dead. Well, the most horrible expression came over her face. She looked like a hungry animal, a wolf. And then she turned and ran back into the dark.
Mina also confesses that Lucy is the Woman in White. Van Helsing promises to release Lucy from her bondage: "...after tonight, she will remain at rest, her soul released from this horror." Mina is relieved that her friend will no longer suffer, that her soul will be saved after death. Then she asks for the salvation of her own soul: "Promise me you'll save mine." John grabs her arm, telling her that she will not die. Mina cautions him about how her life has changed:
No, John. You mustn't touch me. And you mustn't kiss me, ever again...It's all over John, our love. Our life together. Oh no. No, no. Don't look at me like that. I love you, John, you. This horror. He wills it.
Van Helsing is worried that it is approaching toward evening and another horrible night will be upon them. John stubbornly plans to take Mina back to London, but Van Helsing asserts his Old World authority. He wants Mina to stay there in her own bedroom for safety's sake with wolfsbane and an attendant nurse as precautions: "Both this room and your bedroom have been prepared with wolfsbane. You will be safe if Dracula returns." Van Helsing instructs a nurse:
Miss Mina is to wear this wreath of wolfsbane when she goes to bed. Watch her closely and see that she does not remove it in her sleep...And under no circumstances must these windows be opened tonight.
When the sun sets, Dracula emerges once again from his coffin under Carfax Abbey. Van Helsing summarizes his conclusions about Dracula to Mina's father:
You will recollect that Dracula cast no reflection in the mirror...and that three boxes of earth were delivered to him at Carfax Abbey...and knowing that a vampire must rest by day in his native soil, I am convinced that this Dracula is no legend but an undead creature whose life has been unnaturally prolonged.
Van Helsing won't permit Mina's departure with John: "If you take her from under our protection, you will kill her." Van Helsing tells John that there is only one way to save Mina's life: "Our only chance of saving Miss Mina's life is to find the hiding place of Dracula's living corpse and to drive a stake through its heart." Renfield has snuck into the room (his shadow lurks at the door) and heard their conversation, wondering: "Isn't this a strange conversation for men who aren't crazy?" Dr. Seward phones Martin, the asylum attendant, to come and retrieve the escaped patient. While waiting for Martin, Renfield presents a graphic description of Dracula's hypnotic power. The enslaved Renfield was promised red-blooded rats for his obedience:
He came and stood below my window in the moonlight. And he promised me things, not in words but by doing them...by making them happen. A red mist spread over the lawn, coming on like a flame of fire. And then he parted it and I could see that there were thousands of rats, with eyes blazing red, like his only smaller. And then he held up his hand and they all stopped and I thought he seemed to be saying, 'Rats, rats, rats, thousands, millions of them, all red blood, all these will I give you if you obey me.'
During the telling of the description, Dracula appears at an open doorway in the house. Curious, Van Helsing asks what Renfield was ordered to do. Renfield proudly answers, with a hideous laugh: "That which has already been done." Then, Dracula returns and tries to overcome Van Helsing in the Sewards' living room in a war of words:
Dracula: Now that you have learned what you have learned, it would be well for you to return to your own country.
Van Helsing: I prefer to remain and protect those whom you would destroy.
Dracula: You are too late. My blood now flows through her veins. She will live through the centuries to come, as I have lived.
Van Helsing: Should you escape us Dracula, we know how to save Miss Mina's soul, if not her life.
Dracula: If she dies, by day. But I shall see that she dies by night.
Van Helsing: And I will have Carfax Abbey torn down stone by stone, excavated a mile around. I will find your earth box and drive that stake through your heart.
Dracula fixes Van Helsing with his powerful stare and attempts to overpower the vampire fighter, commanding him to come closer, but Van Helsing's will is very powerful. The Dutch doctor pulls out a cross from his coat pocket to drive him away. Dracula hisses, and moves backward, throwing his cape across his face to shield himself, and then flees from the house.
The attendant nurse tells John about Mina's unusual behavior, how she won't go to sleep, and how the windows were strangely opened: "I felt strangely dizzy. And when it cleared away, Miss Mina was up and dressed and out on the terrace, and I can't get her to go to bed." On the open-air terrace, Mina complains of the restrictions she has been placed under, and the smell of the awful weed, but she also feels alive for once. However, Dracula's blood has been merged with hers, making her his undead bride. As John looks up at the stars in the clear evening's sky, Mina's blood-lust has been provoked. Animalistically, she stares intently at John's neck as if she wants to hungrily bite him. Fixed malevolently on him, she is ready to strike. Now a vampire, Mina loves the night:
Oh, but I love the fog. I love nights with fog...I love the night. That's the only time I feel really alive.
Just then, a bat flies over them. John waves his arms at the bat hovering above and finally chases it away. Mina however, talks to it, acquiescing to Dracula's command of murder: "Yes...yes...I will," but then denies it. Trance-like, Mina's frightening eyes take on a strange, feral appearance, and she moves forward again toward John's neck. A close-up of her hungry, sexually-desirous face crosses the screen from right to left toward him. Fortunately, Van Helsing vigilantly protects John and rescues him with his pocket-sized crucifix, and Mina screams in revulsion. John gradually realizes she is one of Dracula's victims when she cowers from the cross and admits her enslavement. She has been made Dracula's living slave by being forced to drink the vampire's own blood, something she describes with sexual metaphors:
Dracula, he...He came to me. He opened his veins in his arms and he made me drink.
A gunshot is heard. Out on the lawn, Martin has aimed and shot his rifle at a large gray bat. Van Helsing tells him that bullets are powerless. Martin turns to a maid: "They're all crazy. They're all crazy except you and me. Sometimes I have me doubts about you."
In the predawn hours, Dracula returns to Mina's bedroom and enters. He hypnotizes the nurse and forces her to open the large doors onto the terrace. He leads Mina, his intended bride, away from the estate to his subterranean chambers in the Abbey. Meanwhile, Van Helsing and Harker follow the mad Renfield to Carfax Abbey where they expect to find Dracula's box of earth. Dracula is greeted by Renfield who has escaped his cell: "Master. Master, I'm here." Renfield rushes up the long winding staircase to the underground vaults and asks: "What is it, Master? What do you want me to do?" Peering into the Abbey through barred windows, Van Helsing and Harker see Dracula taking Mina down the stairs with Renfield blocking the path. They cry out for her.
Dracula believes that Renfield has betrayed him, by directly leading the two vampire-hunters there. Renfield pleads for mercy, sobbing:
I didn't lead them here, Master. I didn't know. I swear. No! No!...I'm loyal to you Master. I'm your slave. I didn't betray you. Oh no don't! Don't kill me. Let me live please! Punish me, torture me, but let me live! I can't die with all those lives on my conscience! All that blood on my hands!
Renfield's entreaties are to no avail. In an incredible scene, Dracula kills his inept slave by strangling him, lifting him by the throat, and tossing his body down the massive staircase. Then, he takes Mina in his arms and flees to the cellar crypt. Van Helsing and Harker find an entrance into the Abbey and chase Dracula through the huge, dirty rooms of the catacombs. As the sun rises, Dracula disappears by entering into his coffin.
In the conclusion to this classic horror film, Harker and Van Helsing push open a large, creaking door as Mina screams. Van Helsing discovers a room with two coffins. Raising the lid of the first coffin, Van Helsing finds Dracula's coffin. [Now that it is after sunrise, the vampire is helpless. The coming of the dawn has prevented Dracula from consummating the transformation of Mina.] Although the two vampire-killers at first hesitate to look into the second coffin, sensing that Mina may be inside, they find that it is empty.
Van Helsing prepares a sharp, pointed wooden stake to drive into Dracula's heart. John continues to call for Mina and look in other coffins for her, but cannot find her anywhere. Dracula is sent to eternal damnation, making agonized groans (offscreen) when Van Helsing pounds and drives the stake into his undead heart while he is sleeping in his coffin. In another part of the subterranean cellar, Mina feels his agonizing death pains, and screams as Dracula is impaled.
Mina is located by the sound of her screams. John rushes to her and hugs her. Mina appears to come out of her trance - released from Dracula's powers and curse. She tells John as they embrace:
Mina: Oh, John, John, darling. I heard you calling but I couldn't say anything.
Harker: We thought he'd killed you, dear.
Mina: The daylight stopped him. Oh, if you could have seen the look on his face.
Van Helsing (assuring her): There's nothing more to fear, Miss Mina. Dracula is dead forever. No, no, no. You must go.
Mina: But aren't you coming with us?
Van Helsing: Not yet. Uh...presently. Come, John.
Van Helsing remains behind as John and Mina are reunited and walk up the winding staircase - sunlight streams through the windows. The forces of light triumph. In the distance, church bells are heard ringing.
Also Worth Your Attention...
AMC Filmcritic's Review of Dracula