Wednesday, October 26, 2005

31 Days of Des' Horror Favourites: #6 Dracula

Why I like it: It is the best film baring the title "Dracula." That is certainly an honour. According to The Guinness Book of Records (2005) Dracula has been portrayed in film over 160 times. Bela Lugosi was the best.

Lugosi reportedly stared into the mirror repeating the words "I am Dracula" in order to get into character. His piercing gaze, eastern European good looks, heavy Hungarian accent and light, almost floating movements forever linked him with the role. He almost didn't get the role as it was promised to Lon Chaney Sr. until he died a year before filming in 1930.

In fact, most actors try desperately not to get typecast. Lugosi embraced it and was even buried in full Dracula costume upon his death in 1956. He was a legend of stage and screen before even coming to America playing the stage role of Jesus in his native Hungary and countless film roles in Hungary and Germany.

It's quite sad to think that it was his drug addiction that forced him to sign on to Ed Wood's so awful they're good films like Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Tod Browning directed what will probably be forever considered his masterpiece (although Freaks is the better film by leaps and bounds) and almost was not able to make it. After Bram Stoker died his widow was so protective of the film rights to his movie that the previously reviewed Nosferatu (#31 in my list) went by dubiously changed details in character and setting. Browning and his producer sought the film rights to Hamilton Deane's 1927 play which rightfully claimed the rights to Dracula (as film was not considered an art form in the 20s and 30s) and incidentally starred Bela Lugosi as the title monster.

Where Nosferatu took the monstrous road of vampire films, Dracula stayed truer to the novel and portrayed the Count as a sexy, suave predator. The image that most popularly endures today.

This was, I believe, the first of the long line of Universal horror films. And by that I mean the stylish and atmospheric movies that all seemed to inhabit the same universe and had at least one of the following actors in it: Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Boris Karloff or Claude Rains. Sometimes in combinations.

Check these out:
-Bram Stoker's Dracula-Francis Ford Coppola adapts Stoker's novel rather faithfully but the film suffers from too much Keanu in my opinion.
-Vampyr-1931 film adapting a few of Le Fanu's "In a Glass Darkly" stories.
-M-Fritz Lang film based on the real life serial killer Peter Kurten "The Vampire of Dusseldorf" played by Peter Lorre.
-Frankenstein-Universal horror.
-Bride of Frankenstein-The best of the Universal films.
-The Wolf Man-Lon Chaney Jr. as the cursed Larry Talbot.
-Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman-Universal films shows the first in a series of very unnecessary sequels with Chaney as the Wolf Man and Lugosi this time donning the Frankenstein mantle.
-Nosferatu-Silent German vampire film.
-The Corpse Vanishes-A great Lugosi horror where he stars as a murdering mad scientist stealing gland fluid from young virgins to keep his ancient wife alive. Yum!
-White Zombie-Lugosi's best role: Murder Legendre the twisted zombie-maker.
-The Black Cat and The Raven-Lugosi and Karloff star in these Poe adaptations together.
-Mark of the Vampire-Tod Browning and Lugosi return for another vampire film. Subpar.
-Son of Dracula-Terrible and set in the American South, Lon Chaney Jr. tries desperately to be seen as a character other than the Wolf Man.
-Horror of Dracula-Hammer films pits Christopher Lee against Peter Cushing in this classic.
-Blood and Donuts-A great Montreal-based vampire film.
-The Lost Boys-Come on! Corey Haim and Corey Feldman? Add Kiefer Sutherland and it's a triple threat!
-The Monster Squad-Can't mention Lost Boys without this fun little romp. The Universal monsters homage film where Dracula unites the creatures of the night to take over the world or something and only a group of 12 year olds can stop him. Most important lesson learned in this film: Wolf Man's got knards!
-Last Man on Earth-Vincent Price fighting a legion of zombies.
-Ed Wood-Tim Burton directs the odd life story of the B-movie director starring Johnny Depp in the title role with Martin Landau who won an Oscar for his portrayal of an aged Bela Lugosi.
-Salem's Lot-An eerie Stephen King adaptation.

Let me know which great Vampire films I forgot to mention...

2 Bitching, Moaning and Praise

Blogger Davinder said...

That is a hell of a photo. I wish the woman looked more scared, though. She seems a little nonplussed by the whole situation.

7:13 pm  
Blogger Des said...

I think she's hypnotized...

7:20 pm  

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