HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELA LUGOSI! Today is Bela's birthday and what better way to celebrate than to choose as our vampiric Halloween movie of the day the movie that started it all, that saved Universal from bankruptcy, that began the entire golden age of classic Universal horror: "DRACULA".
There's just something about "DRACULA" -- I always seem to watch it around Halloween. Even though "FRANKENSTEIN" is the much better movie, there's just something about the experience of watching "DRACULA" which means Halloween to me. It also goes way back to when I was a kid; the first memory I have of actually watching a horror movie concerns "DRACULA". In the huge old Victorian house owned by my grandparents, I would usually stay weekends. Down in the basement was what used to be a bar -- a speakeasy, in fact. It even had a separate entrance. But those days were gone now and all was quiet. The only light came from the small ground level window at the top of the wall. My grandfather and I would sit on the old couch in front of the big black and white TV set as the metal art deco rotating table fan (with the brown cloth electrical cord) circulated my grandfather's cigar smoke. The big glass TV tube flickered with the black and white -- really blue and black -- images of Bela Lugosi in "DRACULA". I always think of that when I see the film now.
"DRACULA" is so slow and dreamlike that it instantly transports me into a sort of subconscious land of shadows and vampires. Bela's performance is, of course, iconic. And his supporting cast is marvelous. The manic Dwight Frye as Renfield: "Rats! Rats! Millions of them!" Edward Van Sloan as the vampire hunting Van Helsing. David Manners and the doomed Helen Chandler as the "romantic leads" powerless in the face of ancient evil. Karl Freund's prowling camera through the marvelous Universal gothic sets. It's Halloween for sure now!