“The story of the strangest passion the world has ever known!”
That’s the slogan the horror classic Dracula bore when Universal first rolled it out. The film starred Bela Lugosi as what later marketing would call “the epitome of evil!” But in 1931, Universal was anxious about their first major monster “talkie.” After acquiring the rights to Bram Stoker’s book (something the German silent Nosferatu had failed to do), producer Carl Laemmle Jr. immediately started looking at actors to play the vampire.
Bela Lugosi had first played Dracula in 1927, when the play version was brought to Broadway from London. Although audiences loved Lugosi in the role, Laemmle was uncertain about hiring a foreign actor. He eventually gave in, though, and because Lugosi was so anxious to get the part, was able to pay him a mere $500 a week.
Dracula’s first public screening took place at the Roxy Theater in New York on February 12, 1931, but it didn’t open the following day because of superstitions regarding Friday the 13th. Instead,Dracula’s formal opening was on February 14th — yes, Valentine’s Day. The film’s promotional materials included other ad lines like “The kiss no woman could resist!” and emphasized images of female lead Helen Chandler swooning in Dracula’s embrace or being carried off by him.
It turned out Laemmle shouldn’t have worried about how to market it — the film sold 50,000 tickets at the Roxy in 48 hours, becoming one of the biggest hits of the year. Variety praised the film’s “creepy atmosphere” and Lugosi’s performance, and The New York Times called it “the best of the many mystery films” (this was before the term “horror film” had entered the critical vocabulary).Dracula spawned two direct sequels — Dracula’s Daughter and Son of Dracula — although neither film included Lugosi.
Lugosi’s vampire count remains one of the most seductive and romantic monsters of all time, so Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to watch (or rewatch) the “strange passion” of Dracula.
IMAGE OF THE WEEK
Kevin Yagher, creator and executor of the original Chucky — and designer of Freddy Krueger’s makeup — snuggles with the scorched head of his creation behind the scenes on the set of 1988’s Child’s Play.
WORLD WAR Z SEQUEL STATUS, JASON VORHEES UNMASKED & MORE
The first trailer for the Child’s Play reboot features the first (shadowy) glimpses of the new Chucky.
By Sam Zimmerman
This States of Horror we hit high school hell.
Ohio: A Nightmare on Elm Street
School is a special sort of nightmare in Ohio-set horror. From your dead best friend sliding in slick blood through the halls, to extraterrestrial educators, to at least three mean girls named Heather. That’s right, Ohio has some of the most prevalent curriculum carnage. Wes Craven set his seminal supernatural slasher A Nightmare on Elm Street in Springwood, Ohio. The biting black comedy of Heathers quips all over Sherwood. Finally, Robert Rodriguez’s delightful high school riff on Body Snatchers, The Faculty lives in a general Ohio suburb. Bonus: For more adult-minded psychological horror, Jeff Nichols’ acclaimed premonition freakout, Take Shelter, takes place in the small village of Lagrange and was shot in surrounding areas. And Michael Dougherty’s ultimate Halloween horror Trick ‘r Treat sees all sorts of ghouls, goblins, and creatures run amok over the fictional Warren Valley, Ohio.
From one Michael Shannon mention to the next! Before Take Shelter, the stirring, nervy actor went wild with Ashley Judd in William Friedkin’s incredible descent into madness, Bug. Though set at a ramshackle rural Oklahoma motel, you don’t see much outside in this film about a couple convinced their room is infected by bugs as part of a government experiment
THINGS WE LOVE
We’re here to read They Live: A Visual and Cultural Awakening and chew bubble gum — and we’re all out of bubble gum. Based on the cover, graphic designer Craig Oldham’s tribute to the 1988 classic looks like nothing more than one of the film’s magazines with a revealed subliminal message. But inside, there are contributions from Shepard Fairey, Jenny Holzer, the Guerilla Girls, and even director John Carpenter himself. It doesn’t take Rowdy Roddy Piper’s glasses to see these bubble gum-scented pages (that’s right — bubble gum-scented pages) are a must-have.