Favorite Horror Films: 4: Dracula

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460px-Bela_Lugosi_as_Dracula,_anonymous_photograph_from_1931,_Universal_Studios(www.wikipedia.org)

When I first considered doing an examination of my favorite horror movies, I thought that going decade by decade would be sufficient, but I realized that some periods have far more excellent films than others.  A simple examination of 2-4 movies from the 1930s will not work, so I am going to look at one film at a time for that decade. I will begin with Dracula, a film I love, and which I have taught in college classes such as Literature and Film and Gothic and Horror at both Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA and Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.  I also hold the novel to be an excellent and very important book.

dracula_movie_poster_style_f

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Dracula, made in 1931, and released for Valentine’s Day–a nice touch–was a huge success and established Bela Lugosi as a top box office star. This production was itself based on the very successful theatrical play Dracula by Hamilton Deane and James Balderston. Stoker’s novel did not see great success during his life, but after his death and the success of the play, it became one of the best selling novels of the 20th Century–worldwide.

Carl Laemmle Jr, capitalized on the story’s growing popularity and produced the movie.  Tod Browning, who had directed Lon Chaney Sr. in several movies, directed this piece. This film is highly atmospheric with a Gothic set and influenced by German Expressionism. Lugosi was brilliant with his authentic Hungarian accent and menacing presence. His performance and voice set the standard for the image of Dracula and vampires for decades to come. Dracula was a sensation and terrified people; today’s audience would probably find it slow and not at all frightening, but that reflects our jaded views that have been glutted with gore as the staple ingredient of contemporary horror.  This film depended on story telling, atmosphere, and acting. The film’s success created an era of classic horror films through the 1930s and part of the 1940s with Universal studios leading the way.

Additionally, Dracula is generally accepted by most film critics as one of the best horror films made.  I certainly consider it to be one of the best and most important.

dracula_spanish_big

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

It is an interesting and little known detail of film history that in addition to the English language version, Universal also made a Spanish language film at the same time.  The  two films shared the same sets, and the same basic scripts, but with different actors and a different director: George Melford directed, and Carlos Villarías stared as Dracula.  While not as well known, an argument can be made that this is a better film than the more established English language version.  If you ever have the opportunity to see it, I recommend that you do.

Thoughts from Chaucer and Shakespeare

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Today I will offer a few quotations from writers from earlier eras about creativity, learning, and teaching.

Geoffrey_Chaucer_-_Illustration_from_Cassell's_History_of_England_-_Century_Edition_-_published_circa_1902

(illustration from Cassell’s History Of England – Century Edition – published circa 1902)

“And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche”

“And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.”

These are the Middle English and the Modern English versions of this quotation from “The General Prologue” of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. This idea is of enormous importance to me, because I am both a teacher and a life-long student.  All people should try to continue to learn throughout their lives and to teach someone else the wisdom they have amassed.

shakespeare

(Portrait of William Shakespeare, attributed to John Taylor
NPG London)

“Suit the action to the word, the

word to the action, with this special observance, that you

o’erstep not the modesty of of nature. For anything so over-

done is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at

the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the mirror

up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her

own image, and the very age and body of the time his

form and pressure.”

William Shakespeare (Hamlet Act 3. Scene2. lines 16-23)

Shakespeare speaks to the importance of representing life and humanity as it is and to examine the world in its complexities; it can also be an injunction for all creative efforts. I do not mean we should eliminate abstraction, metaphor, or altered forms, but that, at our core, we are creating art about humanity and our world.

Keep learning and keep sharing what you know.

#PitMad Reminder–A Call For Help!

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Hello everyone! This may sound like an odd request, but today I am participating in #PitMad on Twitter, a day long event in which authors tweet a pitch for a book to agents.

If any of you have Twitter, please consider retweeting my pinned tweet, which I will have put up.

My Twitter handle is @French_C1955

This is also important–do not like the pitch–that is for agents to let writers know they are interested in your work.

The tweet will be for my Young Adult Ecological Post-Apocalyptic novel The Ameriad: The Monastery of Knowledge.  I will have the tweet up at 8 A. M. EST.

Again, thank you to all!

black and red typewriter

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Favorite Horror Movies: Part Seven: The Invisible Man

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The Invisible Man

The-Invisible-Man

(en.wikipedia.org)

One of the more interesting and unusual horror films of the 1930s is The Invisible Man, directed by James Whale and produced by Carl Laemelle Jr. for Universal Studios (1933). This film is based on H.G. Wells’ novel of the same name, and it is a reasonably close adaptation of the book. Some changes were made to the story line, notably the addition of a love interest and moving the time from the Victorian Era to the 1930s.

Wells_The_Invisible_Man

(en.wikipedia.org)

The film was unusual in the caliber and sophistication of the special effects, which still hold up to contemporary scrutiny.  It is important to remember that these filmmakers were not using computer generated images to create their effects; rather, they were forced to create from ingenuity, creating new techniques in cinematic art.  The end result shows visual images that are still powerful and compelling.

The story is well told and excellently acted. Claude Rains  stars as Dr. Griffin, the Invisible Man, and he does a superb job in his performance. He creates a convincing character of the scientist, who much like Victor Frankenstein, exhibits hubris in his research.  He succeeds in finding the way to invisibility but goes insane as a result and becomes homicidal. The film ends with his character being chased down and killed, and before perishing, he admits he should not have explored forbidden areas of science.  Again, this reinforces the theme earlier seen in Frankenstein.

Another interesting theme that is hinted at in this movie is the danger of drug abuse, as also show in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Griffin uses a drug identified as “monocane” in his formula, and the consequences are his becoming dangerously insane. While he does not use the drug as an addict might, he still ruins his life through its usage.

The film did well at the box office and is considered by many critics, including me, to be one of the best horror films of the 1930s.

Whale_on_the_set_of_Invisible_Man

(https://en.m.wikipedia.org)

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