My 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.

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(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.

Favorite Horror Films: 1: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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October is one of my favorite months of the year for several reasons: it is the true beginning of Autumn weather, my birthday is this month, and so is my favorite holiday–Halloween!

This month, I will do two series that fit well with the spirit of Halloween: favorite Horror movies and favorite Horror novels! I will have already begun horror novels, so now it is time for horror movies.

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I have been a fan of horror movies since I was a child. I grew up watching Universal movies from the 1930s and 1940s being shown on various themed TV shows with horror hosts. As an adult, my love for these films has not waned; in fact, it has grown and helped to feed my scholarly interest in film. I use these films in some of the classes I teach in college, both at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.

Several films, in particular, stand out to me from the 1920s.  Two starred Lon Chaney Sr., the Man of a Thousand Faces, and were made by Universal Studios.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

The first film is The Hunchback of Notre Dame, (1923) based on the Victor Hugo novel, and it is an extraordinary piece of cinema that stands up today. It was a very expensive production at the time.  Estimates range in the $1,250,000 to $1,500,000 range.  Given the year, that is a huge sum of money.

The movie accurately reflects Hugo’s examination of the capacity of human beings to be intensely cruel to each other and of the abuse of power by those in positions of authority.  This film is a critique of the misuse of power by those in authority, the capacity of humanity to be cruel, and of unquestioning acceptance of the order of the day. It is a piece of art whose message still resonates today, nearly one hundred years after it was made.

Wallace Worsley directed the film, and Lon Chaney Sr. gave a magnificent performance as Quasimodo.  It is also important to remember that Mr. Chaney created all of his own makeups.  If all you know of this story is the Disney version, you need to see this production.  I would consider it one of the best and most important films ever made.

The second film with Lon Chaney Sr. is The Phantom Of The Opera, and I will cover that movie in another post.

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Favorite Gothic and Horror Novels: Part One: Dracula

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I have ready many books over the course of my life, and books have become a central part of who I am. I read books for pleasure, for study, and for examination. I teach books in my literature classes at Lehigh University and Muhlenberg College, I write about them in scholarly work, and I write novels. As I was considering the topic for this post about Gothic and Horror novels, I knew almost immediately which book I should begin with.

Dracula

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

I have spoken of Dracula before in a series about books that have influenced me the most, but in this series, I will focus on those that are Gothic and Horror, which is fitting, given the upcoming holiday of Halloween.

So many come to mind and are possibilities for discussion;  among these novels are Dracula,  Frankenstein Dr. Jekyll and MrHyde, Carmilla, The Shining, Interview With The Vampire, and many others. I hope to cover these and other books during this series.

Today, I will focus on Dracula and what its influence on me was and is. This was one of the first Gothic novels I had read, and its power caught me immediately. I was a youngster, probably 12 years old, when I first read this novel, and I was drawn to the images of dark castles, terrible villains, and the supernatural. This book helped to set me on a path both of study and writing from that point to today.  That I love Gothic is still clear, because not only do I teach Gothic literature, but also I write it.

Dracula, however, had a much deeper impact on me that simply the horror aspect; I was drawn to the idea of the need for good people to oppose evil.  It is a theme that, on the surface, might seem simplistic, but a person need only look at the history of the 20th Century into our contemporary time to see that evil does exist, especially in the form of people who would oppress, torment, exclude, and bully others. Of course, I am not making an argument that the supernatural evil in this novel exists, but that human evil certainly does.  The Nazis demonstrated that human horror in its full capacity, and Putin continues to show that face of human evil.

In this book, a fellowship of human beings is created, and they decide to fight a creature, an ancient vampire, that is far more powerful than anything they could have imagined, and they do so at the risk of their lives.  This act of defending others, even if the people do the battle are put at risk, became a central part of my ethos.  There will always be those who would bully and oppress others, and they must always be opposed.  While in early high school, Dracula helped to form that idea in my mind.

Dracula is a far more complex book than many in the academic world give it credit for being, and it is one that I recommend highly. If you have not yet read Stoker’s brilliant book and you love horror, then you should read it!

Are there any horror novels that you love? I would certainly enjoy hearing from you.

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(www.pixabay.com)

A Call To Join The U.L.S.–The Underground Library Society

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I am again asking for those who would like to join the U.L.S., the Underground Library Society, to join and write a guest post. I put this request out several times over the course of a year, because I hope to have more people join in the cause.

In an earlier First Year Class at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, The U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society — was created. It is in the spirit of the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In that novel, all books have been banned, and a few people “become” books by memorizing them, in the hope that, one day, books will be permitted to exist again.

In that spirit, I am putting out the call once more for like-minded people to join The U.L.S. All that is needed is to choose a book you would memorize if the need ever arose. The type or genre of the chosen piece does not matter.  There is no restriction on what you would become. You do not, however, actually have to memorize  the book now. If you wish to join, simply write a guest post in which you say what book you would “become” and why.

I have had several other bloggers join the U. L. S. Join the movement!

I hope many of you choose to join.

If you are a member and wish to add another book that you might become, you are welcome to do another post!

In the past, I have mentioned that I would become one of the following books: The Lord Of The Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

If you do wish to do a post, please email me at frenchc1955@yahoo.com  and write a guest post as a Word doc. Thank you.

Charles F. French

ULS logo 1

I am looking forward to hearing from new members!

Please, come and join in the fun!

Beauty In Writing: Part 1

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One of the reasons that I love to read, in addition to experiencing other worlds, walking in the path of other characters, learning about the world around us, and escaping from reality for a short time, is to enjoy the beauty of words. Some writers are able to elevate their writing to a level of poetry and beauty that is exhilarating and joyful to read.

One writer, whose use of words, reaches poetic levels is Ray Bradbury. He is a writer not easily confined to one genre and whose work is defined by love of story. I have taught his work in several college classes in both The Department of Graduate and Continuing Education at Muhlenberg College and with traditional students at Lehigh University, and his writing has been an influence on me as a novelist.

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(https://pixabay.com/)

I will offer two passages from his brilliant novel Dandelion Wine, a BildungsRoman or coming-of-age story, set in late 1920s in Green Town, Illinois. These passages are from the perspective of a boy who is beginning to see possibilities in life, both the external world and in himself.

The first passage is the opening of the novel:

“It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed.

Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing

of the world was long and warm and slow. You only had to rise, lean from your

window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living,

this was the first morning of summer.

Douglas Spaulding, twelve, freshly wakened, let summer idle him on its

early-morning stream. Lying in his third-story cupola bedroom, he felt the tall

power it gave him, riding high in the June wind, the grandest tower in town. At

night, when the trees washed together, he flashed his gaze like a beacon from

this lighthouse in all directions over swarming seas of elm and oak and maple.

Now . . .” (1).

That is an extraordinary opening to a novel. It pulls the reader into the story with a seemingly simplistic prose, but within that simplicity is beauty and the poetry of the world being seen through young eyes.

Another passage shows Douglas at night time:

“Douglas sprawled back on  the dry porch planks, completely  contented

and reassured by these voices, which would speak on through eternity, flow

in a stream of murmurings over his body, over his closed eyelids, into his

drowsy ears, for all time. The rocking chairs sounded like crickets, the crickets

sounded like rocking chairs, and the moss-covered rain barrel by  the

dining-room window produced another generation of mosquitoes to provide

a topic of conversation through endless summers ahead” (33).

Both excerpts, in my view, are beautiful, compelling, and poetic. All writers should read and study Ray Bradbury.

Works Cited

Bradbury, Ray. Dandelion Wine. New York. Avon Books. 1999.

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.

Please Join the U. L. S. in honor of National Banned Books Week

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In honor of National Banned Books Week, I am again asking for those who would like to join the U.L.S., the Underground Library Society, to join and write a guest post. I put this request out several times over the course of a year, because I hope to have more people join in the cause.

In an earlier First Year Class at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, The U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society — was created. It is in the spirit of the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In that novel, all books have been banned, and a few people “become” books by memorizing them, in the hope that, one day, books will be permitted to exist again.

In that spirit, I am putting out the call once more for like-minded people to join The U.L.S. All that is needed is to choose a book you would memorize if the need ever arose. The type or genre of the chosen piece does not matter.  There is no restriction on what you would become. You do not, however, actually have to memorize  the book now. If you wish to join, simply write a guest post in which you say what book you would “become” and why.

I have had several other bloggers join the U. L. S. Join the movement!

I hope many of you choose to join.

If you are a member and wish to add another book that you might become, you are welcome to do another post!

In the past, I have mentioned that I would become one of the following books: The Lord Of The Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

If you do wish to do a post, please email me at frenchc1955@yahoo.com  and write a guest post as a Word doc. Thank you.

Charles F. French

ULS logo 1

I am looking forward to hearing from new members!

Please, come and join in the fun!

What is a favorite book of yours?

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I am a teacher, a writer, and a lover of books. I cannot remember a time when I could not read, and the simple act of reading a book is one of the best pleasures in life.  So, I was thinking today about a book, one of my all time favorites: The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, that I have taught often, both at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. This novel is brilliant, funny, witty, Gothic, romantic, and deeply engaging.  Can you tell I love it?

Here is a quotation from the back cover of the paperback:

“Wondrous . . . masterful . . . The Shadow Of The Wind is ultimately a love letter to literature, intended for readers as passionate about storytelling as its young hero.”

— Entertainment Weekly, Editor’s Choice

So, I ask you: what is one of your favorite books?

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Get The Draft Done! is available here: Amazon.com

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

32570160

Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

Available on Amazon

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Available on Amazon

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Available on Amazon

A New Addition to the U.L.S., The Underground Library Society: Andrew McDowell and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

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I am delighted to welcome Andrew McDowell to the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society! This is an unofficial organization dedicated to the preservation of books, and it was created in one of my First Year College Composition Classes at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.  It is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrentheit 451.  To join, a writer creates a post about a book he/she would become if they needed to in order to save it. They do not actually have to memorize it though. 

Here is Andrew McDowell’s post:

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and one Christmas story I’ve always enjoyed is Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, written and published in 1843. I’ve seen many movie adaptations, from the Muppet version starring Michael Caine to the 1951 and 1991 versions starring Alastair Sim and Patrick Stewart, respectively. My favorite is indisputably the 1984 version starring George C. Scott. I even starred as a Cratchit kid in a theater production in high school (though I really wanted to play Jacob Marley). Throughout it all, the story has struck a chord with me.

Ebenezer Scrooge cares for no one and nothing beyond advancing business and hoarding money. He dismisses the poor, his own nephew, and his clerk Bob Cratchit, whom he lets have Christmas Day off with the greatest possible reluctance. But on Christmas Eve, the ghost of his deceased business partner, Marley, who is suffering and carrying a ponderous chain in death for having lived the same life of greed and selfishness, comes to tell him he has a chance to escape the same fate.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come respectively show Scrooge how he came to reject the world and his own heart, how those around him—including Bob and his sickly yet beloved son Tiny Tim—are sharing love and affection through Christmas, and what will happen to them—and himself—if he does not change. Finally Scrooge proclaims he is not the man he was, and that he will honor Christmas in his heart and remember the lessons he has learned.

Simply put, A Christmas Carol is about redemption. Scrooge acknowledges men’s courses will result in certain ends, but those ends will change if their courses do. This story shows us no matter how far we have fallen, if we choose to change, we can still be redeemed. Scrooge rebuilds his relationships with his nephew and Bob Cratchit, and he becomes a second father to Tiny Tim, who is really the heart and soul of the book. Scrooge is described as thereafter knowing how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.

A Christmas Carol may not have Santa Claus, Christmas trees, cards, or presents, but it does have many essential blessings that are essential to Christmas: home, food, family, love, and charity. This book has been credited as redefining Christmas for the modern world. It is said that an American businessman, after hearing Dickens read it, decided to give his employees Christmas Day off. A Christmas Carol teaches hope and faith. It shows the best in humanity, what humanity is capable of, and reminds readers that the well-being of all is everyone’s business.

Thank you to Andrew McDowell for this post! Please visit his website: Andrew McDowell An Author of Many Parts

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Favorite Horror Movies: Part Five: The Bride of Frankenstein

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

In honor of the recent 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, I want to reblog this post about the horror film that is, in my opinion, the closest to the original novel.

I also want to mention that I have taught  this novel several times at both Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA and the Department of Graduate and Continuing Education at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.

It is also interesting that the sequel The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) to Universal Studio’s Frankenstein  (1931) is a far better film and more faithful adaptation to Mary Shelley’s classic Gothic novel than was the original movie. James Whale directed and Carl Laemmle Jr. produced this film.

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(Richard Rothwell, 1840)

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

The movie opens with a sequence in which Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and Mary Shelley appear, which is a nod to the summer of 1816 in which the three writers shared time together and decided to writer ghost stories.  Mary Shelley’s contribution was a short story about a young doctor who reanimated a corpse, and which she later expanded into the famous and deeply important novel. In this scene, Mary explains  that the story did not end, as shown in the first movie, with the death of the creature in the burning windmill.

Whale imbues this film with both highly religious symbolism, as when the creature is captured and tied to what looks like a crucifix and to references to important sections from the book.  The creature famously finds a friend in the blind man, who is able to befriend the creature because he cannot see his deformities.  This is a clear reference to stereotyping and bigotry.

In the novel, the Creature demands that Frankenstein create a mate for him, so that his loneliness can be alleviated. In this film, Elsa Lancaster, who also plays Mary Shelley in  the opening scene, plays the bride.  But as would be expected, it does not go well when she rejects the Creature’s advances, and he says the powerful line, “We belong dead.”

Jack Pierce again did the famous makeups, and Boris Karloff starred again as the Creature.

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

This movie was successful financially and critically. It is, in my opinion, a cinematic masterpiece!

If any of you have interest either in horror or cinema, this is a film that you should see.

GetthedraftdonepossEbookcover!-page-001

Get The Draft Done! is available here: Amazon.com

GallowsHillFinalCoverEbook

Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

32570160

Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

FOE_Cover_French

Available on Amazon

coverIPScookbook

Available on Amazon