Directed by Tod Browning
Written by Hamilton Dean (based on Bram Stoker’s novel)
Starring Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye, David Manners, Edward van Sloan
PG | 75 min | 35mm
Call it the Anti-Twilight double bill – Creepy Classics returns to The Revue Cinema on December 3 with Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931 – 7pm), followed by the recent telling of the Victorian tale with Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992 – 9:15).
Away from Toronto screens for far too long, Bela Lugosi’s performance as the Transylvanian Count helped usher Univeral’s horror films into the sound era. Several films followed: Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Old Dark House, The Raven, Bride of Frankenstein and Werewolf of London. But by 1937, partly due to a British ban on the genre, horror films were on their way out, and the type-cast Lugosi was desperate for work.
In 1938, a shot in the arm came from the struggling Regina Theatre in Los Angeles when they ran Dracula, Frankenstein and RKO’s Son of Kong. As noted by Greg Mank in his book Bela Lugosi & Boris Karloff, the triple-bill played round the clock and was an overnight success. Universal followed suit by nationally circulating newly-minted prints of their films and returned to horror productions with Son of Frankenstein, which not only featured Karloff as the Monster, but Lugosi as the hunchback Ygor – a role he later claimed as his favourite. In Toronto, Son ran as a Saturday matinee to a new generation of young horror lovers.
But these kids would be the last to see the thrills of Universal’s original canon of Monster movies on the big screen for quite some time. The films would meet a new audience on television in the 1950s and Forrest J. Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland publication would keep kids thirsty for more. Soon, they could assemble plastic model kits of their favourite monsters while condensed ‘digests’ of Universal’s films could be screened on home projectors.
Nowadays, Universal’s Classic Horror films are rarely shown in theatres. We know about them thanks to home video; some – myself included – on late-night television (believe it or not, at midnight on the CBC, when they used to show such things). But to their original audience, they were released at a time when the word ‘horror’ wasn’t yet in the Hollywood lexicon. The local press referred to Browning’s film as a “sensational mystery thriller.” And although the film’s content might nowadays amuse rather than terrify, the management of the Tivoli Theatre in March, 1931, thought Dracula was no laughing matter when their ads claimed: “No children’s prices – Dracula is a picture for the adult mind only!” For the Creepy Classics audience, we offer a sparkling-free vampire guarantee.
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Dracula screens December 3, 7pm. Admission $7 for members. Memberships available at the door.
Our repeat screening on Saturday, Dec 5 (4pm) will have an extra attraction: Bela Lugosi in The Return of Chandu (1934 – 16mm).