How Bela Lugosi's Passion Assisted Universal Studios from Going Bankrupt and Hobbled His Own Career in the Process - Dread Central
Connect with us

News

How Bela Lugosi’s Passion Assisted Universal Studios from Going Bankrupt and Hobbled His Own Career in the Process

Published

on

In 1930, decades before “Sesame Street’s” The Count numerically educated toddlers nationwide while Count Chocula simultaneously rotted their teeth, and well before actors Christopher Lee, Frank Langella and Gary Oldman donned what had become the infamous medallion, signet ring and cape, Universal Studios was in financial trouble. And among those who assisted in saving them from bankruptcy was a man who in the process not only signed one of the worst contracts ever offered, but in doing also created arguably the most well-known horror icon in cinematic history: Dracula. His name was Bela Lugosi.

Born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó on October 20, 1880, in what was then Lugos in the Kingdom of Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania), the actor’s early life, previous to his entrance into Hollywood and long before he immortalized the line “Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make,” was dedicated to the theater. Having dropped out of school at the age of twelve, Blaskó’s acting career commenced at the age of twenty (when he assumed the surname of Lugosi), first with performances in Hungarian provincial theaters, then to dozens of roles with the National Theatre of Hungary in Budapest, before serving in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I, in which he received the Wound Medal for injuries he sustained on the Russian Front.

In 1919, during time of the Hungarian Revolution, Lugosi was forced to flee the country due to his activism in the actors’ union, and after performing in Berlin for a brief spell, he landed in New York, where he founded a small theater stock company which toured the Eastern seaboard, playing to immigrant audiences. It wouldn’t be until 1927 when the titular role based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula would envelope him, however, in the form of the Horace Liveright Broadway stage production. Lugosi would don the cape for a total of two hundred sixty-one performances, before touring the US to much acclaim from 1928 to 1929. The success of the play eventually led him into motion pictures, first with Fox Studios (1923’s The Silent Command), then eventually to director Tod Browning’s Dracula at Universal, although he wasn’t the studio’s first choice.

Browning, who’d directed features for Universal prior (1920’s Outside the Law) as well the infamous and lost 1927 Lon Chaney feature London After Midnight for MGM, had been assigned Dracula by the studio, which was at the time financially beleaguered by the October 29, 1929, stock market crash of the Great Depression. The property, however, was far from free and clear, bogged down by litigation (Stoker’s widow, Florence, has spent eight years in German courts over F.W. Murnau’s unauthorized film adaptation Nosferatu, which resulted in a court order that all prints of the film were to be destroyed), as well as playwright Liveright’s threatened lawsuit that any film version of Dracula would unfairly compete with his production. Additionally, Universal at the time was looking at no less than six actors other than Lugosi to play the lead.

With a sense of dogged ownership of the role and prompted by director Browning, Lugosi made a protracted play for it, by corresponding directly with Florence and her New York agent, Harold Freedman, asking for her not only to bring down her asking price for the film rights, but also that she suggest to Universal that he himself don the Count’s cape.

From a wire sent to Freedman on June 25:

SPENT MANY MONTHS TO PROMOTE DRACULA SPENT MANY CABLES WITH LONDON TO BRING DOWN PRICE WILL YOU PLEASE EXPRESS OPINION TO UNIVERSAL FOR ME BEING THE LOGICAL CHOICE TO BE CAST FOR DRACULA.

Lugosi’s bid proved successful, if not contractually wise, taking the role as a “work for hire” for $3,500 total, $500 a week for seven weeks of production (by comparison, actor David Manners, who portrayed the supporting character of “John Harker,” was paid $2,000 a week). Lugosi’s acceptance of such small pay would, however, serve to cripple his later earnings as an actor in Hollywood and would in fact force him to file his own bankruptcy a year later. Dracula’s box office, on the other hand, saved Universal Studios from its own. Opening on February 12, 1931, the film pulled in $1.2 million worldwide during its initial release.

However iconic the character he’d created on screen, Lugosi would only play the role in a feature film once more in his career, in director Charles Barton’s 1948 classic monster mash Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. And while the actor did continue to work in the genre, portraying the gypsy “Bela” in 1941’s The Wolf Man, “Ygor” in 1942’s The Ghost of Frankenstein and “Frankenstein’s Monster” himself in 1943’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (all beloved by fans of Universal’s Golden Age of Horror), his career would descend into obscure, low budget films, the next to last of which would be 1955’s Ed Wood opus Bride of the Monster.

Lugosi passed away alone in his Los Angeles apartment of a heart attack on August 16, 1956, and was buried in the cape that defined his career at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, CA. And while he never received the Academy Award, actor Martin Landau would for his portrayal of the actor in Tim Burton’s 1994 film Ed Wood.

Still, Lugosi’s cinematic incarnation of The Count is considered by many to be the definitive Dracula and continues to this day to line Universal’s coffers via decades of licensing.

Source Material: Dark Carnival by David J. Skal

Comments

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Comments

News

Ryan Schifrin’s Abominable Gets a Sasquatch-Sized Blu-Ray

Published

on

A recent scientific study concluded that since the year 2000 there have 4,374,139 killer Bigfoot movies. 2006’s Abominable is one of the better Sasquatch-ploitation flicks of the era. Now this creature feature is getting a collector’s edition blu-ray complete with a brand new cut of the gruesome flick.

MVD Rewind Collection has announced they’re planning a special edition of Ryan Schifrin’s gory Hitchcock-influenced Bigfoot flick Abominable, which cast Matt McCoy as a wheelchair bound man who begins Rear Window-ing a psycho Sasquatch terrorizing his hot-blooded cabin neighbors that then turns his big foot towards him. Lance Henriksen, Dee Wallace, Jeffrey Combs, Tiffany Shepis, Haley Joel, Karin Anna Cheung, and Paul Gleason co-star.

It has been sighted 42,000 times in 68 countries, a vicious creature of myth and legend called Sasquatch, Yeti, and perhaps most infamously, Bigfoot. It’s been hunted it for years. But what happens when it decides to hunt us?



After recovering from a horrific accident, paraplegic Preston Rogers (Matt McCoy) moves back into the remote cabin where he and his now-deceased wife once lived. When his new neighbor Karen, is attacked by a gigantic creature, Rogers contacts the local authorities. But after the police and those around him dismiss Rogers as a delusional widower, he sets out to stop the abominable creature himself.

This won’t be your typical collector’s edition as not only will be getting a new high definition transfer of the film originally shot on 35mm, this will also include an all-new cut of the film with improved CGI-effects overseen by filmmaker Schifrin and editor Chris Conlee with enhanced color timing and correction.

As if two cuts of the film weren’t enough, MVD’s Abominable release will also boast a ton of extras both new and ported over from the original DVD release:
-Brand New 2k Remaster of the Film from the Original Camera Negative
-Brand New Introduction from Director Ryan Schifrin (HD)
-‘Basil & Mobius: No Rest For The Wicked’ (16:28, HD) – New short film written and directed by Ryan Schifrin featuring a score by legendary composer Lalo Schifrin and starring Zachari Levi, Ray Park, Malcolm McDowell and Kane Hodder
-Audio Commentary with writer/director Ryan Schifrin, Actors Matt McCoy and Jeffrey Combs
-‘Back to Genre: Making ABOMINABLE” featurette (SD)
-Deleted and Extended Scenes (SD)
-Outtakes and Bloopers (SD)
-“Shadows” Director Ryan Schifrin’s USC Student Film (SD)
-The original 2005 version of “Abominable” (Blu-ray only, 94 mins, SD)
-Original Theatrical Trailer
-Poster & Still Gallery Storyboard Gallery
-Collectible Poster
-Audio: 5.1 Surround Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)

The MVD Rewind Collection release of Abomimable stomps its way to blu-ray on June 12th.

Comments

Continue Reading

News

Horror Retro Caps Boasts Hats Featuring The Lamp, The Video Dead, Rosemary’s Killer and more!

Published

on

Yesterday I was stumbling around on Instagram and I came across this killer account called @horrorretrocaps. They make horror movie-themed hats and I felt the need to share their work with you guys today.

It’s not so much the hats (which are cool), or the quality of the product (which looks sound as a pound) but it is the obvious love of horror by the guys behind the scenes that gets me all warm and fuzzy.

I mean sure there are products like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But they also have hats celebrating such classics as The Outing, The Lamp (hell, yeah!), The Gate, Zombie Lake, and The Video Dead.

Nice!

On top of that, the product that sealed the deal for me was their Rosemary’s Killer hat. As some of you might know, Rosemary’s Killer is the alternate title of Joseph Zito’s underrated slasher The Prowler. That alone just earned them horror-cred for days.

You can check out some of their choice caps below and then head on over to their account to purchase some product: @horrorretrocaps.

All caps are $15 plus $4 shipping in the U.S., and he also takes requests for $20.

Enjoy!

Comments

Continue Reading

News

Jurassic Park T-Rex Stomps Through Ready Player One Trailer #3

Published

on

Is that the f*cking T-Rex!?

It was only earlier this week that we brought you guys the new “pure 80’s nostalgia” poster (to the right) for Steven Spielberg’s new action-adventure film Ready Player One.

And if all the promotional materials we have seen thus far haven’t done anything to raise your interest in the film (including trailers which featured Freddy Krueger, Chucky, Christine, and King Kong) then today’s new might not help matters much.

But all the same today we have a new trailer which features the mighty T-Rex from Spielberg’s own Jurassic Park and a bunch of new character posters for good measure.

I’m just going to come right out and say that as impressed as I am with the trailers for this film, I can’t help but feel someone watched theImaginationland episode of “South Park” and thought, “Mother of God… call Steven Speilberg!”

You can check out the character posters and the new trailer below and then let us know what you think of the film thus far.

Ready Player One is directed by Steven Spielberg from a script by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, based on the novel by Cline. The film stars Tye Sheridan, Mark Rylance, Olivia Cooke, Simon Pegg, and Ben Mendelsohn.

The film hits theaters March 29, 2018.

Synopsis:

When the creator of an MMO called the Oasis dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all Oasis users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune. Wade Watts finds the first clue and starts a race for the Egg.

Comments

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Go Ad Free!

Support Dread Central on Patreon!
Advertisement

Recent Comments

Advertisement

Join the Box of Dread Mailing List

* indicates required

Trending

Copyright © 2017 Dread Central Media LLC