100 Days of Horror welcomes you to ... SATANFEST 2013

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"Y'all know me, know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow ya whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', and down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back the tourists, that'll put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant! I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."

Friday, October 15, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Eighty-Four - "Dracula!"

Yes our plucky hero is getting to it early today folks, and with only about four and a half hours sleep. Right around 11 last night, I got the Halloween fever bad, bad, bad. I simply HAD to decorate NOW! So I did, in a feverish rush, for about two hours. Then I fell right the hell out. It was a total manic episode of brief duration, but boy did I get a lot done in that short time!

And of course I can't sleep in the morning, with my family bustling around and whatnot, so I figured I'd get up, why not? And then, blog of course. Give my peoples some fresh shite for their morning coffee and/or constitutional. Because we here at the 100 Days challenge blog will keep you regular. Better than Metamusil.

So anyway, let us get right to the point ... set your phasers to "stunned" and prepare for one of filmdom's classic performances, as the late great Bela Lugosi sinks his teeth into teh role that made him a star! Kick back with a big glass of O Positive (common as muck) and dig on "Dracula!" And thanks again for playing along.

Dracula (1931): Directed by Tod Browning. Starring Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye, Edward van Sloan, Helen Chandler and David Manners.

The Skinny: We all know by now the tale of the doomed count, but this is the film that defined the character for decades to come. Bela Lugosi stars as Dracula, hell-bent on his conquest of the world - starting with fair London.

What's Good: There isn't much I can say in the way of praise of this film that won't sound like fanboy bullshit, but I'll give it a try. This is one of those movies that created an icon of seemingly endless appeal. Not only did it establish Dracula as a formidable villain, it started the American (and maybe the world's) obsession with vampires. Bela Lugosi is, quite simply, amazing. He kills a scene with just a glare and a smile, and he delivers lines with a Hungarian accent so rich it sounds like he's purring sometimes. This is also one of those films that Martin Landau said (as Lugosi) in Tim Burton's "Ed Wood," referred to as "Mythic:" the lonely castle in the mountains; the genteel count with his strange brides; the giant bat flapping its wings at the window. These are timeless images, here rendered in rich black and white by cinematographer Karl Freund. And the rest of the cast - including Universal horror staples Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Van Helsing and Dwight Frye in another timeless performance as the insane Renfield - are also pitch perfect, one of those rare ensembles that blends so well together you'd swear something spooky was going on.

What's Bad: Unfortunately, because of limitations in the way a film could be scored in the early 30s, the original theatrical versions of "Dracula" had no score whatsoever. So that leaves achingly long stretches of silence that can play havoc on the ears (well, if you have tinnitus like I do). However, a friend gifted me a DVD with not only the Spanish and regular English version of the film, but it presents version with a new score composed by Philip Glass and performed by The Kronos Quartet. It's an amazing addition to an already amazing film, and Glass grasps the themes in the story and lets the music reflect those emotions. It's a great version and one every fan should try to see.

Why We Like It: This movie was always a mystery to me as a kid, because while I read about it in countless horror books and magazines, I had yet to actually see the damn thing in its entirety. It was never on television and I couldn't find a VHS copy to rent, so I had to rely on vague and random sightings on the late-late-late show. It was actually sometime in the late 90s that I wound up buying a copy in VHS - along with several other Universal Monster Movies - and of course, I fell immediately in love and would watch it over and over again. Even in the "off season," so to speak. And indeed it is those "mythic" qualities that make it such a compelling view. So if you're like me, living in the dark without having ever seen this immortal classic, go get it right now and give it a shot. I'll wait. Go on.

Memorable Stuff: Of course, Frye as the raving madman Renfield is a shining example of the iconic performances this film solicited from its performers. But the most memorable scene for me is when Dracula meets with Van Helsing and they have a duel of wit and intellect, so to speak. But when all else fails, Drac slaps the mojo on his enemy and sure enough, Van Helsing is indeed within his thrall ... for just a moment. This is one of the scenes that is vastly improved by the prsence of the score in the special DVD version, but even without the music, the scene is powerful and shows off the amazing double jointed fingers of Lugosi in their classic, claw-like gesture. CHILLING! I LOVE YOU BELA!