The Lope: Bela Lugosi's 127th Birthday

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bela Lugosi's 127th Birthday

Fitting, it was, that I should run across the face of Bela Lugosi after nightfall, smiling unsettlingly through a spider web as he did in the 1931 version of Dracula.

A late night carnival like this one at the Iowa State Fair this past August is an ideal place for a vampire. Sure, the streets of London after midnight may hold ample victims but the average modern fairgoer has blood sweetened by cotton candy and may have just stumbled out of the beer garden.

Bela was part of the decoration for the carnival attraction "Universal Horror." I'm often intrigued by the painted panels of carnival rides. Many of them are interchangeable and they are usually trendier than this, often sporting the likenesses of whatever sort of movie character is hot at the moment. Classic Universal horror movie stuff is perennial, but not "hot" at the moment, so I was surprised.

That's not a bad Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman at top.

This is the artist's rendition of actor Dwight Frye as Renfield, one of Dracula's unfortunate victims. Frye was known as the "the man with the thousand-watt stare" and was typecast as mentally ill characters. I recognize this particular moment. Frye as Renfield is looking up from the hold of the Demeter, a ship whose crew Dracula has used as an all-night cruise buffet.

Frye was born in Salina, Kansas, on February 22, 1899. He died of a heart condition while riding on a city bus in Hollywood. I think I'll check and see if there are any existent Salina locations associated with him.

Dracula's brides are bustier than those of the 1931 movie and more generic than any I can think of seeing in another flick.

This female vampire looks familiar but I can't place her. Her style suggests one of the Hammer Studios films from the 1960s or 70s.

The monster in this panel isn't quite Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi or Glenn Strange - all of the actors who played him in the classic Universal films. But the artist really nailed the likeness of Elsa Lanchester as the intended bride of Frankenstein.

The artists attempt at Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein isn't bad. The scene was well-chosen.

The most touching moment from Bride of Frankenstein involved the monster meeting an old man in the forest who played a violin and was kind to him. Whoever did these panels knew his or her stuff.

And I'm wondering if the artist was a fan of the 1960's and 70's Aurora Monster model kits. This looks a bit like the kit, "Forgotten Prisoner of Castle Mare" or one of the rubber novelty skeletons sold at about the same time.

For our previous salutes to Lugosi (10/20/1882 – 8/16/1956), see 2007's Bela Lugosi's Dead and 2008's Bela Lugosi's Birthday.


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