Archive for the ‘Bela Lugosi’ Tag

BRAM STOKER’S GREAT-GRANDNEPHEW PENS TERRIFYING DRACULA SEQUEL   3 comments

Bram Stoker wrote the grandpa of all vampire books.

Bram Stoker’s kinsman reclaims the famous character in this gripping sequel.

By C. Michael Forsyth

The story of Dracula ends with the blood-drinking fiend destroyed and newlyweds Jonathan and Mina Harker living happily ever after.

Or does it? In the book Dracula the Un-Dead, an exciting sequel to Bram Stoker’s classic written by the author’s great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker, the tale of terror continues to unfold.

I had the good fortune to run into Dacre at the Horror Writer’s Association’s Bram Stoker Weekend, an annual gathering that pays tribute to his famous forebear. A courtly resident of South Carolina, he was quite generous with his time. After his presentation on Bram, we chatted about the extensive research that went into the novel. We traded books, and I’ve finally had a chance to sink my teeth into this juicy vampire yarn.

The book is set in 1912, about 25 years after the events in Dracula, and the band of heroes who put the vampire down are in a sorry state.

Jonathan Harker, once a paragon of Victorian virtue, has been reduced to a whoring, alcoholic wretch. He’s tortured by his inability to sexually satisfy his wife the way that her superhuman “dark prince” could.

Mina, forever tainted by her sip of Dracula’s blood, remains eternally young like Dorian Gray. Guilt-ridden, she counts her youthful appearance as a curse, not a blessing.

Dr. Van Helsing, the wise and fearless vampire killer, is now a frail, vulnerable old man terrified of death.

Dr. Seward, once the esteemed head of the asylum that housed Dracula’s bug-eating flunky Renfield, is himself a drug-addicted lunatic.

Aristocratic Arthur Holmwood, who was forced to stake his fiancée Lucy, is a bitter recluse who blames his former friends for her fate and is driven by a death wish.

IN HAPPIER TIMES: Jonathan Harker, played by Keanu Reeves in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” finds that middle age is “totally bogus.”

New characters are introduced, most prominently Elizabeth Bathory, a real-life relative of Vlad the Impaler, the historical Dracula. The 16th Century noblewoman was the most prolific serial killer in history, making dudes like Jack the Ripper and Ted Bundy look like pikers. The Bloody Countess tortured and killed at least 650 servant girls, bathing in their blood in a quest for immortality. Here, she too is a vampire – and a far more vicious one than the gentlemanly Count Dracula.

BLOODY COUNTESS: Elizabeth Bathory slaughtered at least 650 young maidens — for their blood.

Also taking the stage is Basarab, a handsome and charismatic actor who is Bathory’s hated foe.

Details from the original are cleverly woven into the novel and supporting characters like Renfield and Seward are fleshed out with interesting backstories. Arthur Holmwood, usually little more than an uptight prig in movies, is a fully realized character who’s led a colorful life of adventure. Even Quincy Morris, the Texan who almost never makes the cut in film versions, is given his due.

Usually just an upper-crust square (as played here by Cary Elwes) Lucy’s fiance Arthur emerges as a swashbuckling hero.

Dacre and his co-author Ian Holt, in addition to having access to family lore, dug deep into original sources to find nuggets that enrich the sequel. Dacre traveled to the Rosenbach Museum to comb through Bram Stoker’s notes. Among the fascinating tidbits he uncovered was the character sketch for a detective Bram toyed with including in Dracula but ultimately abandoned. Dacre resurrects Inspector Cotford in the sequel.

Equally painstaking research into early 20th Century London is evident in the authoritative descriptions of locations such as the Lyceum Theater that bring the setting vividly to life. Real people of the time show up, including boozing stage legend John Barrymore — and, surprisingly, Bram Stoker himself!

TOO WISE TO LIVE? Dr. Van Helsing (Everett Sloane) had the will power to resist Dracula in the 1931 Bela Lugosi movie.

Yet despite the loving attention to detail, Dracula the Un-Dead is not slavishly true to the original in that it inverts Dracula’s nature, reimagining him as a Byronic hero rather than a monster. In a sense, the book is not a sequel to Dracula as Bram Stoker told the story so much as a sequel to the story as DRACULA would have told it. (It made me think of the kids’ book My Side of the Story, in which Sleeping Beauty is retold from the witch Maleficent’s perspective.)

MR. NICE GUY? Dracula (portrayed by Gary Oldman in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”) saw himself as a romantic hero misunderstood by medding male mortals.

In turning the Victorian worldview upside down Dracula the Un-Dead is likely quite different from the sequel Bram Stoker would have written. But who cares? Do we really need another follow-up to Dracula that carries forward the plot on its trajectory in an easily anticipated way? We’ve already seen movies and comics in which Mina’s son Quincy Harker is an elderly hero waging a crusade against the undead.

Here instead Quincy is a naïve young aspiring actor who puts his dreams of stage success above all else and fawns over his idol Basarab. (Quincy is so clueless he makes Jimmy Olsen look like Albert Einstein). That’s only the first of many surprises the book offers. Co-author Holt is a screenwriter and the fast-paced, action-packed novel is perfectly suited for a movie adaptation.

IN PAST follow-ups in comic books and movies, Quincy Harker is often a gutsy old vampire slayer.

I asked Dacre whether the Stoker clan was still living off “all the Dracula money.” He gave a wistful smile and said no. Sadly, he explained, the family lost the U.S. copyright to Dracula through a clerical error early on and it’s been in the public domain ever since. They haven’t been paid a dime by Hollywood since the 1931 Bela Lugosi movie and unlike the kin of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, have had no control over the wildy popular character and his many — often embarrassingly stupid — incarnations. One of Dacre’s goals was to reclaim Dracula for his family.

“I think Bram would be proud that a family member has taken this initiative and finally done justice to the legacy he created,” he writes in the afterward.

IN THE BLOOD: Dacre Stoker, great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker with C. Michael Forsyth, author of Hour of the Beast, at the Horror Writers Association convention.

IN A RELATED STORY…

PRISON life becomes even more hellish when a vampire epidemic erupts in a women's prison.

PRISON life becomes even more hellish when a vampire epidemic erupts in a women’s prison.


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I’m excited to announce the launch of my first graphic novel, Night Cage! The premise of the horror story is simple: Vampires take over a women’s prison. Just imagine Orange is the New Black meets Salem’s Lot.

The project is being funded through Kickstarter. Folks who jump on the bandwagon will get a boatload of goodies and rewards, ranging from advance copies of the book and exclusive art, posters and T-shirts to a chance to be drawn into the graphic novel as a character!

Please check out the video out HERE, and share the news with all your social media friends!

PRISONERS fight for survival against a bloodthirsty army of the undead in the graphic novel Night Cage.

PRISONERS fight for survival against a bloodthirsty army of the undead in the graphic novel Night Cage.

ON THE HOUR OF THE BEAST FRONT…

I attended Dragon*con 2012 in Atlanta to promote my horror novel Hour of the Beast and pick up tips on independent filmmaking. Some great panels on subjects ranging from movie pre-production and distribution to the future of black science fiction. The highlight was Stan Lee talking to a packed ballroom. The comic-industry giant is feisty as ever, his brain still bubbling with creativity. Of course, I didn’t completely ignore the gazillion gals in skimpy costumes. Some were marvelously imaginative, others not so much. You’d think a guy would never get tired of seeing women in that barely-there bandage getup from “The Fifth Element,” but after number 30, I did!

STAN THE MAN

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN

SHREK’S GAL

LADY IN RED

The author of this article also wrote the acclaimed horror novel Hour of the Beast. In the opening chapter, a bride is raped by a werewolf on her wedding night. Then things get out of hand.

Hour of the Beast is available in hardcover and softcover at Amazon.com. But you can save $4 by clicking HERE! The Kindle version is just $7 and the Ebook is a measly $5. Be the first on your block to read this bone-chilling tale — before the motion picture hits the big screen.

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Laugh Until You Die: The Ten Best Horror-Comedies of all Time   5 comments

by C. Michael Forsyth

 We love movies that scare us. We love movies that make us laugh. Movies that do both can be among our favorites. Below are my picks for the best horror-comedies of all time.  I’ve kept off the list movies that are unintentionally funny, or so-bad-they’re-good, like “Plan Nine From Outer Space.”  At the bottom is a poll asking which is your choice for THE best horror-comedy ever.  In chronological order:

 1) “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948) – One of the first of this genre, it sets the bar high for future horror-comedies. Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. reprise their roles as the classic Universal monsters Dracula and the Wolfman respectively. (Boris Karloff refused to return as the Frankenstein monster, but personally trained a lookalike). What makes the film so brilliant is that they play their roles absolutely straight. The humor comes from the reactions of America’s most famous comedy duo. Favorite scene: Costello searches for Lon Chaney’s character Larry Talbot in his hotel room, unaware that the Wolfman has transformed. The werewolf keeps diving for him – and missing!

LOOK INTO MY EYES: Bela Lugosi plays it straight as he puts the whammy on Lou Costello

 2) “The Fearless Vampire Killers” (1967) – Just as Abbott and Costello spoofed the Universal horror movies, director Roman Polanski sends up the Hammer pictures of the  ’60s. With loving attention to detail, he recreates the look, the atmosphere — and yes, those heaving bosoms. Polanski himself proves himself quite an adept comedic actor as the buffoonish assistant to a Van Helsing-like vampire slayer. As one might expect from the master director, there are plenty of artistic touches. In one scene, a human woman dances at a crowded ball in a vampire’s castle, then it is revealed in a mirror that only she casts a reflection.  Adding to the creepiness of the film, the leading lady is Sharon Tate, who two years later would meet her end at the hands of real life monsters – the Manson family.

HAPPIER TIMES: Roman Polanski comes to rescue Sharon Tate from bloodsuckers

3) “Young Frankenstein” (1974) –  Mel Brooks, the comic genius who created “Blazing Saddles” and TV’s “Get Smart,” affectionately parodies the early Frankenstein movies. He perfectly mimics the sets, lighting and costumes – and even got his hands on actual laboratory equipment and props uses in James Wale’s 1931 masterpiece “Frankenstein.” The movie was shot in black and white, a highly unusual choice at the time, especially for a comedy. The dead-serious look of the film makes the antics of Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman and the rest of the cast all the funnier. My favorite scene: Wilder, as Dr. Frankenstein’s descendant, demonstrates his new creation’s abilities in front of a theater full of colleagues – by joining the Monster in a tap-dancing rendition of the musical number “Putting on the Ritz,” complete with top hats and tails!

IS HE ALIVE? Gene Wilder and Teri Garr inspect The Monster (Peter Boyle).

 4) “Love at First Bite” (1979) – Throughout the 1960s and until the tail end of the 1970s, George Hamilton was a perennial favorite on talk shows and one of the most famous movie stars in the world – without ever having had a starring role in a major motion picture! He was one of those celebrities like Zsa Zsa Gabor, who was famous for being famous, a handsome, amiable fellow with a terrific tan. But here, in his role as Dracula, he demonstrates a surprising  flair for comedy. Hamilton followed this movie up with the lesser known but equally funny “Zorro and the Gay Blade,” one of the few comedies that literally made me laugh until I cried.

NO TAN: Who knew George Hamilton was funny?

5) “Ghostbusters” (1984) – Bill Murray is at his smirking, wiseass best, while fellow “Saturday Night Live” alumni Dan Ackroyd earns laughs with his trademark mock-serious delivery. Rather than spoofing any prior film, “Ghostbusters” introduces a highly original – and hysterically funny — concept: a  ghost-hunting team that operates like a pest-control company. Ackroyd, himself an armchair paranormal sleuth, wrote the first version of the story and his genuine interest in psychic phenomenon lends an air of loony authenticity to the jargon. As he often does, Murray ad-libbed many of his one-liners. My favorite is when confronting a possessed Sigourney Weaver, he  says, “This chick is toast!”

WE AIN'T AFRAID OF NO GHOSTS: Harold Ramis, Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd take on pesky poltergeists

6) “Return of the Living Dead” (1985) – A direct sequel to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead” that ignores previous follow-ups, this black comedy has become a cult classic in its own right. The premise is that the zombie outbreak of the original film actually occurred (in slightly different form), but was covered up by the government. When a pair of bungling employees at a medical-supply warehouse accidentally release toxic gas from a barrel containing zombie remains, all hell breaks loose. The movie owes much of its success to the wonderful comic timing and dead-pan delivery of Clu Gulager – an actor I’ve never seen before or since — as the warehouse owner. My favorite scene is when he’s asked by a suspicious cop what’s in a garbage bag full of squirming body parts. He replies, “Rabid weasels.” A bonus is the appearance of scream queen Linnea Quigley as a skanky punk girl who is stripped and ravaged by a gang of male zombies. She emerges as a ravenous zombie and remains nude for the rest of the movie, her perfect body inexplicably – and gloriously – intact.

OUCH! Zombies can take a licking and keep on ticking.

 7) “Army of Darkness” (1993) – In the final installment of the “Evil Dead” trilogy, director Sam Raimi continues the progression from nightmare-inducing horror to comedy. Bruce Campbell’s protagonist Ash, little more than a pointy-chinned hunk in the first movie, here emerges as a full-fledged comic character, a cowardly hero of the classic Bob Hope variety. Macho, blustering and alternating savvy and stupid, Campbell is a joy to watch as a modern-day American trapped in a medieval kingdom beset by a horde of demons.  There are genuinely scary scenes, such as when an old serving woman suddenly becomes possessed in the supposedly “safe” castle. But the real appeal of the film comes from Ash’s wisecracks and the slapstick comedy. At one point, Ash engages in an eye-poking Three Stooges routine while battling a skeleton. My favorite line: A woman in the S-Mart where Ash works turns into a horrifying demon, and the shotgun-toting hero tells her,” Lady, I’m going to have to ask you to leave the store.”

GIVE ME SOME SUGAR BABY! This poster captures the film's goofy high heroics.

 8) Scary Movie (2000) — Keenan Ivory Wayans, creator of the hysterical sketch-comedy show “In Living Color,” directs this “Airplane”-style parody of Wes Craven’s “Scream.” The most pleasant surprise here is that his kid brothers Shawn and Marlon are actually funny, for the first time on film. The spoof of the super-successful slasher flick brings on the gags fast and furious. My favorite scene: the heroine Cindy (Anna Faris) is terrorized over the phone by the masked killer – then, when another call comes in, puts him on hold to babble girl talk to a friend.

CURVACEOUS Carmen Electra takes time out from fleeing a knife-wielding maniac to flaunt her gorgeous figure.

9) “Scary Movie 3” (2003) – Number 2 was a disappointment, but the series gets back on track in the competent hands of director David Zucker, co-creator of “Airplane” and “The Naked Gun.”  The movie spoofs “Signs” and “The Ring,” combining the plots imaginatively. Like “Airplane,” and as in the case with the best comedies, the plot makes sense. Indeed, this parody actually comes together more logically than “Signs.” If you recall, in that M. Night Shyamalan thriller, the invading aliens are capable of interstellar travel yet incapable of getting into a boarded-up house; they had plotted their attack for decades, but neglect to wear suits to protect them from water — which kills them on contact!

WATCH THE SKIES: Anthony Anderson, Simon Rex and Charlie Sheen prepare to do battle with aliens.

10) “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) – If you’ve only seen Simon Pegg as Scotty in the “Star Trek” reboot, you missed out on one of Britain’s finest comedic actors. Look for him in movies like “Run, Fat Boy, Run,” and “Hot Fuzz.” Here, he’s engaging as a loser who rises to the occasion when England is overrun by zombies. Though funny as hell, the movie actually works as a zombie flick. My favorite scene occurs when Pegg, as Shaun, proposes to a group of survivors that they take refuge in the oaken-doored bar where he took his girlfriend the previous night. His snooty love rival shoots back, “How can you put your faith in a man whose idea of a romantic nightspot and an impenetrable fortress are the same thing?”

FAUX ZOMBIES: Shaun (Simon Pegg) and fellow survivors attempt to "blend in" with zombies.

Copyright C. Michael Forsyth. All rights Reserved.

NO LAUGHING MATTER: C. Michael Forsyth's novel opens with a scene of unimaginable horror.

To hear the shocking and controversial opening of Hour of the Beast read by the author, click HERE.

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