Suspense Original Radio Broadcast LP

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Suspense Album Sleeve

Originally released in 1973 by Mark 56 Records, this LP features Bela Lugosi’s only appearance on the famous CBS radio mystery series Suspense. The Doctor Prescribed Death was first broadcast on February 2, 1943 with Lugosi as Professor Antonio Bacile, a psychologist who believes that someone who has decided to commit suicide can be persuaded instead to kill another person. When his theory is mocked by his editor, the professor decides to prove it and exact revenge upon his detractor. The script by J. Donald Wilson was reused for an episode of The Whistler radio show broadcast on June 11th 1944 with William Conrad in the title role.

Known as “radio’s outstanding theater of thrills”, Suspense was one of the premier drama programs during the Golden Age of Radio. On the air for twenty years, from 1942-1962, the series employed the talents of Hollywood’s leading actors in its 947 episodes, many of which are acknowledged classics of radio drama. When Suspense was adapted for television in 1949 Lugosi starred in an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s A Cask of Amontillado. (See Suspense (1949))

Based on what we currently know of Lugosi’s radio career, despite having a distinctive voice ideally suited to the medium, he seems to have appeared in surprisingly few radio dramas. Details of his known credits can be found on our Bela Lugosi On The Radio page.

In addition to a complete transcription of The Doctor Prescribed Death, the Mark 56 release features a “narrative introduction” by Bela Lugosi, Jr., who shares his memories of his father to the accompaniment of a musical backing. The following transcription of his introduction was provided by Frank J. Dello Stritto, author of A Quaint & Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore, I Saw What I Saw When I Saw It, and, with Andi Brooks, Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain (www.cultmoviespress.com).

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Bela and Bela Jr

Bela Lugosi and his son pose outside the County Playhouse in Fayetteville, New York, between July 11-16, 1949.

‘I remember—I think it was when I was age 12—I had one of the most wonderful summers of my life, when my dad took me on a summer stock tour with him around the East, and I remember almost every moment of that during that summer. And during that summer is when I learned more about my Dad, I suppose because I was older I was more cognizant of him. I remember him being very conscientious with his work, very demanding of himself as an artist, taking pride in his work, being impatient with those who flubbed scenes and did not bring themselves up to the quality of the acting that he thought ought to be given by performers. My dad never did compromise his quality. He was a great artist, a great actor in my estimation.

I think he realized his powers over people, his magnetism. I just remember observing him. I was fascinated with the reaction of others to my father. Everybody remembered him, they had to. I could just see his influence over people. Although I wasn’t too aware of what was happening at the time, I think now that he had probably a tremendous appeal to women. He had a powerful voice, a style about him, which I wish I had. What a tremendously strong-willed individual, and brave individual my father was, and how much he knew. He read constantly in all fields: areas of medicine, law, film making, astronomy, almost any area you could name.

He had phrases in almost every common language—I mean German, French, Italian. He had a saying in almost every language for any occasion that presented itself. He had a working knowledge of many languages. In other words, he wouldn’t starve to death. He’d have food on the table and a place to sleep in almost any country that you’d want to put him in. He could talk to people.  

He regretted the fact that he had become typecast. He wished that he would have had the opportunity to give the world all that he had to offer. I mean, here was a man who had a gift, the ability to entertain by portraying various roles. And the industry in the United States gave him the opportunity with very little exception to play just one role, and that was a horror character. In Europe, it was utilized. In America, it was a mere potential that never was developed except to the extent that he was allowed to play horror roles, with, as I say, very few exceptions. And by the way, those exceptions were refreshing breezes in the night.’

 

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Suspense Album Sleeve Rear

 

In addition to impressive artwork featuring Lugosi as Dracula, the Suspense album sleeve contains an appreciation of the actor by Jim Harmon (21 April 1933-16 February 2010). A noted editor and writer of science fiction, Harmon was a pioneer in documenting the Golden Age of Radio. His The Great Radio Heroes (Doubleday, 1967; revised edition by McFarland & Company, 2002), was the first of several volumes he wrote on the subject.

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‘To America in the thirties, Bela Lugosi was Dracula, the vampire. Even today, after many more later films of the vampire legend, Lugosi’s image persists due to television, books and magazines. The exclusive club of movie prototypes has selective entrance requirements indeed and few are the stars who have lived up to them. Valentino, the Latin lover; Tom Mix, the Cowboy (in the silent era); John Wayne, the Cowboy (modern era); Boris Karloff, the Frankenstein Monster; Lugosi, Dracula.

Of course, Lugosi was not always the vampire, and perhaps at times he regretted having become one. In his native Hungary, he was a romantic leading man on the legitimate stage. He came to the United States in the twenties, not completely familiar with the English language. In a recent interview with actor-writer-director Duncan Renaldo I learned that Renaldo produced a short silent film with Lugosi as Punchinello, the tragic clown – a showcase for Lugosi’s commanding body movements (also used as a live model for the animated demon in Walt Disney’s Fantasia many years later).

When he played Dracula (before turning down the monster’s role in Frankenstein) Lugosi’s English was still stiff, unpracticed, but highly distinctive. He seemed rightly to be of another world, the Land of the Undead. The audience was attracted by the representation of Man’s greatest fear, death. Instead of being repelled, we want to look closer into the eyes of the empty skull, to make it seem less awful by making the unknown more familiar. It was Lugosi who assured us “There are worse things awaiting Man than Death!”

There were dark moments ahead for Bela Lugosi. He considered himself a working actor, and took whatever role offered him – a red-herring butler suspect in a murder mystery, mad scientist, villains in serials (such as The Phantom Creeps), a serial hero in one case (Return of Chandu the Magician) but usually some variation of Dracula even if not by that name (Mark of the Vampire). It was a career providing steady employment but not the financial security and status such a unique screen personality deserved.

He left a legacy of chills and solid fun for film freaks of all ages with a few bright moments for fans of vintage radio drama as well.

Jim Harmon

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Founded by musician and producer Georģe Garabedian (born Marcus W. Garabedian) in Anaheim, California, the Mark 56 label specialized in releasing recordings of vintage radio shows, sponsored compilations and novelty records. The album was re-released by the Tin Toy label with its original sleeve artwork on October 14, 2013, and digitally with new artwork on February 3, 2014.

The Doctor Prescribed Death

Tin Toy’s 2014 digital re-release sleeve.

The Doctor Prescribed Death was also released on vinyl by Command Performance Records with a performance of Arsenic and Old Lace featuring Boris Karloff, and by Radiola Records in 1967  under the title Bela Lugosi Meets Alfred Hitchcock (on the radio!), complete with Jim Harmon’s sleeve notes. The Hitchcock story, broadcast in 1945 on the ABC Blue Network, was entitled Once Upon A Midnight.

Command Performance

 

Bela Lugosi Meets Alfred Hitchcock (on the radio!)

Courtesy of www.zomboscloset.com

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Listen to the complete radio broadcast of The Doctor Prescribed Death

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Big Bad Bela: An Interview With Bela Lugosi

Picture Play July 1934

 

Picture Play, July 1934

Published in the July, 1934 issue of Picture Play, “Big Bad Bela” followed a by-then established format for interviews with Bela Lugosi. In an obligatory set-up, a shuddering reporter fearfully anticipates coming face-to-face with the living embodiment of the horrific characters the actor had become famous for portraying. When the two actually meet, Lugosi is either portrayed as living up to the reporter’s expectations by relating an allegedly true dark and mysterious episode from his life or, as in the case of  Big Bad Bela, as actually being an urbane and charming individual. Writer Joe Mackey spoils his own set-up by revealing that any fears he may have had about Lugosi had already been dispelled when the two met earlier in the year after a performance of Murder at the Vanities in New York. On that occasion the actor proved that he was both “human and humane” by his kindness towards a young disabled fan.

Another staple of interviews with Lugosi, and one which would continue for the rest of his life, was the actor lamenting his typing as a “heavy” and the Hollywood system’s reluctance to allow him to demonstrate the versatility he had displayed as an actor in his early career. Although he was occasionally given the opportunity to appear in non-heavy roles, they were inevitably as supporting characters rather than the starring roles which he craved. Perhaps his career would have taken a much more artistically satisfying direction if he had been prepared to turn his back on the starring roles in the horror films he claimed to despise and instead carve out a niche as a character actor. His unwillingness or inability to do this may have stemmed from something more than just his reluctance to relinquish his star status. Lugosi’s financial footing was always precarious. He was forced to file for bankruptcy at the height of his stardom in 1932. His need for ready cash led to him accepting every role which he was offered. Despite this, he continued to live for the day with little or no thought for the future, a philosophy he would come to rue. During a bleak period of unemployment during the late 1930s, Lugosi lost his house and was forced to apply for financial assistance from the Actors’ Fund when his son was born in 1938. 

That scenario would have been  unimaginable in early 1934. At the time of Joe Mackey’s interview, The Black Cat, Universal’s first star pairing of Lugosi with Boris Karloff, was about to be released. The film would be the studio’s biggest box office hit of the year. With Universal already talking about teaming him with Karloff in two further films, The Suicide Club (which was never made) and The Return of Frankenstein (which was filmed as The Bride of Frankenstein without him), the future must have looked very bright for Big Bad Bela Lugosi.

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Close up Portrait of Bela LugosiHa, Count Dracula himself giving you the evil eye! But don’t be fooled. He’d rather play Don Quixote or something jolly so you can see him as he is in the larger photo.

BIG BAD BELA

By Joe MacKey

Lugosi, the screen madman and ogre, is tracked to his home and found to be a humorous, good-natured chap with a pretty wife and three pampered pups.

LUGOSI, the fiend!

I anticipated our meeting with forebodings. Although Lugosi’s residence in Manhattan was a modern apartment house, not even remotely resembling his Castle Dracula, I was certain that the interior would shame a sorcerer’s chambers.

With a vision in my mind of Bela, the master of terror who has chilled millions with his screen demons, I pictured rooms with heavy black hangings, skulls perched atop the piano, and a host barely able to restrain himself from leaping at my throat.

When my fearful forefinger touched the bell, a tall genial gentleman ushered me into a cheery suite of rooms. Surely this was not the home of the weird Bela Lugosi! (Pronounced Bayla Lu-go-see.)

Bela stood looking down at me. The features were those of the man who has raised the blood pressure and lowered the sleeping average of the nation, but the expression was actually benevolent. Benevolence on the face of Count Dracula was an amazing sight.

The Hungarian actor is a muscular chap with twinkling, intelligent blue eyes and an attitude that puts one at ease immediately. There are lines on his face, but they are not from the scowls of monsters. They are from smiling.

And strangely enough, the man who has become celebrated as a film madman and ogre ardently dislikes horror in all its forms. He would rather play Romeo or Don Quixote or comedy parts than creeping menaces.

He describes himself as a heavy by circumstance, not by nature. He bemoans his screen fate and says, “I am definitely typed, doomed to be an exponent of evil. But I want sympathetic roles. Then perhaps parents would tell their offspring, “Eat your spinach and you’ll grow up to be a nice man like Bela Lugosi.” As it is, they threaten their children with me instead of the bogy-man.

“This typing is overdone. I can play varied roles, but whenever some nasty man is wanted to romp through a picture with a wicked expression and numerous lethal devices, Lugosi is suggested. Why, they even wanted to cast me as the Big Bad Wolf in ‘The Three Little Pigs’!”

Big Bad Bela 2

The actor’s tastes are in no way as outré as his film parts would lead one to believe. an example of his quite normal – and quite excellent – taste is Mrs. Lugosi. I had expected to meet an exotic with Machiavelian eyebrows and all the characteristics of a female Dracula, but she proved to be a charming. cultured woman who seems scarcely beyond her teens.

He is too busy for many hobbies but is an animal lover and is devoted to his dogs, Pluto, Hector, and Bodri, which he raised from pups. When his favorite, Dracula, a black Alaskan husky, died he could not work for days,

He is not a movie fan but chooses Mickey Mouse as his favorite screen player.

He considers his portrayal as Cyrano de Bergerac in the Royal National Theater in Budapest his best stage work, and the part that skyrocketed him to fame, that of the vampire count in “Dracula,” best of his film impersonations.

I asked him if he, not being a horror addict, could explain the continued demand for horror pictures.

Lugosi laughed, not the bone-chilling rasp of his movie self, but a pleasant chuckle. “Although I do not relish having my hair stand on end, the popularity of horror pictures is understandable. The screen is the ideal medium for the presentation of gruesome tales. With settings and camera angles alone, the suspense that s so essential in this type of story can be built up.

“Supernatural themes, if deftly handled, are better entertainment for the average moviegoer than love stories or comedies. They are unusual, unique – a departure from hackneyed formula. And they have an almost universal appeal.”

Bela began his movie career in the pretalkie days of 1923, as the villain in “The Silent Command,” and has been playing increasingly heavy heavies ever since.

His current role is opposite that other film fiend, Boris Karloff, in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat.” Following this it is planned to costar the two in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Suicide Club,” and “The Return of Frankenstein.”

“Incidentally,” said Lugosi, “I was originally signed as the monster in “Frankenstein,” but I convinced the studio that the part did not have meat enough.”

It was this role that made Boris Karloff his principal rival for the throne of King of Horror.

Lugosi, however, considers Karloff primarily a make-up artist, and a man inwardly too gentle and kind to be suited for grisly portrayals.

It is an interesting fact that Bela Lugosi was born in Lugos, Hungary, not far from the district where, in bygone centuries, vampires had been horrific realities to the peasants, and more than once a stake had been driven through the heart of a supposed member of the Undead.

One of Bela’s ancestors was the first to settle in Lugos which grew into a thriving village and even today retains the family name of its first citizen.

In New York when he was starring in “Murder at the Vanities” I visited him unexpectedly. A little incident backstage, which he never dreamed would reach print, revealed the true Lugosi.

A youthful paralytic had been waiting to see his idol, Bela, at the stage door. Some one told him after the show and he immediately had the lad carried to his dressing-room. He not only introduced the boy to members of the cast and autographed a photo, but broke a dinner engagement to stay and talk with him. And when the crippled fan left, he told Bela he was no longer just a shadow on celluloid, but a wonderful man. And he meant it.

Lugosi! Human and humane to a fault. I had heard of a huge bat ring with ruby eyes that had been presented to him by the “Dracula” cast, and asked to see it.

“Oh, my ring. Some one stole it.” His eyes became sad for a moment. “I loved that ring. But if whoever has it now will get more pleasure from it than I did, he is welcome to it.”

That is typical of the man who wants to forget horror, and the vampires of Transylvania, the zombies of Hati, voodoo doctors, monsters, maniac scientists, and live here as an American citizen.

And what do you think is the ambition of this premier fiend? It is, in his own words, “To own a dude ranch and live a natural, simple, wholesome life.”

Lugosi – the man!

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NotesPicture Play, July 1934 3

Joe Mackey’s interview contains several inaccuracies:

The Silent Command was Lugosi’s first American film, but he began his film career in Hungary in 1917. See Bela Lugosi Filmography for a complete list of all of his known films.

The Hungarian town of Lugos was not named after one of Bela Lugosi’s ancestors. Born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó, his stage name was derived from that of his home town.

Picture Play, July 1934 4

Demons of the Film Colony – When Bela Lugosi Met Boris Karloff

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Whether it was in actual fact the first time they had met is unknown, but the official first meeting of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff took place at Universal City in March of 1932. Despite their reputations as the reigning kings of horror, the event stage-managed by Universal publicity director John LeRoy Johnstone saw the two tuxedo-clad stars in jovial mood.  Apart from one shot in which Lugosi is shown putting his Dracula whammy on Karloff and another in which Karloff is poised to bring his fists down upon the head of an unsuspecting Lugosi, the event as photographed by Ray Jones was presented as a lighthearted, convivial affair with both actors in a relaxed playful mood. 

This display of good humored bonhomie was typical fodder for the “fan” magazines of the period, but was at odds with what moviegoers who had been terrified by Dracula and Frankenstein the previous year had expected. It was perhaps no surprise then that when reporter Ted LeBerthon penned a “true” account of what he had witnessed at that historic meeting, one more in keeping with the public’s conception of the two masters of the macabre, that he was compelled to offer it for publication to the popular pulp magazine Weird Tales for fear of shattering the nerves of the genteel “fan” magazine readers who were “too accustomed to sunshine to relish shadows.” 

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Weird Tales Vol 20 No 4 Oct 1932[1]

Weird Tales, Vol 20, No. 4, October 1932

DEMONS OF THE FILM COLONY

By Ted LeBerthon

Was a gigantic hoax perpetrated on the author by “Dracula” Lugosi and “Frankenstein” Karloff,” aided and abetted by the photographer?

For ten years I have been writing about the activities of the motion picture colony for what are known as the “fan” magazines; and, in strict justice to the movie people in and about Hollywood, I never before had an experience such as the one that befell me recently—for there is nothing weird, preternatural or otherwise affrighting about most motion picture people, for the child Jackie Cooper to the more elderly Marie Dressler. There have been, it is true, curious legends about Greta Garbo, but she stays away from interviewers. Whatever her secret, she keeps it.

Obviously, I could not relate the experience I had in the pages of a “fan” magazine. The readers of these magazines are too accustomed to sunshine to relish shadows. So, I decided to submit to the readers of Weird Tales the ghastly details of a gigantic hoax perpetrated on me by Bela Lugosi, star of the films Dracula and Murders in the Rue Morgue, and Boris Karloff, who played the monster in the film Frankenstein.

Candidly, for reasons which the reader may surmise before he finished reading, I have hesitated considerably about writing of just what happened, but now I feel I should make what happened public.

I was just leaving Universal City one rainy, dreary morning when John LeRoy Johnstone, Universal publicity director, called to me.

“Ted, don’t go away. I just happened to think that our two demons, ‘Dracula’ Lugosi and ‘Frankenstein’ Karloff, are coming here in a few minutes. A demons’ rendezvous ought to interest you. I might add that they’re hastening here from opposite directions, to meet for the first time. They actually have never met. You see, Dracula and Murders in the Rue Morgue, in which Lugosi starred, were made here at different times than Frankenstein, in which Karloff played the ghastly, man-made monster. and that’s why they’ve never met professionally. Nor have they ever met socially, although both have been in Hollywood, on and off, for several years. But you know the film colony. All split up into little groups and circles.”

I didn’t mind sticking around. For one thing, a murky drizzle had begun to fall outside. The mammoth Universal stages, seen through a window seemed in the grayness, to be enormous squat tombs, unadorned sarcophagi in which giants five hundred feet tall, stretched in death could be laid. It might not be a bad idea, I concluded, to wait around a little, if only to give the rain a chance to stop.

Bela and Boris

“Doggoned if it isn’t just the kind of a morning for a couple of monsters to meet,” laughed Johnstone. “And do you know something: I’ve a queer hunch something funny’ll happen when they meet. Not that there’s any professional rivalry between them in the demon field, as far as I know; but there’s been a lot of banter going around the studio about the weird possibilities, you know, the  things that could happen when Dracula meets the Frankenstein monster! Candidly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to frame each other.”

“What do you mean?” I chuckled nervously.

“Well,” he countered, “it’s natural that this meeting should strike them both as funny. And you now what actors are for pulling gags on each other.”

The rain, increasing, muttered against the ground outside.

Boris Karloff was first to arrive—and, fantastically enough in evening clothes, worn under a rain-flecked overcoat which he tossed off with a mischievous, almost boyish fling.

We were introduced. And I learned, from his accent, then from his admission, that he name is not Karloff, but that he is an Englishman with a most unfortunate name. But we won’t go into that.

He is slender, debonair, graceful with powerful shoulders and large strong hands, smooth iron-gray hair, darkly tanned skin and lucent deep-set brown eyes. A witty, casual, well-bred fellow, with one of those strong-boned, hallow-cheeked countenances that seems carved out of hickory, and is characteristic of so many well-travelled, weather-beaten, distinguished-appearing Britishers.

He joked waggishly, this Englishman from God knows where whose name is not Karloff, about his coming meeting with Bela Lugosi.

As he was talking, and Johnstone and I were absorbed in his high spirits, the door leading to the studio outside evidently opened. No one saw it open. In fact, we did not see anything until Karloff, who faced the door as he chatted with us, suddenly looked up and asseverated startlingly, “Oh, my God!”

Johnstone and I looked around and I don’t know what he thought or felt. I do know I became visibly disconnected, to put it lightly.

There stood Lugosi, filling the doorway, quiet as death, and smiling in his curiously knowing way. It is the smile of a tall, weary, haunted aristocrat, a person of perhaps fallen greatness, a secretive Lucifer who sees too clearly and knows too much, and perhaps wishes it were not so, and would like to be a gracious chap. He, too, was in evening clothes—on a rainy morning! He advanced with a soft springy tread.

Karloff stood up as if galvanized by some sudden irrevocable plan of action. The he turned on the advancing Lugosi a cold, unbelieving stare that would have riveted another man in his tracks. But the tall, taper-fingered Hungarian drawing himself erect, continued to smile with unmistakably ghastly knowingness.

It was Lugosi’s hand which was thrust forward first. As they shook hands they seemed to lock horns with their eyes. Only for a moment, however, for both broke into ear-to-ear grins.

Bela & Boris 2

“I hope I didn’t scare you to death,” Lugosi smiled, narrowing his eyes, and seeming to look right through the quondam monster.

“I hope I didn’t scare you to death,” parried Karloff mirthfully.

I could not be certain; but I thought Lugosi bristled, as if his demonical prowess had been challenged by a tyro in demonism.

Finally he said slowly.

“I think I could scare you to death.”

Karloff struck a match, lit a cigarette, puffed a couple of times, and retorted with an air of whimsical scorn;

“I not only think I can scare your ears right off, Mr. Dracula, I’ll bet you that I can.”

Within the next few minutes a wager of a hundred dollars had been made. They would go into a deserted set within one of the vast, empty, tomb-like stages squatting in the rain outside. No lights would be turned on. They would tell each other stories—such stories of darkness, terror and madness that one or the other would either faint or cry out for the other to stop. The other would then be pronounced victor.

Publicist Johnstone, grinning a bit unconvincingly, as if he were somehow ill, protested:

“There should be a referee. You go along, LeBerthon, and decide which one out-scares the other. And I’ll tell you what. Take Ray Jones, the photographer, along. He can get incontrovertible evidence.”

“I don’t want to oppose your wishes,” put in Lugosi, his eyes widening like wrathful alarm signals, “but I would rather be alone with Mr. Karloff. You won’t need any evidence. All you may need is a doctor, a nerve and heart specialist. You see only one of us will walk off that stage. The other will be…er…carried off.”

He said this with some heat, yet a growing twinkle in his eyes which gradually narrowed again. But Johnstone was obdurate.

And so, two tall actors in evening clothes, a photographer and a writer walked with bowed heads and hunched shoulders in the rain to reach the stage building with its unfortunate resemblance, for me, to a colossal sepulcher.

We entered a small door in the side, nearly tripping over cables that coiled like lifeless serpents about the floor in the dank, dusky atmosphere. Photographer Jones lit a match. We found our way to a set where, among other articles of furniture, there was a davenport. It was then agreed that Jones could take photographs if he and I would stand 25 feet away in a dark corner, and if he would use only noiseless flash powder.

The tall actors in evening clothes sat on the davenport. In the obscure gloom we scarcely could discern their figures. But soon we were to hear a mournful voice, Lugosi’s.

“Boris,” he began in a gloating sonority,” what would you say if this set, this stage, this studio, suddenly vanished, and you found that in reality you and I were sitting at the bottom of a pit. Ha! That would be inconvenient for you, wouldn’t it? But of course I might provide some charming company—I might drag down into this pit an exquisite young woman. And I should indulge in a curious experiment that would cause your hair to turn white—and your stomach to turn inside out.

“Boris,” he went on in a ghoulish, sickeningly exultant tone, “women are thrilled by Dracula, the suave one. Women love the horrible, the creepy, more than men. Why does a woman always tell the story of her husband’s death so often and with such relish? Why does she go to cemeteries? Tenderness? Grief? Bah! It’s because she likes to be hurt, tortured, terrified! Yes, Boris! Ah, Boris, to win a woman, take her with you to see Dracula, the movie. As she sees me, the bat-like vampire, swoop through an open casement into some girl’s boudoir, there to sink teeth into neck and drink blood, she will thrill through every nerve and fiber. That is your cue to draw close to her, Boris. When she is limp as a rag, take her where you will, do with her what you will. Ah, especially, Boris, bite her on the neck!

“The love-bite, it is the beginning. In the end, you, too, Boris will become a vampire. You will live five hundred years. You will sleep in moldy graves by day and make fiendish love to beauties at night. You will see generations live and die. You will see a girl baby born to some woman and wait a mere 16 to 18 years for her to grow up, so that you can sink fangs into a soft, white neck and drink a scarlet stream. You will be irresistible, for you will have in your powerful body the very heat of hell, the virility of Satan. And someday, of course, you will be discovered—a knife, after long centuries, will be plunged into you, you will drop like a plummet into the bottomless sulfurous pit. Yes, Boris, that’s the end—for you! For look at me, Boris….”

Bela and Boris 1

“Ha! Ha! Ha! You fool, Bela,” came Karloff’s scornful pealing laugh in the darkness. “Why try that kindergarten stuff on me? You ask me to look at you, Bela. Well, look at me! Look….look….look….and take an occasional glance upward, Bela. These two hand of mine, clenched together above my head, could descend at any moment, in a second, ay, even before I finish this sentence, if I wanted them to, and they’d bash your distinguished head in as if it were an egg. Your brains would run out like the yolk of an egg and spatter your pretty tuxedo.”

“Bela, a monster created by Frankenstein is not worried by your stories of seeking blood from beauties necks. But did you see the movie, Frankenstein, Bela? Did you see me take an innocent like girl, a child playing among flowers, and drown her? Some sentimentalists said I did it unknowingly. Bosh! I have done it a thousand times and will do it a thousand times again. Bela, it’s dark in here, but you know me. You know it was no accident or chance, but significant, that I—the Englishman from God knows where whose name is not Karloff—was called upon to play that monstrous role! You know me, Bela, you know me. Why that bosh about 500 hundred years old? You know that both of us are nearly 6,000 years old! And that we’ve met many times before, the last time not more than 200 years old…And you shouldn’t have made that foolish wager. Admit it, Bela!” Karloff’s voice shook with deep agitation.

“I wonder,” came Lugosi’s reply, dreary as a fog-horn in the semi-darkness. In the meantime, photographer Jones in his scarce-visible corner kept snapping pictures. The noiseless powder recurrently rose in puffs, so that—spookily enough—the scene resembled the laboratory of a medieval alchemist.

“Come, Bela—let’s go. Er—Jones, LeBerthon,” Karloff shouted hoarsely, “are you ready to go? Bela and I have found we’re members of the same—well, suppose, we say, lodge. We’re therefore quite unable to scare each other to death, for reasons you might not understand, even to oblige you. You’ll just have to call it a draw.”

“All right, we’re ready to go,” responded Jones, nervously enough for that matter. “And—say—I’ve used up my last match. Will one of you fellows strike one?”

I shall never know whether it was Lugosi or Karloff who struck the match. All I do know is that when the match was struck it apparently revealed not Lugosi and Karloff on that davenport, but two slimy, scaly monsters, dragon-like serpents with blood-red venomous eyes. The apparitional things flashed before me so suddenly that I became sick to my stomach and made a rush, on buckling legs, for the exit—and the cool air.

Just as I reached it and noted fleetingly that the rain had stopped, and that my heart was pounding to the bursting-point, and that I was strongly weak and giddy, Jones and the two tall actors in evening clothes came through the door. Jones was rather sober and unconcerned, but Lugosi and Karloff were laughing heartily over something or other.

Bela and Boris 3

“Will you have lunch with us?” Lugosi asked me, still grinning but with something of a physician’s tender concern.

“No, thank you,” I replied, scarcely looking either at him or Karloff,” I have to hurry away.”

And I did hurry away.

I am, of course, now convinced that what happened was their idea of a practical joke, that the slimy, scaly things I had seen, the things which had so frightened and sickened me in that fleeting moment were either the imaginings of my over-wrought nerves—or some mechanically contrived illusions in which Jones had some share.

There are, of course, some who will wonder if I do not merely prefer this simple, comforting explanation to one that might cause Hollywood hostesses to fear to invite Lugosi and Karloff to social functions—and fear not to invite them!

Many people, deep down, still are superstitious. And there are many things in life we do not fully understand, such as why it is the destiny of certain human beings to portray certain roles—whether in real or “reel” life.

Bat Head 2Thank you to Marco Tremblay for his assistance with this article.

Movie Action Magazine January 1936: The Invisible Ray Novelization

Movie Action Magazine January 1936 Cover

Movie Action Magazine was a short-lived pulp magazine published by Street and Smith Publications, Inc., the New York publisher whose roster of pulp fiction, dime novels and comic books included The Shadow, Doc Savage and Astounding Stories. Running for just six issues between November 1935 – June 1936, Movie Action Magazine featured  adaptations of film scripts. Editor John L. Nanovic, who had previously edited The Shadow, is best remembered as co-creator with publisher Henry W. Ralston of Doc Savage. The February 1936 issue of Movie Action Magazine featured Masters of Horror, an article which revealed how the leading horror actors achieved their most famous characterisations. Included in the article were Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Henry Hull, Lon Chaney, Frederic March, John Barrymore and Peter Lorre. The final issue in June 1936 contained an adaptation of Boris Karloff’s 1936 Warner Bros. film The Walking Dead.

Released on January 20, 1936, The Invisible Ray was the fourth Universal film in which both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi appeared and the studio’s third specially scripted co-staring vehicle for their horror superstars. Their previous joint-outings at the studio were 1934’s The Black Cat and Gift of Gab (in which they shared no scenes) and The Raven in 1935. They would appear in three more films together – Son of Frankenstein (Universal 1939), You’ll Find Out (RKO 1940) and The Body Snatcher (RKO 1945). 

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Related pages

Movie Action Magazine February 1936: Masters of Horror

Movie Comics 1939 Adaptations of Son of Frankenstein and The Phantom Creeps

The Library 

A collection of editions of Dracula and Bela Lugosi-related books.

The Day I Met Bela Lugosi by Derek R. Pickering.

Derek's autographed Photograph

Derek’s signed photograph

It was sometime in the afternoon of Friday the 14th of September , 1951, possibly 2 or 3 o’clock, when I first saw the poster for Dracula on an advertising board. The venue was the Hippodrome Theatre in Derby. The Hippodrome was formerly a cinema which was converted to a stage theatre and later, regrettably, a bingo hall. Having seen the play advertised, I was rather thrilled about it because I had seen a couple of Bela Lugosi’s earlier films.

Although I was underage to see a film with an ‘H’ certification, my aunty’s ex-boyfriend happened to be the manager of a cinema in Derby, now long-demolished. All I had to do if I wanted to see a film was to have a word with him and he would let me in. I saw three of Bela Lugosi’s films, and I was rather taken with the technique of the actor and the characters he played. Even at that young age I had a keenness for the arts.

It would have been during the first performance of the night, commencing at 6.10pm, on Wednesday the 19th of September that I decided to go to the theatre and, hopefully, obtain the autograph of Bela Lugosi. It took a little bit of courage, being of such a young age I did not know what to expect. I was very apprehensive. I knew that I would either be rejected at the stage door or the book would be taken from my hand, taken to him to be signed and then returned. Alternatively, I might catch a glimpse of him, as I had done with other celebrities from time to time, and hopefully attract his attention and ask for his autograph.

Newspaper Advertisement

As it happened, my arrival coincided with the end of one act of the three act play. I suspect it would have been soon after act two. I knocked at the stage door rather loudly. Realising that more than the stage door attendant might have heard my loud knocking, I then started to knock more gently. Eventually, the door was opened by a rather tall lady. I was rather diminutive at the time – I was only about four feet tall. She was quite tall and slim, maybe in her late 30s or early 40s. Her hair was of the fashion we now call afro,. Very, very curly! I was rather taken aback by her. She seemed a very daunting figure. I don’t know who she was. She said, “Yes?”

“I’m very sorry to trouble you,” I said in my usual very polite way, “but is it possible you would kindly ask Mr. Lugosi if he would give me his autograph?” I held out my autograph book.

There was a moment’s silence when I thought, “I’m going to be told to clear off.” A big smile spread across her face and she said, “Yes! Would you like to step inside?”

I went up three steps and stood with my back to the wall by the door as she closed it.

“If you would like to wait here, you must be very quiet. I will have a word with Mr. Lugosi and ask if he will sign your autograph book,” she said before going off.

Derby Programme CoverCoverof the Derby programme

Needless to say, I became extremely nervous. Not because here was one of the greatest of all creatures ever written about, a vampire called Dracula, but because I was rather in awe of this personality I had only seen on film. As I waited, I could hear noise in the background – “oohs” and “ahs” and the occasional applause. Then, to one side of me where I could see the curtains in the wings of the stage, a tall young man stepped into the shadows and started swinging his arms around his shoulders. His face was a livid colour, yet had a pale pallor. His lips were thin and very red, he had curly hair. I wondered what he was doing, then all of a sudden he put his hands around his mouth and let out a horrifying, loud howl. I thought, “I’m getting out of here. This is more than the nerves can bear.” After this, he looked at me and smiled. Possibly, he thought I was frightened. I suppose I was in a way. I was, after all, only about 141/2. He went off. I don’t know which direction he too, he just seemed to melt into the dark corners of this section of the theatre and disappeared. Obviously, I should imagine, to his dressing-room.

I waited and waited. I could hear the noises on and off stage. I thought, “What a strange thing!” Then it dawned on me that that was the character I had seen in the film of Renfield, and the actor, I refer to the programme, was Eric Lindsay

Suddenly, from around the edge of the curtain in the wings of the stage, a very tall, dark person walked towards me. The hair was tightly swept back, almost as if it was greased, the face looked pale and haggard, the lips were red, the eyes looked tired. The figure was wearing an evening suit with a bow tie, and was covered up to and over the shoulders by a long black cape. I saw the long black cloak was lined with what looked appeared to be red satin.

Hat was very striking was this figure walked so tall – no sign of any roundness of the shoulders could be seen. The figure walked past me. By this time I was a little nervous because Bela Lugosi looked very stern. “I’m not going to get his autograph,” I thought. I did not know whether to turn around, open the door and run. It is not very often that one comes across such a well-known and well-followed film star.

A Derby Ticket

A ticket stub from Dracula’s run in Derby

I waited for a few more minutes. The lady approached from the direction of the wings of the stage and informed me that she would now go and have a word with Mr. Lugosi and return with his answer. She went up some steps and through a door to my left. As she went through, I could see the light within was rather bright. As she came back out of the room, which was Mr. Lugosi’s dressing-room, I caught a glimpse of him, sitting. “Mr. Lugosi would like to see you now,” she told me. So, gathering up all my bravado and my courage, I walked with her up the steps to the door.

The room was well-lit and although it was rather narrow as you walked in, it was rather longish. I cannot remember what size it might have been, but it was not over big. The great man sat on his chair, facing his dressing-table. On the table were a lot of grease-paint sticks, a pot of what appeared to be cold cream and a pot of white powder. There was not room between the dressing-table and the door, it was rather near the door, so I walked to the other side and turned to face him. He looked up at me and gave me the widest, nicest smile I have ever seen. Believe it or not, I didn’t see any teeth, let alone fangs. He gave me a smile of his lips without opening his mouth. When he did that I relaxed.

I said, and I remember very clearly, “Oh, Mr. Lugosi, thank you for seeing me. I was rather nervous waiting for you. I didn’t know whether you would agree to see me or not. I have seen some of your films and I thought maybe you would be kind enough to give me your autograph.”

“Hello, very nice to see you. What is your name?” He spoke smoothly, quietly and calmly at my sudden outburst of excitement. His accent, which was not unlike the accent of his character, was quieter and not so pronounced.

When I told him my name, he said, “Pull up that chair, Derek, and sit and we will have a talk. I have a little time to spare before I go back to the show.”

So I pulled up a smallish upright wooden chair and sat about two feet away from him.

“How old are you?” he asked me. I told him that I was 14, coming on 15.

“Do you go to work or are you still at school?”

I am still at school,” I replied. “I leave next year after I am 15.”

He then asked me about the school I attended and the subjects I was studying. I told him that I had an interest in photography.

“What do you intend to do for a living when you leave school?” I told him that I was interested in learning to play the piano. I wanted to take it further, but Mum and Dad could not afford to continue to pay for lessons. My mother, whom played very well, taught me as best she could. She knew someone who worked in a music shop in Derby which sold pianos. They told me that I could get a job there with them learning how to clean and repair pianos.

“That sounds like a very interesting job,” he commented. “I wish you every success for that. Are you interested in movies?”

Derby Programme

Centre pages of the Derby programme

I told Mr. Lugosi that I had seen three of his films and I had been very impressed by his character, it was so domineering. I then asked him if it took him long to put on his make-up.

“No, not really,” he replied. “After a few years in the business one doesn’t need a make-up artist. One can do it one’s self. It’s just grease-paint.”

He seemed to be more interested in myself. It took some time to get around to talking to him about his films. He told me that he did not have much time because he had to go on stage again soon. I very quickly got round to the subject of films in which he had appeared. I told him that I was very interested in special effects and he explained to me how the transformation from bat to man was achieved – a combination of models, animation and live action. I also mentioned that I was interested in Boris Karloff and that they had both played the Frankenstein monster. Basically, our conversation was about film making.

He was certainly very intent upon his conversation with me. I respected that and I know that he would have liked to have talked to me a lot more, but he did tend to ask about myself. We chatted casually for a brief period of time, but I can’t remember what was said. He did ask me if I had seen the show. I told him that I hadn’t as I only got two shillings a week pocket money. He did not comment, he just turned and pressed a bell button on one side of his dressing-table. The lady who had let me in came into the room. He quietly spoke to her and then she left. He turned to me and we chatted informally for a little while until she returned. She handed him something which he looked at. He turned to me. Held it out and said, “Here is a ticket to enable you to get in to see the show.”

I was dumb-struck. I couldn’t believe it. He then asked me if I would like him to sign my autograph book. I handed it over and he signed it.

Derek's autograph

Derek’s autograph

“While I’m doing this, I might as well give you my picture.” He reached for a photograph, signed it and handed it to me.

“I’m shortly due on stage, so I will have to say good night to you now and prepare for my next entrance,” he told me. We shook hands and I went through the door, my heart pounding. The lady was by the stage door. She opened it and said, “Good night!” I went off into the night.

The ticket had “COMPLIMENT” rubber-stamped across it in red. I went to see the show and when I took my place in the auditorium I found I was in the middle of a number of people who were the notables of the town of Derby, including the Mayor. Well, I sat there and looked at the programme. Suddenly there was some music, I have an idea that it was recorded music, and the curtain opened. I sat entranced throughout that show.

When the show was over I left my seat and walked out with the rest of the audience and went into the night. “I must remember my manners and thank Mr. Lugosi,” I thought as I came down the steps. I shot around the corner, went to the stage door and knocked on it. A gentleman opened the door to me. I explained that Mr. Lugosi had given me a ticket to go to see the show and would appreciate, realising Mr. Lugosi is busy, if you would pass a message on for me that ”Derek enjoyed the show very much and thank him for his kindness. Tell him that I will never forget him.” I thanked him and came away.

Bela Lugosi was one of the kindest people I have ever met. He took time to see me and talk to me. He was the only one of all the people whose autographs I had sought who really took trouble to speak to me. I kept my promise, I never forgot him. He was a gentleman, a very quietly spoken gentleman – that is the only way I can describe him. I was so sorry when I heard of his tragic death. I hope that in spirit he has found relief and happiness.

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Related pages and articles

An Encounter With Bela Lugosi by Roy Tomlinson

1951 British Dracula Tour – Newspaper Articles And Memorabilia

1951 British Dracula Tour – Exclusive Interviews With The Cast & Company

From A To Zee: Eric Lindsay, Bela Lugosi’s Last Renfield

Knee-Deep In Ice Cream, Smoke & Wayward Rubber Bats: An Interview With Richard Butler

Film Producer Richard Gordon Dies At 85

Richard Gordon – December 31, 1925 – November 1, 2011

Film producer Richard Gordon died on November 1st at New York Presbyterian Hospital after suffering from heart problems over the last six months. He was 85.

Born in London on December 31st, 1925, Richard, “Dick” to all who knew him, shared a life-long love of films with his elder brother, and fellow producer, Alex, who died aged 80 in 2003. While schoolboys, the brothers started fan clubs for their favourite stars, Gene Autry and Buster Crabbe. During World War II, Dick joined the Royal Navy. His knowledge of German, acquired at school, led to him heading a translation and interrogation unit. During his war service, he was still able to indulge his passion by organising film programmes for enlisted men. His particular affection for horror films earned him the nickname “Dracula.”

Dick, Bela and Alex

Courtesy of http://www.moviemonstermuseum.com/

After being demobbed in 1946, the brothers pursued careers in the film industry. While Alex handled publicity at Renown Pictures, a small film distributor which would later move into film production, Dick worked in the publicity department of Pathe Pictures, the distribution arm of Associated British. They supplemented their earnings by writing film reviews and articles, but their opportunities were hampered due to post-war paper shortages, which limited print runs of the fan magazines they were targeting. Realising that their ambition to become film producers were unlikely to be realised in their homeland, they pooled their savings and emigrated to America in November, 1947. Setting up in New York, Dick found work as an assistant sales manager for Jack Hoffberg’s distribution company and freelanced as a representative for several British film outlets, while Alex became a booker for Walter Reade theatres.

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Bela and Dick on the set of Mother Riley Meets The Vampire (1951)

They also interviewed film stars for British film magazines. When they learned that Bela Lugosi would appear in a summer stock production of Arsenic and Old Lace in Sea Cliff, twenty miles outside of New York, in August, 1948, they determined to meet and interview him. Lugosi not only consented to the interview, but also invited the brothers to dine with him and his wife at a local restaurant, where he regaled them with stories of his glory days and confided his current career woes. 

Bela, intrigued by the brothers’ talk of his continued popularity in Britain and their contacts within the British film industry, contacted them several months later and asked them to try find him film and theatre work in Britain. He also offered them the opportunity to take over management of his affairs. Alex, having recently started working for his childhood hero, Gene Autry, was too busy to devote his energies to helping Bela, so Dick set to trying to generate interest in Bela in a production of Dracula among West End producers. Despite his growing network of contacts within both the film and theatre industries, Dick found selling Bela and Dracula to British producers to be an almost impossible task. It would not be until 1951 that he was able to negotiate a British revival tour of Dracula and Bela’s appearance in Mother Riley Meets The Vampire. Much to Dick’s consternation, the production of Dracula proved to be fraught with difficulties and failed to secure a planned run in the West End. Whenever he recalled the tour in later life, he would lament his lack of experience at the time and express his frustration at getting Bela involved in what Dick viewed as a disastrous venture.

Dick’s two films with Boris Karloff

Dick had more success with his other enterprises. In 1949 he set up Gordon Films Inc., which imported and distributed British and other foreign films. After moving into setting up co-production deals, Dick decided that “If I was going to do it for somebody else, I could do it myself!” From 1958 he produced a string of films now regarded as cult classics, including Boris Karloff’s The Haunted Strangler and Corridors of Blood, both made in 1958. In the same year he produced Fiend Without a Face, followed in 1959 by First Man Into Space. His last credit as a producer was for Inseminoid in 1981. He continued to run Gordon Films until his death. Dick always remained at heart a film fan who, as his friend, the writer Tom Weaver said, “lived and breathed movies.” In his later years, he became a popular guest at film conventions in America and Britain.

Tom Weaver’s book-length interview with Dick (BearManor Media, 2011)

Despite his feelings about the British tour of Dracula, when Frank Dello Stritto and I wrote the story of 1951 in “Vampire Over London – Bela Lugosi in Britain,” almost 50 years later, he was an enthusiastic collaborator. His memories and his insights were invaluable to our research. Without him, the book would have been much different. Frank last met him in June at this year’s Monster Bash. “He’d had some recent health issues and was using a cane, but he was as alert and witty as ever. It never occurred to me that it would be the last time that I would see him. I wish that I had spent more time with him then.” Summing up his personal feelings, Frank said, “Dick could be mercurial and opinionated, but also caring and funny and generous. All were part of his charm. ‘Charm’ is a carefully chosen word; I saw it in many ways as I came to know him. I was always captivated by him, and I shall miss him.” (Andi Brooks)

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Related articles

My Favorite Vampire by Alex Gordon

1951 British Dracula Tour – Newspaper Articles And Memorabilia

1951 British Dracula Tour – Exclusive Interviews With The Cast & Company