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A Tribute To Bela Lugosi

My Opinion

Bela seems to be one of those characters that elicit one of three responses from people. Non-horror fans might respond with "Who?" Horror fans will usually say, "Oh yeah, that hack", or "He was a genius!" I understand both horror fan reactions. Bela made some terrible films, and often over acted through them all. At his worst he was a type cast over acting junkie ham. But at his best... I’m a big fan of Bela’s. He left an indelible mark on horror that remains a staple to this day. The cool demeanor of Blade, the dark eroticism of the vampire’s image (which was definitely not part of the lore until Bela put it on film), and that accent, all set in stone now. Sure it’s all often been reduced to caricature, but it would have to have a lasting impact before it got to that point to begin with. We’re talking about a single movie made in 1931, that’s an image, caricature or not, that has lasted over 75 years! But that was Dracula, what else did Bela do besides terrible B (and often Z) grade movies? He was the zombie master Murder Legendre in "White Zombie", a very underrated and also first of its kind, zombie movie. The subdued approach by both Bela and Boris Karloff made "The Black Cat" one of the greatest horror movies ever made, and also, for the time, a very cutting edge film. He also put forth good performances in the underrated "Mark of the Vampire", the poorly written "The Invisible Ghost", and the mostly good "Return of the Vampire". Not to mention bit parts in classic horror films like "The Body Snatcher" and "The Black Sleep". Yes he appeared in many bad films and lamentable ‘comedies’, as well as having the unfortunate fact of having his last appearances be in Ed Wood movies. But producers and directors often cast him in those films specifically to get that hammy over-the-top Bela old school B movie fans were looking for. Bela’s only real problem was his penchant for taking any and every script offered him.



Béla Lugosi was the stage name of actor Béla Ferenc Dezso Blaskó (October 20, 1882 - August 16, 1956). He was born in Lugos, Hungary, at the time part of Austria-Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania), the youngest of four children of a baker. The blue-eyed actor is best known for his portrayal of Dracula in the American Broadway stage production, and subsequent film, of Bram Stoker's classic vampire story

Early career in Hungary and Germany

Lugosi started his acting career on the stage in Hungary in several Shakespearean plays and in other major roles. He began appearing in Hungarian silent films under the stage name Arisztid Olt. During World War I, he served as an infantry lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian army. His first film appearance was in the 1917 movie Ezredes, Az (known in English as The Colonel). Lugosi would make twelve films in Hungary between 1917 and 1918 before leaving for Germany.

Following the collapse of Béla Kun's Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919, left-wingers and trade unionists became vulnerable. Lugosi was persecuted following his participation in the formation of an actor's union. In exile in Germany, he began appearing in a small number of well received films, including adaptations of the Karl May penned novels Auf den Trümmern des Paradieses ("In the Rubble of Paradise") and Die Todeskarawane ("The Death Caravan") opposite the ill-fated Jewish actress Dora Gerson. Lugosi emigrated to the United States in October 1920 and was legally inspected at Ellis Island in March 1921. On June 26, 1931 the actor became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He was married at least three times and had a son, Bela George Lugosi.


On arrival in America, the 6 foot 1 inch, 180 lb Lugosi worked for some time as a laborer, then returned to the theater within the Hungarian-American community. He was approached to star in a play adapted by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston from Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. The production was successful. Despite his excellent notices in the title role, Lugosi had to campaign vigorously for the chance to repeat his stage success in Tod Browning's movie version of Dracula (1931), produced by Universal Pictures.

A persistent rumor asserts that silent-film actor Lon Chaney was originally scheduled for this film role, and that Lugosi was chosen only due to Chaney's death. Chaney, however, was under long-term contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and his home studio refused to release him to Universal for this project. Further, although Chaney and Browning had worked together on several projects, Browning was only a last-minute choice to direct the movie version of Dracula: this film was not a long-time pet project of Tod Browning, despite some claims to the contrary.

Following the success of Dracula (1931), Lugosi received a studio contract with Universal.


Through his association with Dracula (in which he appeared with minimal makeup, using his natural, heavily accented voice), Lugosi found himself typecast as a horror villain in such movies as Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Raven, and Son of Frankenstein for Universal, and the independent White Zombie.

Despite the fact that Lugosi was not interested in the role of Frankenstein's monster due to make-up and a lack of dialogue, it is an erroneous popular belief that Lugosi declined the offer to appear in Frankenstein. James Whale, the film's director, replaced Lugosi and would do this again in Bride of Frankenstein (Lugosi was supposed to play the role of Dr. Pretorius). A recent Lugosi scrapbook surfaced with a newsclipping listing both Lugosi and Boris Karloff in the film together. This gives credence to the possibility that Lugosi was going to play the role of Dr. Frankenstein. Also, a cinematographer who shot test footage of Lugosi for the role of the monster said that Lugosi was happy with the role, and had given him a box of cigars.

In a recent discussion, it has also been speculated Lugosi wanted out of the role because he and James Whale had different interpretations of the monster. Part of the speculation includes Lugosi wanted to play Shelley's literary monster who had dialogue. Whale's interpretation allowed for no dialogue. Lugosi was quoted as saying the role, "did not have meat enough."

Regardless of controversy, the role was taken by the man who became Lugosi's principal rival in horror films, Boris Karloff. Several films at Universal, such as The Black Cat (1934), The Raven (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939) (and minor cameo performances in 1934's Gift of Gab) paired Lugosi with Karloff. Regardless of the relative size of their roles, Lugosi inevitably got second billing, below Karloff. Lugosi's attitude toward Karloff is the subject of contradictory reports, some claiming that he was openly resentful of Karloff's long-term success and ability to get good roles beyond the horror arena, while others suggested the two actors were - for a time, at least - good friends.

Attempts were made to give Lugosi more heroic roles, as in The Black Cat, The Invisible Ray, and a small role in the comedy classic Ninotchka opposite Greta Garbo (as an authority figure), but his typecasting problem was too entrenched for those roles to help.


A number of factors worked against Lugosi's career in the mid-1930s. Universal changed management in 1936, and per a British ban on horror films, dropped them from their production schedule. Lugosi found himself consigned to Universal's non-horror B-film unit, at times in small roles where he was obviously used for "name value" only. Although he tried to keep busy with stage work, he had to borrow money from the Actor's Fund to pay hospital bills when his only child, Bela George Lugosi, was born in 1938. His career was given a second chance by Universal's Son of Frankenstein in 1939, when he played the plum character role of Ygor, a sly blacksmith, in heavy make-up and beard. The 1940s saw him starring in a baker's dozen of horror, psycho, and mystery B-films produced by Sam Katzman, and in lesser roles for Universal, where he often received star billing for what amounted to a supporting part.

Ostensibly due to injuries received during military service, Lugosi developed severe, chronic sciatica. Though at first he was treated with natural pain remedies such as asparagus juice, doctors increased the medication to opiates. The growth of his dependence on pain-killers was directly proportional to the dwindling of screen offers. He did get to recreate the role of Dracula one last time in the film Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948.

Late in his life, he again received star billing in movies when filmmaker Edward D. Wood, Jr., a fan of Lugosi, found him living in obscurity and near-poverty and offered him roles in his films, such as Glen or Glenda and as a Dr. Frankenstein-like mad scientist in Bride of the Monster. During post-production of the latter, Lugosi decided to seek treatment for his addiction, and the premiere of the film was said to be intended to help pay for his hospital expenses. According to Kitty Kelley's biography of Frank Sinatra, when the entertainer heard of Lugosi's problems, he helped with expenses and visited at the hospital. Lugosi would recall his amazement, since he didn't even know Sinatra. The extras on an early DVD release of Plan 9 from Outer Space include an impromptu interview with Lugosi upon his exit from the treatment center, which provide some rare personal insights into the man. During the interview, Lugosi states that he is about to go to work on a new Ed Wood film, The Ghoul Goes West. This was one of several projects proposed by Wood, including The Phantom Ghoul and Dr. Acula. With Lugosi in his famed Dracula cape, Wood shot impromptu test footage at his home and in a suburban graveyard. This footage ended up in Plan 9 from Outer Space.

He married Hope Linninger, in 1955. Following his treatment, Lugosi made one final film, in late 1955, The Black Sleep, for Bel-Air Pictures, which was released in the summer of 1956 through United Artists with a promotional campaign that included several personal appearances. To his disappointment, however, his role in this film was of a mute, with no dialogue.

Death and posthumous performance

Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956 while lying in bed in his Los Angeles home. He was 73.

Bela Lugosi was buried wearing one of the many capes from the Dracula stageplay, as per the request of his son and fifth wife, in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. Contrary to popular belief, Lugosi never requested to be buried in his famous cloak; Bela Lugosi, Jr. has confirmed on numerous occasions that he and his mother, Lillian, arrived at their decision independently.

One of Lugosi's most infamous roles was in a movie released after he was dead. Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space features footage of Lugosi interspersed with a double. Wood had taken a few minutes of silent footage of Lugosi, in his Dracula cape, for a planned vampire picture but was unable to find financing for the project. When he later conceived of Plan 9, Wood wrote the script to incorporate the Lugosi footage and hired his wife's chiropractor to double for Lugosi in additional shots. The "double" is thinner than Lugosi, and covers the lower half of his face with his cape in every shot, as Lugosi did in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. As Leonard Maltin put it in early editions of his movies guide book, "Lugosi died during production, and it shows."


In 1979 the Lugosi v. Universal Pictures decision by the California Supreme Court held that Bela Lugosi's personality rights could not pass to his heirs, as a copyright would have. The court rules that any rights of publicity, and rights to his image, terminated with Lugosi's death.
Lugosi is mentioned prominently in the song "Celluloid Heroes" by The Kinks.
The heavy metal band Black Sabbath claimed to have named themselves after a Lugosi film-- except that Lugosi never made a film by that title (However, Boris Karloff did star in a 1964 film called Black Sabbath).
More recently, Lugosi became the subject of a song by gothic rock band Bauhaus entitled "Bela Lugosi's Dead".
The German musician Bela B. was inspired by Bela Lugosi to his pseudonym.
The biographical film Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994) is a sentimental interpretation of the relationship between Lugosi and Wood. Lugosi is played by Martin Landau in a good-natured and sometimes moving interpretation for which Landau received an Academy Award for best supporting actor. Lugosi's son, Bela Lugosi, Jr. initially disapproved of his father's portrayal in the film, despite never having seen it. After a long correspondence with Landau, Lugosi, Jr. was persuaded to view the film in Landau's company, after which he declared that Landau had 'honored' his father with his portrayal, and the actor and the late star's son became friends as a result.
Contrary to Burton's film, Lugosi did not receive top billing for Plan 9. Instead, he was listed as a guest-star, below Tor Johnson, Vampira and Kenne Duncan.
At present, there is a movement by Lugosi fans to get him an honorary Oscar, although the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a longtime policy of giving honorary awards only to living persons.
Lugosi's films were often featured in the USA television series Night Flight.
Three Lugosi projects were featured on the television show Mystery Science Theater 3000. The Corpse Vanishes was used in episode 105, the serial The Phantom Creeps was used throughout season two and the Ed Wood production Bride of the Monster appeared in episode 423.
'Count Bela de Magpyr' is a vampire who features in the Discworld ongoing series of Terry Pratchett, a vampire of the Magpyr family who resembles Lugosi physically.
An episode of Sledge Hammer titled Last of the Red Hot Vampires was an homage of Béla Lugosi. At the end of the episode, it was dedicated to "Mr. Blaskó".

From Wikipedia


A Regiseggyujto (1917)
The Wedding Song (1917)
Leoni Leo (1917)
The Colonel (1917)
Spring Tempest (1918)
Lulu (film) Lulu (1918)
The Leopard (1918)
Casanova (1918)
Masked Ball (1918)
Lili (1918)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1918)
99 (1918)
The Devil Worshippers (1920)
The Woman in the Dolphin (1920)
The Curse of the Man (1920)
Hypnosis (1920)
Dance on the Volcano (1920)
Nat Pinkerton in the Fight (1920)
The Two-Faced Man (1920)
The Deerslayer and the Chingachgook (1920)
In the Ecstasy of Billions (1920)
On the Brink of Paradise (1920)
Last of the Mohicans (1920)
Caravan of Death (1920)
John Hopkins the Third (1920)
Ihre Hoheit die Tänzerin (1922)
The Silent Command (1923)
The Rejected Woman (1924)
He Who Gets Slapped (1924) (uncredited)
The Midnight Girl (1925)
Daughters Who Pay (1925)
Punchinello (1926)
How to Handle Women (1928)
The Veiled Woman (1929)
Prisoners (1929)
The Thirteenth Chair (1929)
Such Men Are Dangerous (1930)
Wild Company (1930)
Renegades (1930)
Viennese Nights (1930)
Oh, for a Man (1930)
Dracula (1931)
Fifty Million Frenchmen (1931)
Women of All Nations (1931)
The Black Camel (1931)
Broadminded (1931)
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
White Zombie (1932)
Chandu the Magician (1932)
The Death Kiss (1932)
Island of Lost Souls (1933)
The Whispering Shadow (1933)
Night of Terror (1933)
International House (1933)
The Devil's in Love (1933)
The Return of Chandu (1934)
The Black Cat (1934)
Gift of Gab (1934)
The Return of Chandu (1934)
The Mysterious Mr. Wong (1934)
Chandu on the Magic Island (1935)
The Best Man Wins (1935)
Mark of the Vampire (1935)
The Mystery of the Marie Celeste (1935)
Murder by Television (1935)
The Raven (1935)
The Invisible Ray (1936)
Postal Inspector (1936)
Shadow of Chinatown (1936)
S.O.S. Coast Guard (1937)
The Phantom Creeps (1939)
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
The Human Monster (1939)
The Gorilla (1939)
Ninotchka (1939)
The Dark Eyes of London (1940)
The Saint's Double Trouble (1940)
Black Friday (1940)
The Devil Bat (1940)
You'll Find Out (1940)
Invisible Ghost (1941)
The Black Cat (1941)
Spooks Run Wild (1941)
The Wolf Man (1941)
Black Dragons (1942)
The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
The Corpse Vanishes (1942)
Night Monster (1942)
Bowery at Midnight (1942)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
The Ape Man (1943)
Ghosts on the Loose
The Return of the Vampire (1944)
One Body Too Many (1944)
Voodoo Man (1944)
Return of the Ape Man (1944)
Zombies on Broadway (1945)
The Body Snatcher (1945)
Genius at Work (1946)
Scared to Death (1947)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952)
Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952)
Glen or Glenda (1953)
Bride of the Monster (1955)
The Black Sleep (1956)
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) (Appearance in this movie was not intended originally as the footage with Bela Lugosi in it was intended for a never released vampire movie.)
Terror in the Tropics (2006) (archive footage)

My Reviews

Dracula (1931)- Back in the day I really hated this flick. Old school acting style, very staged feeling. After another recent viewing I have to say maybe I was too quick to judge. Yeah it does suffer from some lack of creativity as far as direction goes and was based too much on the stage play which bogs it down in the middle some, but over-all it is an effective horror movie and telling of the story (Dracula wants to move to England, buys some property from Renfeld, Renfeld sees too much, Dracula moves to England, falls for Lucy, Dr. Van Helsing pursues). The opening sequences are superbly done and it's not until we're in England at Lucy's house do things start slowing down. It's a shame that the creative directing style of the intro for some reason didn't carry over to the body of the movie and we end up with just a filmed stage play. Lugosi is great at the part. People rip on him for being too hammy and staged but when you think of Dracula who comes to mind? That's right, Christopher Lee who copied Lugosi. And Dwight Frye, the ultimate horror sidekick, perfects Renfeld also. B+.

White Zombie (1932)- Old school zombie flicks and love triangles. A man is marrying a woman who is loved by another man who knows a guy that makes zombies. So of course, turn her into a zombie and keep her as your slave. Lugosi is good as the zombie master filling his factory with free labor. The movie was ahead of its time in use of sound effects and also had some really great sets (especially the graveyard set). Yeah it's dated but I think this is a forgotten classic and deserves more respect. B+

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)- I've read some good things about this movie and some bad things about it so I was stoked to finally see it to decide for myself. What did I decide? First the good: There were some nice use of camera angles and 'points of view'. That always interests me, especially in these old movies when the approach was often just filming a play because the cameras were about the size of a small car so it was hard to do much with them. The lab experiment scene was good and obviously pre-code. The use of light and shadow was also pretty effective as were the outdoor backdrop sets that were obviously influenced by German Expressionism of the silent era. Welp, that about does it for the good. The bad, Bela's character is over the top in a bad way with the crazy uni-brow and big hat. The plot? Bela is a (mad) scientist out to prove Evolution (Darwin is never mentioned but I guess the film was supposed to be taking place around the time Darwin made his discoveries or just before). How will he prove it? By mixing the blood of beautiful young women with that of his trained ape. Uh, yeah, that should do it. Too bad the women usually have impure blood and die from the experiments. Don't ask me. The acting and directing (other than the above mentioned positives) also bit. D-.

The Black Cat (1934)- This was originally supposed to be an adaptation of the Poe story "The Black Cat" but was totally rewritten save the name and ends up with next to nothing to do with Poe. I believe this is the best of the old-school Universal horror movies. Except for an occasional bit of camp this movie takes itself very seriously and it has none of the outrages characters, over the top plot lines, or over acting many of its contemporary horror movies have (not that those are bad things). The acting is brilliant and the directing is cutting edge for the times. It makes you wonder what could've been if Universal's horror hadn't fallen into B movie status with too much camp and too much fear of the censors. This was the first, and by far the best, pairing of the two greatest horror movie actors of all time. Bela Lugosi plays a doctor who has been in a Prisoner of War camp for fifteen years and is returning to the man who betrayed him during the war and then stole his wife and daughter, Boris Karloff. Karloff is apparently into taxidermy with interesting results and also a practitioner of the Black Arts. So many classic moments in this film but the best is right after Lugosi arrives and he is explaining to Karloff where he has been. Karloff sits quietly in his black robe with his white face, following Lugosi only with his darkened eyes. It's a brilliant combination of direction and acting. The Bauhaus architecture comes to life in the stark black and white film, complete with great lighting and long shadows. Lugosi is brilliant as the good doctor and Karloff plays his character with great restraint and believability. The censors were none too happy with this movie at the time and the boundaries it pushed led to problems for many years for horror movies (it was inspired by a true account of a couple's meeting famous English Satanist Aleister Crowley). My only complaint is the music which plays almost throughout the entire film is at times over-bearing and pulls the movie down. Still, this is a must see for students of horror or just film in general. A+.

The Raven (1935)- Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff's second teaming has mixed results. Lugosi plays a plastic surgeon whose ego is second only to God's. He's a big E. Poe fan and keeps a nice collection of Poe torture implements and other macabre memorabilia on hand. A rich and powerful man's daughter is in an accident and begs Lugosi to come out of retirement to fix her face. The appeal that he is the only Dr. good enough works and, after the recovered daughter does an interpretive dance of Poe's "The Raven" (don't ask) to thank Lugosi, Lugosi falls for her and must have her. When he realizes he can't have her then everyone, including a black mailed crook played by Karloff, must pay. Lugosi gives his usual over the top performance but only later, after it is realized he has gone insane. For the first part of the movie he is very restrained yet edgy. A lot of folks hate this movie but I really liked it. Maybe it's no "Black Cat" but it still works. There are some silly plot devices (entire rooms that act as an elevators and such) and some typical rotten 30's camp but get beyond the weak points and this isn't a bad film. B.

Mark of the Vampire (1935)- Bela Lugosi returns to play a vampire for the first time since 1931's Dracula in this classic MGM flick. Tod Browning wrote and directed this murder mystery which is basically a remake of his silent "London After Midnight". Lugosi plays Count Mora with Carroll Borland as his daughter Luna. A police inspector refuses to believe vampires are to blame for a recent murder, but a professor believes otherwise, or does he? This is a classic movie with great atmosphere from the foggy graveyard to the terrifying castle (what was it with Browning and possums as rats?) this movie works on many levels. The ending is a let down but everything else works great. A+

Invisible Ray, The (1936): Not bad not great early sci-fi flick about a loner scientist (Boris Karloff) who discovers how to 'view' past events by looking at 'rays' that have been traveling at light speed across space. With this evidence he pinpoints where to find a rare element from a meteorite that crashed into the earth "thousands of millions" of years ago. He finds the element but becomes contaminated. He glows in the dark and kills anything he touches. Luckily Bela Lugosi is the greatest astro chemist in the world and quickly finds an antidote. Boris must take it daily though and it may just drive him insane and make him want to kill those who stole his ideas and his wife. The acting is pretty good for such silly material. Nothing cool about the directing. It moves well for the most part but slows down during some of the 'love' sequences. Just your basic predictable old school sci-fi flick, middle C.

Phantom Creeps, The (1939)- Oh lord, this is some craptacular stuff! Bela Lugosi plays the nefarious Dr. Zorca. He’s a wicked bad inventor with all kinds of inventions all powered by the unbelievable meteorite power source he found in Africa. He also knows he could destroy the world with his power. He kicks around selling it to the highest bidder but when he accidentally kills his wife he gets all bent out of shape and blames the government and decides to exact his revenge. He must have a really good plan cooked up because he seems to pass up every chance he has at getting his revenge. I mean with that meteorite, a giant (hilarious) evil looking robot, and the ability to make himself invisible you’d think getting back at folks really wouldn’t be too tough. (He’s also invented a machine that instantly heals gunshot wounds which in and of itself would make him a fortune.) But the bad Dr. just makes bad decision after bad decision until he just totally flies off the handle at the end. This was originally one of those serials people endured before the real movie started but the version I saw was edited down to about 80 minutes and you could tell! Pretty much everything about this is craptacular so if you like really bad effects, terrible robots, mad scientists with uselessly stupid inventions, blonde bombshell reporters, hip G-Men, and painful stock footage (including the Hindenburg crash) all rolled together in a package of hammy acting and terrible directing then this is for you. I seriously loved it! A+ on the craptacular scale.

Son of Frankenstein (1939)- Dr. Frankenstein's son returns to his father's old house, much to the chagrin of the local villagers. He soon finds out that his father's monster is still alive, but not doing so well. Does he destroy the monster and move on, or does he help him and make him a man? Mankind's ego and refusal to accept nature's roll and control are, as always, the theme here. Still, the atmosphere works, the sets are impressive, the acting very good (even a nice performance by the Monster's 'friend' Ygor, played with uncharacteristic restraint by Bela Lugosi). Nice revenge subplot too. Look for the police chief, which seems to me to be where Peter Sellers got his Dr. Strangelove character. Plus, they do a little play on the "It's alive" line made famous in the first two Frankenstein movies. This is the last time Boris Karloff would play the Monster he helped create. A+.

Black Friday (1940): Another Lugosi Karloff vehicle, even though Lugosi is only in it briefly. Karloff is a doctor whose best friend is injured in a car accident caused by bank robbers. Karloff saves his friend by implanting part of a gangster's brain. You can guess the rest. Yeah it's silly but it is nicely paced and contains some decent enough suspenseful moments. It's a nice genre jumping gangster, horror, sci-fi piece. C+.

The Devil Bat (1940)- Cheap and silly would describe a lot of Bela Lugosi's movies, including this one. Lugosi is a (sigh) mad scientist who works for a cosmetics firm. He sold the rights to his great formula years ago for $10,000 while the company's owners made millions. He's bitter about that so he creates a giant bat and then some after-shave lotion that attracts the giant bat and makes it attack. Then he hands out samples of the lotion to the family members of the company owners. Yeah, it's as bad as it sounds plot-wise but if you dig goofy mad scientist movies with smart-aleck reporters solving the case, and I do, then this is for you. If you hate this 40s trash then you'll really hate this one. C+.

The Invisible Ghost (1941)- Another Bela Lugosi vehicle. This is a cheapy with some bad acting but Bela raises it up from mere mediocrity. He is actually very good and his acting and facial expressions are great. It's a rare Bela film where we get to see him actually act. He gets blamed for being hammy and staged but it was usually the directors and producers who wanted that side of him for the trash flicks he ended up in. When he played it straight, like here, he was a very good actor. Whatever you do, don't try and make too much sense of the plot though. Back in the day they didn't pay a lot of attention to the 'whys' and 'wheres' of a movie storyline. Just watch, suspend belief, and don't ask too many questions. Bela is a rich widow whose daughter is in love and almost engaged to a young man. There have been some murders on his property lately and the young man takes the rap, and is then executed. Of course we know that it's Bela doing the murders. His wife isn't actually dead; she's just insane and living on the property somewhere. She wonders out at night and when Bela sees her he goes into a rage and kills folks. He then 'wakes up' and doesn't remember anything that happened. It may seem I'm giving too much away but it is all revealed as you watch the film, there really are no surprises or twists. Basically I think this is a well-directed but poorly written movie. There are some interesting and creepy camera angles that predate films like "Night of the Living Dead" and "Carnival of Souls" but have that same feeling; a little (OK a lot) more time on rewrites and a little more imagination and this could've been a great movie. B-.

Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)- Like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees of today, you can't keep a good monster down (and you get to see where many of Jason's resurrections were stolen from). Maybe they should stay down though. Not nearly as strong as the first three Frankenstein movies, Lon Chaney Jr. takes the roll of the monster, and while he's impressive, he lacks the character and tragedy Karloff was able to bring to the role. The plot? Well, Frankenstein's other son finds out that his father's monster is still alive, but not doing so well. Does he destroy the monster and move on, or does he help him and make him a man? Mankind's ego and refusal to accept nature's roll and control are, as always, the theme here. Sound familiar? Too much silly 'scientific explanations' and things like brain transplants for this to really work. Lugosi returns as Ygor though and saves the picture from being total train wreck. C.

Bowery At Midnight (1942)- Another Lugosi Poverty Row flick. Here Lugosi basically plays three characters, by day he’s the brilliant psychology professor, by night he’s the kindly soup kitchen director, by later at night he’s the criminal mastermind behind several jewel heists, using the patrons of his soup kitchen as help. Once they help him out they wind up dead, but apparently only for a short time as the junky janitor of the soup kitchen, whose nickname is "Doc" and who maybe was a doctor before becoming a junky, has found a way to reanimate the dead crooks, and you better bet there’ll be Hell to pay! The cops are already closing in when one of Lugosi’s students recognizes him while visiting the soup kitchen for a class project; the grand plan all comes crashing down, complete with angry zombies. In the end the soup kitchen assistant sets up some wedding plans with a zombie. Weird. I’ve seen better but I’ve seen much much worse. If you like the Poverty Row quickies you’ll like this. Fun dialogue and more shoot first ask questions later cops make this one complete. A strong C+ on the craptacular scale.

Ape Man, The (1943)- No budget flick about a doctor who has been experimenting with apes and combining human and ape ‘spinal fluid’. I’m not sure what the up side would be but the down side is the scientist is turning into an ape. Lugosi is great in the role of the ape doctor and actually the makeup is impressive for such a low budget piece (in as much as there is makeup, more of a hairpiece and muttonchops), and there were enough bizarre sequences, like Lugosi getting out of the ape’s cage, to make this interesting. This is everything you’d expect from movies like this, smart-assed reporters, careless doctors, stupid ‘comedy’ relief, still, I liked this one but I only recommend for lovers of silly 40s sci-fi or Lugosi completists. C+

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)- I know what you're thinking; why the Hell would I even watch a movie called "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man"? Wouldn't it be everything that I hate about modern horror movie sequels? Bad acting, bad effects, silly plot, rehashed original story in a watered down sequel? Well yes and no. I have a weakness for those old horror flicks, especially the Universal Monsters, which is what this is. This time Bela Lugosi is Frankenstein's monster (he played a were-wolf in The Wolf Man and of course Dracula so he's done the Big Three) and Lon Cheney Jr. returns as the Wolf-Man. He needs to visit Dr. Frankenstein to help him with his little full moon problem; instead of finding the Dr. he finds the castle in ruins and the monster stuck in the basement. Yeah it's silly, but it's also good stuff for those that like this sort of thing. The acting is actually pretty good (Lugosi is an over-the-top Monster, as should be expected though) and the effects, especially the lab scenes are great (of course the wolf transformation leaves a lot to be desired after seeing An American Werewolf In London and The Howling, but hey, it was the 40s). If you like the genre you'll like this, if not you probably won't. I give it a D+.

One Body Too Many (1944)- The Tin man from the Wizard of Oz plays an insurance salesman who winds up protecting a dead body from family members who want to change the dead man's will. Yeah, it's a strange plot (that's been done a million times on stage and film) but it works for the most part in this murder mystery/comedy. Bela Lugosi plays the (PLOT SPOILER) butler but is just a red herring. They set him up nicely making you think he's trying to poison everyone but it's pretty obvious he's really not. This is a good old school comedy mystery that I recommend if you like that sort of thing and can find it. My only complaint is it drags as it gets near the end and should have been a little shorter. B

Return of the Vampire (1944)- Lugosi's first part as a 'real' vampire since 1931'2 Dracula. For the most part this movie works (it was supposed to be basically a sequel to Dracula but Columbia couldn't get the rights to the name from Universal). Professor Armand Tesla who many years before studied vampirism and then became one after death. He is killed in 1918 and staked down but a German bomb during a WWII London blitz uncovers his grave and some workers remove the stake, thinking it is shrapnel, and Tesla returns to exact his revenge on the family of the woman who helped stake him years before. There is some good atmosphere created here and the plot is fairly original and I think I liked this one more than most reviews I've read. There are a few problems but it is a classic old school vampire flick. One problem, Tesla's 'familiar' is some sort of slave werewolf which is silly. I guess Columbia was chasing the success Universal had had combining there monsters in movies like "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man", which also starred Bela as The Monster. B+.

The Body Snatcher (1945)- Val Lewton classic with Boris Karloff as the title character. Karloff is a "kindly" cab driver but to make extra cash he provides cadavers for a medical school. How he comes by those cadavers becomes problematic as does his black mail techniques he uses on the not so good doctor. Bela Lugosi has a small role as servant who has some black mail ideas of his own. The black and white photography is great as is the direction and acting. Some critics say Karloff's portrayal here is second only to his Frankenstein's Monster (I'd say his Mummy would be third). They're probably right. A well presented story with a nice twist ending. A.

Zombies On Broadway (1945)- A gangster is going to open a new nightclub and he wants it to have a zombie theme. He’s promised the public real zombies and a reporter is going to hold him to it. Can his idiot publicity agents get him some real zombies from Bela Lugosi’s dastardly island? Terrible 1940s zomedy not even worth the time on the craptacular scale. Did people actually ever like this crap? F.

Scared to Death (1947)- I’ve read a lot of reviews stating that this is you’re basic hilariously bad movie so I was expecting something in the craptacular range of an Ed Wood movie. But the movie really wasn’t that bad. Now don’t get me wrong, the plot only barely makes sense at all and the one-hour movie feels like three hours, but it still wasn’t quite as inept as some I’ve seen. The performances are passable, the dialogue terrible, and the directing staged and silly. You’ll laugh at the annoying flashback sequences too. The plot? Well it starts off at a morgue with a couple of doctors talking about how someone so young and healthy could possibly die as the corpse of a woman lies on the slab. The dead woman then proceeds to tell her story, to us the viewer, in a series of flashbacks. In more capable hands this might have been an effective device but here, holy crap it’s funny! The woman is married to a rich doctor’s son, she has a past as apparently everyone else in this movie does. It makes attempts at character development and they fail miserably. Enter Bela Lugosi as a magician who used to live in the house of the doctor when it was an insane asylum!?! He has a dwarf assistant too. Then there’s the bumbling campy cop, who is hassled by the typical 1940s smart-aleck reporter, lay over the top of all that a murder mystery plot with every character playing the part of red herring and you have a mess. A fun mess never the less, only for those seeking out the ‘so bad its good’ flicks. (BTW, this was Bela Lugosi’s only color film and the color in it was surprisingly vivid.)B- on the craptacular grade scale.

Bride of the Monster (1956)- What can I say? This is an Ed Wood masterpiece, and those of you familiar with the great Ed Wood know what I mean. Those of you not familiar with Ed Wood, well, there's a reason for that. Anyway, this is full of the usual Ed Wood dazzling special effects (a giant octopus attacks Bela Lugosi), excellent usage of stock footage (nuclear bomb exploding), and amazing sets (Bela's lab, especially the stone masonry work on the walls). Ed Wood tried to make good movies... Well, not really but he did make movies. Anyway, Bela is a scientist who was run out of his own country and is now on the verge of doing something great with his giant octopus so his country wants him to come back. Too many people have been disappearing in the swamps around his house though so the cops and a reporter are snooping around and figure Bela has something to do with the disappearances. They're right of course. Seriously, Ed Wood flicks are great simply because they are not great at all. If you like digging the bottom of the barrel then you'll love this, if not then you'll hate it. Personally I like it but it's not as bad/good as "Plan 9 from Outer Space". B.

Black Sleep, The (1956)- You can't go wrong when Rathbone, Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, and Tor Johnson are all crammed in one movie. Rathbone plays a doctor who puts science before everything except curing his wife. He experiments on living people who he pays a gypsy to procure for him. He saves a brilliant doctor from the gallows by making the prison officials think he is dead and then reviving him back at the castle. His experiments continue and with each one, results a failure leaving the person totally insane and often violent. This movie, while a little goofier, managed a little of that Val Lewton atmosphere, and although it was no where near as good, it conjured up parts of "The Body Snatcher" fairly often. Not a bad movie, but no masterpiece either. C+.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)- Of course the joke is "What happened to plans 1 through 8?" Who cares? Voted as the worst movie of all time (although I think "Showgirls" might have replaced it) it has that sweet "I could seriously do better than this with some crappy gear in my basement" feel to it. Simply the worst sets ever in a movie and the some of the worst acting ever. Which is why it's become such a cult favorite and a favorite of mine! Aliens have apparently been trying to invade Earth and have failed 8 times. Plan 9 has them raising the dead to use as an army of zombies. I'll give it an A for awful.

Murder Legendre