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Showing posts from February, 2016

Rethinking DRACULA: Why the Lugosi version remains a classic

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Eighty-five years ago this February, the massive New York movie palace Roxy's was abuzz with excitement as staff and audiences awaited the premiere of the Universal "Super-Production" of DRACULA, starring Bela Lugosi and directed by Tod Browning. Critics and filmgoers weren't disappointed with the results of the 75-minute feature adaptation of Bram Stoker's famous novel about the vampiric nobleman Count Dracula. "It'll chill you and fill you full of fears. You'll find it creepy and cruel and crazed," enthused the reviewer for the New York Daily News upon DRACULA's Feb. 12 debut (quoted in Richard Bojarksi, THE COMPLETE FILMS OF BELA LUGOSI, New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1992, p. 55).

In the near-century that has elapsed, this version of DRACULA, widely considered the linchpin to the horror movie boom of the 1930s, has lost some of its luster for successive critics and historians, with complaints focusing on its pace, lack of faith to the …

Don't I know that TV sleuth from somewhere? (Part II)

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In an earlier post we examined how some movie stars of the post-World War II period, finding their film careers on the decline, embraced the new medium of television to maintain their visibility in the entertainment industry. While some of these actors still under contract to studios were expressly forbidden from appearing on the tube in one of the more extreme moves taken to stem TV's bite into ticket sales, others were freelancing, working for the rising roster of independent producers or getting supporting parts in A projects. These actors found offers of steady employment and exposure in a series not only lucrative but attractive. A series kept the actor's name out before the public and served as stopgap until the studios took notice of them once more.

A goodly number of male stars found TV a refuge as they matured and desired movie roles became less plentiful. With film production slowing down in the late 1940s into the '50s, an emphasis on "big" movies to co…

Jinx Money: 'Indubitably,' one of The Bowery Boys' best

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Jinx Money: 'Indubitably,' one of The Bowery Boys' best

When it comes to The Bowery Boys -- those good-natured, ne'er-do-well descendants of the slum-bred street urchins of the 1930s social drama DEAD END -- there are basically two schools of thought. One is advocated by the group that adores the 48 comedic second features that comprised the series, and the other faction that simply detests them and everything about them.

Devotees of the former camp can conclude The Bowery Boys are not for everybody. The locale in what was considered one of New York City's most depressing areas, star Leo Gorcey's verbal slaughter of the English language, co-star Huntz Hall's goofiness, Three Stooges-like slapstick and labored plots didn't endear the series even to natives of the Big Apple. But it was a consistent moneymaker for home studio Monogram Pictures and successor Allied Artists for about a dozen years. The series built a new audience when sold to local TV stati…
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An evening with Sherlock

On an unusually warm and wet December evening, I found myself left to my own entertainment devices, and given the paucity of new programming on television due to the holiday period, I went to streaming to find something different and amusing. It was the kind of night where my mind wandered to the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's master of deductive reasoning, Sherlock Holmes, the London of the latter days of the Victorian period in which Holmes operated, and the varied portrayals of the Great Detective that had graced film and television for decades. These include, of course, Basil Rathbone's lightning-fast 1940s interpretation, Jeremy Brett's probing and occasionally melancholy delineation of the part in the '80s, and Benedict Cumberbatch's coolly contemporary harnessing of the sleuth's talents to 21st Century technology. (I might add I am also a partisan of Jonny Lee Miller's exploration of the role on ELEMENTARY).

My wife, keenl…