Well, today marks the 130th birthday of horror legend Bela Lugosi. Born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó in Hungary in 1882, he migrated to the USA in 1921 after a brief stint in Germany where he starred in F.W. Murnau‘s Der Januskopf among other films. His main performance was of course as Dracula in the Broadway play that later turned into Universal Pictures‘ 1931 box office hit – although the studio initially wanted Boris Karloff to star in it.
During his life time Bela starred in over 100 movies and found himself being somewhat typecasted by a Hollywood that insisted on casting him as the proverbial bad guy. Battling a morphine addiction during the 50s he made a meager living starring in various “b-movies” such as the god-awful Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla before striking up a friendship with fan-boy/director Edward D. Wood Jr – forming a working relationship that resulted in the cult classics Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Much has been said about Wood’s work – in Brett Thompson‘s 1995 documentary The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood Jr. Bela’s son Bela Lugosi Jr. delivers some pretty harsh sentiments – and the infamous Medved Brothers sure made a mint putting down the filmmaker, but I consider that poor drunken transvestite to be a true American auteur who’s ouvre was unique and truly had a language of its own. There’s tons of “awful” movies out there that makes for some pretty excruciating viewing, but you’ll never mistake them for Ed’s. His celluloid atrocities are perfectly wrong masterpieces, shock-full of entertainment value that never fails to grab (and maintain!) the attention of the viewer. And say what you will about film but that is its main objective – to fascinate and entertain us. And based on that criteria I’d say Ed succeded.
Considered to be in the public domain (on account of a divorce snafu) you can enjoy Bela, Vampira and Criswell (oh Lord, I just love Criswell!) in the originally titled Grave Robbers from Outer Space from 1959 on YouTube. Check it out: