The Mondo Esoterica Guide to:

Bela Lugosi

  About Bela Lugosi:

Born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó in Hungary (although his birth town is now in Rumania) in 1882, he made early staring roles on stage and screen, appearing in several Hungarian and German silent movies, before emmigrating to the USA in 1921. Working first as a labourer before returning to the stage, this distinctive actor was scouted for the role of Dracula in the John Balderston stage play, and when Universal Studios decided to make it into a film, Lugosi was chosen for the lead role - a performance that would both define and haunt him for the rest of his days. Despite the sucess of Dracula (1931), Lugosi was overlooked for a role in James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) - rumours suggest that he might have been considered to play either the creature or the doctor. Under contract to Universal studios, Lugosi appeared as the villian in a row of horror pictures including Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) and The Black Cat (1934) which put him onscreen against Boris Karloff for the first of seven joint appearances. The relationship between these two actors offscreen was reported to vary between friendship and animosity, Lugosi apparently envious of Karloff's higher billing and earnings.

In a break from his normally naturalistic looking characters, Lugosi took on the heavily made-up role of Igor in Son of Frankenstein (1939) and the sequel Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) before playing the creature itself in Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943). Apart from these appearances, Universal were struggling to find suitable roles for the distinctive actor, and did not renew his contract. Lugosi ended up working for Poverty Row company Monogram Pictures and shooting cheapies. There were some highlights in the late 1940s as he appeared for the last time alongside Boris Karloff in Val Lewton's effective horror The Body Snatcher (1945), in unofficial Dracula sequel The Return of the Vampire (1944) and in Universal horror send-up Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). However, with the end of the Universal Horror era, and its various imitators and competitors, work dried up for the actor and he began to suffer from a heavy morphine addiction. In the 1950s he made a few films with legendary 'worst director' Edward Wood, and died August 16, 1956 aged 73. Bizarrely, his final film appearance was to come three years later in Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) as the director combined footage he had previously shot with the actor, with a poorly disguised stand-in. At his own request, Lugosi was buried in a full Dracula cape.

Bela Lugosi is one of the most distinctive actors of the 1930s/40s, and his voice alone can save many poor horror cheapies. Although his type-casting never allowed him to reach his full potential, Bela's performances, most notably as Dracula (1931) have inspired decades of horror actors, and entertained or terrified millions of viewers down the years. His partnerships with Boris Karloff although only few, provide some fantastic viewing.

DVD Reviews: Films starring Bela Lugosi

The Black Cat (1934)
Universal Region 1 DVD (Bela Lugosi Collection Boxset)
Lugosi and Karloff together for the first time, and both play off each other superbly. The film is strong, but with a poor ending.
Recommended to Karloff/Lugosi and Universal Horror fans.
Black Friday (1940)
Universal Region 1 DVD (Bela Lugosi Collection Boxset)
A poor attempt by Universal to mix horror and gangster genres. Lugosi gets a very minor role and looks out of place.
Of interest to Universal Horror completists only.
The Invisible Ray (1936)
Universal Region 1 DVD (Bela Lugosi Collection Boxset)
One of the best Universal Horror pictures, with some great performances from Lugosi and Karloff and a good storyline.
Highly recommended to Lugosi and Universal Horror fans.
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
Universal Region 1 DVD (Bela Lugosi Collection Boxset)
Even Bela can't save this ponderously written and over-directed snooze-fest.
Only for Universal and Lugosi completists.
The Raven (1935)
Universal Region 1 DVD (Bela Lugosi Collection Boxset)
Based on the Poe poem, this poor film is only saved by a trademark Lugosi performance.
Partly recommended to Lugosi fans.


Return to main menu.

Return to people/genre page.

All text in this site written by Timothy Young - January 2006.
Text from this site not to be used without authorization.

Please contact: