DRACULA 1931

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I have often wondered if Tod Browning had ever realized what he created when he directed “Dracula” in 1931. Dracula was by modern standards a very modestly funded movie with a budget of approximately $355,000 dollars. A slightly higher budget than Frankenstein, which cost around $291,000 dollars to produce and also had much more complicated sets, special effects and make-up.

Without going into deep detail about the background of Dracula, the movie was of course adapted from the novel of the same name (Dracula) by Bram Stoker. The production ran as a stage play for several years before it morphed (much like a werewolf) into a movie.

The movie story line begins with one of the main characters “Renfield”   (Actor Dwight Frye) who has been sent by his superiors on an errand to secure a real estate deal. Once there its obvious that Mr. Renfield is in over his head.  After traveling through the dark and misty Carpathian mountains in eastern Europe, Renfield is picked up by a carriage driven by Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and brought to the castle Dracula to finalize the sale of Carfax Abbey in London to Count Dracula, who is in actuality a vampire. Renfield is hypnotized by Dracula, and turned into one of Dracula’s evil minions.

Dwight Frye "Renfield"
Dwight Frye “Renfield”

Renfield then accompanies Dracula, protecting him during his sea voyage to London. After his arrival in London Dracula quickly goes to work draining the blood of innocents and turning a young Lucy Weston into a vampire, Dracula then turns his attention to her friend Mina Seward, who is the daughter of Dr. Seward who then calls in a specialist, Dr. Van Helsing. Ironically Renfield becomes an interesting defender of Dracula as he acts as a buffer between Van Hesling and Dracula. As the plot thickens, the highly knowledgeable Van Helsing faces off with Dracula and eventually tracks him down and destroys him. In 2013 I had the opportunity to see Dracula for the first time on the big screen of a movie theater in McHenry Illinois. I was very lucky to have seen the internal working of the theater before the changes in technology had driven them out of business.

Dracula Marquee in 2013 at the McHenry Illinois Downtown Theater

The copy of the movie was everything I expected to be. The sound track was peppered with pops, static and crackling. The voices were unevenly recorded and the backgrounds and set were dark and shadowy. Surely Dracula must have scared the hell out of audiences of the day with it’s use of imagination and primal fear of darkness, foreign landscapes and superstitious people who lived in great fear of a demonic force that rules over their dark land.

The Monster Art of Paul Spatola, A Short Interview!

THE MONSTER ART OF PAUL SPATOLA

BY GENE STEVENS MONSTERS AFTER MIDNIGHT

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Frankenstein’s Monster by Paul Spatola

 

When I started writing and editing Monsters After Midnight Magazine, it required me to be embark on a mission to find writers and artists who would be willing to contribute to the magazine. During my journey I discovered two great truths about the classic monster genre. First, the genre was alive and well and secondly, I came to realize that the classic monster genre had many followers, fans and talented people who were doing their damn best to keep the genre alive.

Over the year or so that the magazine ran in print, I spoke to and met so many dedicated people who helped me by contributing both written material and artwork. One of those contributors is an Artist by the name of Paul Spatola.

I was quickly captured by Paul’s drawings. He had a keen eye for detail and presented drawings in a black and white format that was (and still is) stunning. I got to know Paul and bit through social media and featured some of his works in Monsters After Midnight. Paul is particularly accomplished where the execution of Lon Chaney Jr.s (Creighton Chaney) image is concerned. Paul has successfully drawn many images of Chaney in various roles and the detail that he brings out is nothing short of astounding. I am a huge fan of both Lon Chaney Sr. And Lon Chaney Jr. so Paul’s renderings have a special place in my heart.

                                                                                                                      

     

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Lon Chaney Jr. as “The Wolfman” by Paul Spatola    

And Lon Chaney Jr in “The Wolfman” Universal Studios. (right)                      

I asked Paul to do a short interview online via social media and found out a lot about Paul that I did not know.

The interview;

Me. Paul so where are you originally from?

P.S.  Originally from Vineland, NJ.

Me. How long have you been drawing monster pictures?

P.S. Been drawing monsters since I could hold a pencil.

Me. What is your favorite subject to draw?

P.S. Any classic horror movie character.

Me. I understand that the family of Lon Chaney may have some of your art work in their personal collection?

P.S. The Chaney Family has many pieces of my art and sells a series of 5 prints on their website, lonchaney.com

Me. Is your artwork on display in a public places?

P.S.  I do a lot of work for two European film magazines, Multitude of Movies and We Belong Dead

Me. Where do you spend your Halloweens?

P.S. Been Working Haunted Attractions my whole life, started at 14 at a summer haunt The Brigantine Castle as an actor and makeup artist for 6 years, when that closed I moved to Castle Dracula for a year, ran a Haunted Hayride for several years and various haunts and hayrides as manager, makeup artist and actor over the course of 35 years, this is actually my first year off by choice.

Me. Where can people buy your art?

P.S. I sell a lot of work on Ebay and through my Facebook Art page https://www.facebook.com/paulspatolaart

Me. And lastly Paul, who is your favorite monster artist.

P.s. My all time favorite artist is Frank Frazetta and I also really love Basil Gogos’ Classic monster art.

THE SON OF FRANKENSTEIN

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With Halloween 2015 closing in fast, I thought it only proper that I review a couple of classic Universal Monster films. The black and white film genre produced some awesome masterpieces of light and shadow, and the “Son of Frankenstein” (1939) deserves a very special mention for wonderful cinematography.

The film starring (photos from IMDB)

Basil Rathbone Basil Rathbone
Boris Karloff Boris Karloff
Bela Lugosi Bela Lugosi
Lionel Atwill Lionel Atwill

Was a continuation of the Universal Monsters franchise of horror films. The original story was of course adapted from the works of writer Mary Shelly, who as the story goes penned the work during a dark winter of 1814.

Additional photos from “The Art of The Son of Frankenstein”

The Art of The Son of Frankenstein

THE BACK STORY

From wikipedia

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is a novel written by the English author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley about the young science student Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque but sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was eighteen, and the novel was published when she was twenty. The first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818. Shelley’s name appears on the second edition, published in France in 1823.

Shelley had travelled through Europe in 1814, journeying along the river Rhine in Germany with a stop in Gernsheim which is just 17 km (10 mi) away from Frankenstein Castle, where, two centuries before, an alchemist was engaged in experiments. Later, she travelled in the region of Geneva (Switzerland)—where much of the story takes place—and the topic of galvanism and other similar occult ideas were themes of conversation among her companions, particularly her lover and future husband, Percy Shelley. Mary, Percy, Lord Byron, and John Polidori decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. After thinking for days, Shelley dreamt about a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made; her dream later evolved into the novel’s story.

Mary Godwin (later Shelley), far more flamboyant than Fanny Imlay, escaped the family through rebellion. Upon returning home from Scotland in 1812 she encountered a young poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, accompanied by his wife, Harriet, visiting her father, William Godwin. Two years later she eloped to Europe with Shelley who had abandoned his estranged wife Harriet. Writing to a friend Hogg he said that his marriage was a calamity, a heartless union and a revolting duty.

“I felt as if a dead and living body had been linked together in loathsome and horrible communion” (Marilyn Gaull. English Romanticism: The Human Context, p. 197).

Harriet later committed suicide. While financially pressured and weather worn Mary, Percy and Claire Clairmont, Mary’s stepsister, romped, read and borrowed their way through Europe. On their second visit to the continent, rest did not come until they arrived at Villa Diodati, the home of Lord Byron on Lake Léman near Geneva.

Ghost Writers’ Contest

The inclimate summer of 1816 left the visitors ensconced in the Villa telling one another Gothic German ghost tales such as Fantasmagoriana: Collection of the Histories of Apparitions, Spectres, Ghosts. The talent in the Villa drawing room superseded the literature being read so Byron suggested that they individually write a supernatural tale. Other than Mary’s classic, the only extant story from this occasion is John Polidori’s reworking of Byron’s tale entitled The Vampyre: A Tale.

The theme of Mary’s book was not forthcoming. She admits that she was in the throes of writer’s block when she had a vision, probably an image from the unconscious. In her final revision of Frankenstein .

ref http://www.watershedonline.ca/literature/frankenstein/faq1.html

I think Shelly’s work is worth mentioning in relation to the Son of Frankenstein because I truly believe that the Director Erle C. Kenton, used sets, shadows and lighting to give the effect of a dreary land  plagued with ongoing inclement weather. His use of slanted sets and strange flickering shadows exemplified  a dark winter of long shadows.

However the most memorable character in the Son of Frankenstein was Bela Lugosi who played the evil protagonist Ygor. Lugosi’s performance overshadowed that of Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff. The role of Ygor showcased Lugosi’s ability to act in character.

Bela Lugosi as Ygor in "Son of Frankenstein"
Bela Lugosi as Ygor in “Son of Frankenstein”

Lugosi created a very convincing evil partner of the Monster created by Dr. Frankenstein. One created being with a damaged brain and the other a psychopathic killer and unremorseful body snatcher and murderer, who together seek misguided revenge of their victims.