I said no more of that YouTube crap, but this video is 40 seconds of rather pretty bat flight.
Apparently a bat aerodynamics study at Brown University, credit goes to K. Bruer (via Skullring).
Sometimes I forget that people have no idea that I am Romanian and I make a joke referencing my supposed vampiric ethnicity. Everyone stares at me and the feeling that I am one step closer to being fired oppresses me like a roadrunner’s anvil.
I finished reading Arthur Lenning’s The Count: The Life and Films of Bela “Dracula” Lugosi about a week ago. Lennig, a child fan of Lugosi’s, met his hero and actually became friends with the Hungarian actor in the 1940s.
Then there is Lugosi’s drug addiction. The actor, after his fourth divorce and the loss of his wife’s help in curbing his drug use, committed himself to Los Angeles General Hospital’s mental health and hygiene department on April 21, 1955 (a year before his death).
It’s not clear when Lugosi’s addiction to morphine blossomed: he himself hinted at the years 1935, 1938, 1944 and 1948. Lennig, though, a true friend, estimates the last year (page 275), to stress that the strain of his failed career was what drove him to drugs.
What really did in the vestiges of Lugosi’s career was was the 1943 Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. Playing Frankenstein’s monster with the brain of Ygor implanted in his head, Lugosi performed the part of Shelley’s original talking monster. However, Universal ultimately removed his spoken scenes from the film, leaving plot holes that studio heads then blamed on Lugosi. Thus, Lugosi’s career with that studio came to an end.
In the same year, Lugosi filmed Columbia’s The Return of the Vampire. This film ran afoul of the critics, driving another stake into Lugosi’s career.
It was only in 1948 that Lugosi’s agent, Don Marlowe, convinced Universal president to hire Lugosi for Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Marlowe “barged” into the president’s office, explained that Lugosi had saved the studio in 1931, that he only made $3500 off the classic film, while Universal reaped millions, and that the studio owed the old man. The studio laid off Ian Keith from the role and replaced him with Lugosi. This meagre offering would be Lugosi’s last major studio role.
One can appreciate Lennig’s efforts in tracking down Lugosi’s oeuvre and the gusto with which he describes the plot of each film, lovingly detailing how Lugosi would pronounce every cheesy mad scientist cliche with theatrical reverence.
In the end, Lugosi’s contributions to American culture have created a career for Gary Larson; spawned movies, songs, books, toys, postage stamps; gave Transylvania’s tourism board a raison d’Ãªtre; and permanently removed Dracula’s moustache.
Some highlights from the biography and the quirky scripts:
Premiering on December 19, 1926, was The Devil in the Cheese, in which Lugosi appeared a Greek bandit masquerading as a priest. Worth noting is the synopsis of the play that Arthur Lennig describes: “The father, to find out what makes his daughter tick, eats a bit of mummified Egyptian cheese and so frees the little god Min, who subsequently takes Quigley into his daughter Goldina’s head.” If only her head contained anything of interest: “She dreams of adventure with her young hero on the South Seas, on a desert island, and finally in New York; she also envisions cooking, having babies, nursing, and some politicking from which her husband becomes president.”
In the 1937 S.O.S. Coast Guard, Bela Lugosi played the mad inventor Bornoff who’s involved in the disintegration gas weapons trade with Morovania (page 208). Who cares about the show. It’s Morovania I want to fixate upon. Morovania is obviously a combination of Moldova and Romania, in the spirit of MolvanÃ®a and Syldavia (Transylvania + Moldova – though more Balkanized than the real Romanian countries). In 1943, he finally played a real Romanian in The Return of the Vampire.
Another script to drool over is 1941′s The Devil Bat: “Bristling with passionate resentment as only Lugosi can, he seeks revenge by breeding giant bats and giving his enemies a shaving lotion that attracts the creatures.”
Oh the possibilities! Lennig recalls, on page 241, the old adage that “No one would ever go broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”
Three months late, our little book club finally met tonight. The book for October had been Dracula. To celebrate the book, MaikoPunk, MaikoPunk’s Husband, Matt and I held six commemorative activities:
1. We made a batch of mÄƒmÄƒligÄƒ, which Jonathan Harker ate in Klausenburgh (or Cluj in northwestern Romania) a day before he met the count. MÄƒmÄƒligÄƒ is cornmeal (grits to southerners and polenta to Italians), which I served with sour cream and goaty feta cheese. If any had been left over, I could have eaten the rest with cold milk in the morning.
2. We made Bat Bites, a rum-and-cranberry concoction.
3. We made burnt rum punch. When Renfield meets Arthur Holmwood in chapter XVIII, he blurts out, of Arthur’s father, “He was a man loved and honoured by all who knew him; and in his youth was, I have heard, the inventor of a burnt rum punch, much patronised on Derby night.”
The Annotated Dracula provided a burnt rum punch recipe from The Art of British Cooking by Theodora FitzGibbon:
5 lemons 1/2 pound lump sugar 1 piece cinnamon stick 2 cups water 1 bottle rum
Rub lemons with the lumps of sugar until you have removed all the yellow zest. Put the lemony sugar into a saucepan with the lemon juice and the cinnamon stick; pour over the water and bring just to a boil. See that the lumps of sugar dissolve. Then add the rum, heat up, but do not boil, for fear of destroying the strength of the rum. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve hot.
I thought that, unlike paprika hendl (or paprika chicken) or impletata (“eggplant stuffed with forcemeat,” or patlagele impulute, according to the Annotated Dracula), mentioned, with mÄƒmÄƒligÄƒ, early in the novel, burnt rum punch sounded like something worth attempting.
No, it isn’t. Burnt rum punch tastes like Vicks Cough Syrup.
4. We watched Nosferatu, the third-known film treatment of the novel. A 1920 Russian version and a 1921 Hungarian version by Karoly Lafthay called Drakula preceded the 1922 F. W. Murnau film. Most of us had seen this best of Dracula adapations numerous times; however, how can one not watch the classic again?
5. We watched Bela Lugosi‘s film White Zombie, which he filmed two years after he made Dracula. Tonight’s crowd had all watched the 1931 film last October, so it was too soon for a re-viewing. White Zombie, however, was new to almost everybody except myself.
With Bela starring as zombie overlord ‘Murder’ Legendre, the Bela Lugosi school of acting is very much in evidence in this 1932 film. Lost until the 1960s, it is also currently the first known zombie film, albeit the zombies are of the voodoo variety and not the revenant ghouls.
6. We watched Freaks, directed by Tod Browning, the man who also did Dracula with Bela Lugosi. Of the treachery of trapeze artist Cleopatra, Matt said, “Seems like there’s a special level of hell reserved for stealing a midget woman’s man.”
As for the real sideshow cast, in Cleopatra’s words, “Great jumping Christmas!” Conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton learned self-hypnosis from Harry Houdini so they could spend time alone; Mexican pinhead Schlitze (or Simon Metz) dressed as a girl for most of his career; despite having no arms or legs, Prince Randian could really roll and light his cigarettes as seen in the film (he could also shave and paint). We all marvelled at the Half-Boy’s grace (played by Johnny Eck). Browning himself was once a circus contortionist. He made only four more movies after Freaks.
I was not able to find any of Bela Lugosi’s other landmark films, Murders in the Rue Morgue or The Raven. I even went through Matt’s WC Fields DVDs to try and find the 1933 International House in which, as General Nicholas Petronovich, Bela finally had the chance to break out of stereotype and act in a comedic role. No luck.
I do regret not borrowing the Spanish DrÃ¡cula from the library. In 1930, while Bela and Browning were shooting the familiar Dracula during the day, a Spanish-language version with Spanish actors used the same set by night. Starring Carlos VillarÃas (who looks like Bela himself or Nicholas Cage, depending on the source) in the title role, the film’s director George Melford knew no Spanish whatsoever.
Oddly enough, tonight we never got to doing the usual book club thing. We ran out of time to discuss What elements of the gothic genre are found in Dracula?, What is the significance of blood in Dracula? and What are the ways Dracula remains an icon in today’s popular culture?
Our next book is Peter HÃ¸eg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow. On with the crotch-grabbing!
As a Transylvanian, it’s about time I read Dracula, watch the movie(s), and understand this business. You all know Transylvania is a real place; it’s time I learned what the fantasy Transylvania is all about.
I am 100 pages from finishing the novel, first published in 1897, watched both the 1931 Bela Lugosi Dracula, as well as Werner Herzog’s 1979 Nosferatu remake (the 1922 Nosferatu has long been one of my favourite movies). I also took out four books of Dracula literary criticism out from the library, to nail this bugger in the heart, for once and for all. And here I thought that I was forever converted to zombies.
So while the extraordinary shock that armadillos live in Transylvania subsides, I picked up the Annotated Dracula (edited by Leonard Wold and dedicated to Bela Lugosi) to backtrack through the footnotes. The discoveries, hitherto obscured by a century’s linguistic and societal changes, stretch beyond the minor surprises at Dracula’s mustachioed face and Lucy’s brunette-ness.
Those of you who’ve yet to read the novel know the drill: spoilers ahead.
My first surprise was to finally be interested in Jonathan Harker’s journal. Not in the narrative, but in the mechanics. The last time I picked up Dracula, in high school, I only liked the journal; when the action switched from Transylvania to Lucy and her beaus, I trudged on hoping that the story would return to Harker. After Lucy’s Bloofer Lady suffered execution, I gave up waiting for the return to the fast-paced terror at the beginning and gave up on the novel. This time around, I’ve been intrigued that Jonathan Harker writes in shorthand, thus foiling Dracula, who most certainly rifled through the Englishman’s papers. Leonard Wolf, in the Annotated Dracula, guesses that Harker uses the Pitman method. Of course, I’ve looked up this method and, should I ever have time to spare for shorthand, this will be the method I’ll learn.
I also am curious as to the gaps in the diary: Jonathan Harker was in Dracula’s castle for two months. There is a two-week gap when the imprisoned Harker writes nothing. Is this because there was truly nothing to tell? Or is it because the vampire hunters, later in the novel, omitted the irrelevant when typing up the various accounts about Dracula? What did Jonathan do during those lost two weeks?
Klausenburgh, which Jonathan Harker visited on May 2, is my very favourite Cluj! Cluj, overlooked by too many tourists, is a perfect gem of elegant architecture, in full colour as opposed to BucureÅŸti’s blanched houses. Harker eats in Cluj some paprika hendl, which sounds like it might be our own tocÄƒniÅ£Äƒ.
Quoting Emily Gerard and the 1900 Baedeker for Austria, the population of Transylvania contemporary with Dracula is 1,200,000 Romanians according to the former and 1,395,000 for the latter, to the 652,221 and 765,000 Hungarians respectively. At two Romanians for every Hungarian and the numbers provided by foreigners, I wonder who took the census. Nevermind why I wonder – hey, look, both sources say there were 8,400 Armenians in Transylvania at the time! How’d they get to Romania?
The impletata, the “eggplant stuffed with forcemeat,” may be patlagele impulute. Whatever that is. I’ll have to ask my mother if I’ve ever eaten any.
Leonard Wolf points out that midnight marks the witching hour. But, again I’ll have to consult with my parents, because I recall that either 2 am or 3 am was the really devilish time of the day in Transylvania.
The Stoker Dracula really said, “Listen to them – the children of the night. What music they make!” I had always thought it was a movie cliche, non-existent in the book. Indeed, its companion phrase, “I never drink wine,” does not exist except on film.
That’s enough for tonight. Halloween is almost over. My bat wings are off and soon my bat ears will come off. Good night!