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Culture Corner: Bela Lugosi — The Quintessential Dracula

Who is the best Dracula of all time?

Several actors have presented different interpretations of Dracula on the big and small screens, from Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee to Gary Oldman and Gerard Butler.

But it is Lugosi who is perhaps the greatest Dracula of all time (forget Bram Stoker’s novel). The iconic Hollywood legend made his mark with the character, offering audiences a stellar performance for generations to come. While filmgoing neophytes might view Lugosi’s acting as campy and over the top, it truly is one of the best you will ever see.

The 1931 film was a remarkable achievement in cinema, from the photography to special effects. The supporting cast was memorably bad, whether it was David Manners as Jonathan Harker or Helen Chandler as Mina Harker. Perhaps this helped Lugosi stand out in the movie, but he put on an imaginative, powerful master class of acting that made everyone else look amateurish. It is part of the reason why his role is remembered today.

The problem, unfortunately, was that Lugosi was typecast for the rest of his career, either as a vampire or in horror. That is not to say that his films were disappointing or bad. Some of the best horror films of all time are Black Cat, White Zombie, The Raven, and The Body Snatcher. He even had a tiny part in the classic Greta Garbo picture Ninotchka. But it is the absurd Ape Man, Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, Ghosts on the Loose, and Return of the Ape Man that devastated his career. His final film summarized his thespian career: Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Still, Lugosi’s interpretation of Dracula was an incredible feat in not only the horror genre but in all of acting history.

Read More From Andrew Moran

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