AERO THEATER 1328 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica
Double Feature! DRACULA / DRACULA’S DAUGHTER
Introduction by David J. Skal, who will sign his books, Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula & Hollywood Gothic in the lobby at 6:30 PM.
DRACULA (1931) Universal, 75 min – Director Tod Browning (FREAKS) and actor Bela Lugosi established the Transylvanian count as one of the archetypal movie vampires and a monster icon for Universal Studios’ golden era of classic horror films. This adaptation of Hamilton Deane’s then-popular stage play of Bram Stoker’s novel is quite different from Murnau’s silent NOSFERATU, and from later works coming from Hammer Studios from the 1950s through 1970s and Francis Ford Coppola in 1990. Real estate agent Renfield (played by everyone’s favorite madman, Dwight Frye) goes insane after visiting Dracula (Bela Lugosi) at his Transylvania castle and is thereafter confined to a London asylum, though he does the count’s bidding as a hypnotized slave when Dracula comes to Britain and moves into deserted Carfax Abbey. David Manners is Jonathan Harker and Helen Chandler is his lady love, whom Dracula wants to make his bride. Edward Van Sloan, a fixture in early Universal horrors, is Professor Van Helsing.
DRACULA’S DAUGHTER 1936, Universal, 71 min, USA, Dir: Lambert Hillyer – Dracula’s tormented daughter, Countess Marya (Gloria Holden), longs to escape the bloodsucking curse visited on her by her father in this haunting sequel to the Bela Lugosi original. But her efforts to do so prove futile as she stalks young women and attempts to seduce Dr. Van Helsing’s colleague, Dr. Garth (Otto Kruger), away from the realm of the living. A surprisingly effective little chiller with a good cast that also includes Edward Van Sloan, Marguerite Churchill and Irving Pichel.
A groundbreaking biography reveals the haunted origins of the man who created Dracula and traces the psychosexual contours of late Victorian society. First published in 1897, Dracula has had a long and multifaceted afterlife—one rivaling even its immortal creation; yet Bram Stoker has remained a hovering specter in this pervasive mythology. In Something in the Blood, David J. Skal exhumes the inner world and strange genius of the writer who birthed an undying cultural icon, painting an astonishing portrait of the age in which Stoker was born—a time when death was no metaphor but a constant threat easily imagined as a character existing in flesh and blood. Just as in his celebrated histories The Monster Show and Hollywood Gothic, Skal draws on a wealth of newly discovered documents with “the skills of a fine detective” (New York Times Book Review) to challenge much of our accepted wisdom about Dracula, Stoker, and the late Victorian age. Staging Stoker’s life against a grisly tableau of the myriad anxieties plaguing the Victorian fin de siecle, Skal investigates Stoker’s “transgendered imagination,” unearthing Stoker’s unpublished, sexually ambiguous poetry and his passionate youthful correspondence with Walt Whitman—printed in full here for the very first time.
Born into a middle-class Protestant family in Dublin in “Black 47″—the year the potato famine swept the country—Stoker was inexplicably paralyzed as a boy, and his early years unfold alongside a parade of Victorian medical mysteries and horrors: cholera and typhus, frantic bloodletting, mesmeric quack cures, and the gnawing obsession with “bad blood” that colors Dracula. While destined to become best known for his legendary undead count, Bram Stoker would become a prolific writer, critic, and theater producer, rubbing shoulders with Henry Irving, Hall Caine, and Lady Jane Wilde and her salon set—including her fated-to-be-infamous son Oscar. In this probing psychological and cultural portrait of the man who brought us one of the most memorable monsters in history, Skal reveals a lifetime spent wrestling with the greatest questions of an era—a time riddled by disease, competing attitudes toward sex and gender, and unprecedented scientific innovation accompanied by rising paranoia and crises of faith. Stoker’s battle resulted in a resilient modern folktale that continues to shock and enthrall; perhaps the most frightening thing about Dracula, Skal writes, “is the strong probability that it meant far less to Bram Stoker than it has come to mean to us.”
“Sharply written, well-researched (with judicious use of recent discoveries), attentive to detail, and entertaining to read. Skal’s is the finest, most balanced biography of Bram Stoker yet written.” — Sir Christopher Frayling, author of Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula and Nightmare: The Birth of Horror
The primal image of the black-caped vampire Dracula has become an indelible fixture of the modern imagination. It’s recognition factor rivals, in its own perverse way, the familiarity of Santa Claus. Most of us can recite without prompting the salient characteristics of the vampire: sleeping by day in its coffin, rising at dusk to feed on the blood of the living; the ability to shapeshift into a bat, wolf, or mist; a mortal vulnerability to a wooden stake through the heart or a shaft of sunlight. In this critically acclaimed excursion through the life of a cultural icon, David Skal maps out the archetypal vampire’s relentless trajectory from Victorian literary oddity to movie idol to cultural commidity, digging through the populist veneer to reveal what the prince of darkness says about us all.