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How Vampires Rose From Myth to Modern Obsession

colton-reviewxUSA Today/David Colton—Compared with the neck-biting ecstasies of Twilight and True Blood, the vampires of Hollywood’s past are downright chaste. Not a drop of blood was shown in the original Dracula of 1931, and it wasn’t until the Hammer studio films of the 1950s that the screen flowed crimson.

Now two of horror’s top film historians take a look at the cinematic roots of the vampire phenomenon.

In Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration, a revision of a 1990 title, author Gregory William Mank explodes many of the myths about the Hungarian-born Lugosi, the screen’s first Dracula.

Though Lugosi was a hit in Dracula on Broadway, he was only the sixth choice for the screen role, finally accepting $500 a week (half his previous fee) to star as the immortal Count. Lugosi claimed for years he turned down the role of Frankenstein’s monster, but in truth was rejected in favor of Karloff. And no, Karloff did not joke that Lugosi was “putting us on” at Lugosi’s funeral in 1956. Karloff wasn’t even there.

The Mank book, which he calls an “obsession” since his first interviews with Lugosi’s ex-wife in 1974, is meticulously researched and more than 300 pages longer than the original. It grandly paints a portrait of the two stars and the spooky past of Universal, Hollywood’s top scare studio of the 1930s and 1940s.

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