Vampire Over London
- Bela Lugosi in Britain
by Frank Dello Stritto and Andi Brooks. Cult
Movies Press. Hardcover. 368 pages. $29.95
October 2000 saw the publication of a new
book, "Vampire Over London - Bela Lugosi in Britain" by Frank Dello
Stritto and Andi Brooks.
Lugosi, renowned for his stage and film portrayal of the vampire Count Dracula and for
his long career in horror movies, is a legendary figure from Hollywood of the 1930s and
1940s. On starring in the classic 1931 film Dracula,
he became forever chained to his one great role. Today, among film historians, Lugosi is
almost as famous for his relentless, ultimately unsuccessful battle against his
stereotyping as a movie monster and mad doctor. So memorable was Lugosis portrayal
of Dracula that he could never quite convince producers or his public that he could play
anything else. His star followed the fortunes of gothic horror movies. As the great films
of the 1930s degenerated into the escapist fare of the 1940s, his career inevitably
In 1951 Lugosi spent eight months in Britain, mainly
playing Dracula in a touring stage production. Every reference on Lugosi's life describes
his 1951 tour as a failure, which closed after a very short run, but in actuality Lugosi's
last Dracula role played at over 200 performances in 22 different cities around the
United Kingdom. The original intent of this book was to set the record straight on
Lugosis lengthy visit to Britain, a record of interest only to those few historians
and enthusiasts who document his career in minute detail. In gathering the surviving
records of the actors time in Britain, a grander purpose emerged. 1951 was very much
Bela Lugosis last hurrah - the moving
story of a fading star's last grasp at greatness, his last chance to rekindle the legend
that both consumed and sustained him.
Frank and Andi have managed to interview members of the play's former cast and crew, as
well as many members of the audience including Bernard Davies. In addition there is an
appendix collection of long forgotten reviews.
In writing the book, the authors immersed themselves in the
world of post-war British provincial theatre, and tell an insiders view of touring
companies. Hamilton Deane pops up often in their story, and "Vampire Over
London" contains more biographical information on Deane then has previously been
published. This often overlooked actor-playwright wrote, produced and starred (as Van
Helsing) in the first dramatization of Dracula in 1924.
Also included in the work is a behind-the-scenes account of
Lugosi's three British films, Mystery of the Mary
Celeste (1935,), Dark Eyes of London (1939)
and Mother Riley Meets The Vampire (1951).
These three visits to Britain mirror the highs and lows of his career, many of which were
a direct result of the war waged against horror films in Britain by political, civic and
religious groups. The resulting censorship and ban of horror films in Britain had dire
effects on Lugois professional and personal life. Ironically it would be the very
country which almost destroyed him that offered him one last ray of hope in 1951.
A special treat for students of Dracula is a separate
appendix, "Tracing Dracula Through 'The Stage'." that takes the reader
through the pertaining reviews by the trade journal of British theatre "The
Stage", beginning with a review of Bram Stoker's original novel "Dracula"
in 1897 to reviews of obscure provincial productions and Dracula's last appearance on the
West End. With The Stage's permission, Frank and Andi have reprinted a wealth of articles
they uncovered in their researches.
Bela's 1951 Dracula tour failed to generate the
career comeback he desperately sought. His disappointment shaped the legacy of his time in
Britain, and masked the triumphs beneath the anguish. For the very first time the full
story of this forgotten episode in the career and life of one of Hollywoods most
enduring legends is told by those who were there.
"Vampire Over London - Bela Lugosi in Britain" is 368 pages plus
illustrations, hard bound with dust jacket, and is available by mail order for $29.95 plus
$3.00 shipping and handling (in the USA.). Each of the 1,000 copies is hand numbered,
and signed by at least one of the authors. Frank lives in Houston while Andi lives in
Bath, England, so copies signed by both will be very rare indeed!
For your own copy, send a cheque to: Frank Dello Stritto, 644 East 71/2 Street, Houston,
Texas. 77007 USA.
A Quaint &
Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
A new book from Frank J. Dello Stritto