Halloween Horror Fest 2016: Honoring Lugosi and Lee

Hello movie fans and welcome to the first installment of Halloween Horror Fest, a month long special on Matthew Liedke on Film all about the genre that’s around to create chills and thrills.

For this year’s HHF, I’ll be looking back at horror movie performances and celebrating the best of the best. This will go over what makes them good, memorable and in some cases downright award worthy.

In some cases, such as this post, I’ll be going over two performances in one article. Most will be because of two actors in one flick. However, this time around, it’s two actors playing the same character.

Performers Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee both portrayed the world’s most famous vampire in 1931 and 1958. In either “Dracula” movie, both Lugosi and Lee fully immerse themselves in the role and each gives their portrayals distinct personalities.

Of the two, Lugosi’s portrayal is far more recognizable to the general public, mainly for the following scene:

Since his delivery of the now iconic phrases, Lugosi’s thick accent used in his portrayal of Dracula is the common go-to voice for the famous character. The now legendary delivery is absolutely perfect for the performance Lugosi was going for.

In every line of dialogue he delivers, Lugosi manages to display his character as a gentleman while still infusing just a hint of something mysterious and sinister behind it.
This leads to a Dracula who is both very charming and stoic while also being quite menacing, especially as the picture progresses. On top of his fantastic delivery, Lugosi also builds the Dracula character through his wonderful expressions and mannerisms, even he simple ones such as a smile or the raising of an eyebrow.

In the 1958 film that followed the same classic tale, Lee is just as spectacular in playing the count. However, Lee took the character in a bit of a different direction, opting not to use the same accent Lugosi did and instead making Dracula his own.

While not as familiar, in my view, Lee gives just as good a performance as Lugosi did with his take on the vampire. Like Lugosi, Lee is just incredibly charming and acts like a gentleman. However, Lee is also significantly more aggressive, in multiple ways.

He walks faster, he’s often shown as more taller and more imposing and he carries himself with an atmosphere of confidence around him. On top of all this, when he’s ready to attack, he shows his fangs and attacks with all sorts of fury.

The story of “Dracula” has been told many times, but Lugosi and Lee continue to stand out as the best. Both brought something the unique to the role and each have their place in film history.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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