The Top 5 Best Bela Lugosi Performances
What are your favorite kind of actors?
For me it’s the ones who never give less than 100% in their roles. It doesn’t matter if they know they’re in crap, they refuse to talk down to the material. They are almost always the best to watch. You notice a lot of those kinds of actors tend to be from older generations. There was just a greater sense of professionalism and there are many reasons for this with how the studio system worked and other factors, but the point still stands. In my opinion, one of the best actors of this kind was Bela Lugosi. Pop Culture knows him best as Dracula, but he had so much more to offer as an actor. It’s a shame the studios didn’t see it while he was alive as his career gets very sad once you start trying to follow it. So let’s give the man his due and really show off how great of an actor he was.
Honorable mention: Ed Wood
This may not be the actual Bela Lugosi, but Martin Landau does an amazing job capturing him from everything I’ve ever read about him (minus the swearing and Boris Karloff hate). This is also a plea to anyone reading who has not yet seen “Ed Wood”, it is one of the best films about filmmaking. If you haven’t seen it yet for God’s sake don’t deny yourself it. In an already fantastic movie Landau as Lugosi stands out as he won an extremely well-deserved Oscar for his portrayal. In the making of on the DVD Martin Landau mentions a great article that came out after he had won one of the many awards he’d win for this role that said, “The award goes to Martin Landau, its shadow to Bela Lugosi.”
5.) Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
A brief history of how the studio system worked in the Golden Age of Hollywood, actors had contracts with specific studios meaning they only worked with that studio unless they were on loan or traded. Imagine if for example Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson only appeared in films made by Warner Bros, he wouldn’t have been able to appear in the “Fast & Furious” sequels since those are made by Universal. What I’m getting at is that at this time having a contract was extremely important for an actor and while by pure happenstance all of the examples on this list come from the films Lugosi made at Universal he was NEVER offered a contract, despite being in some of their most famous films. The performance of this film may have had something to do with that. It’s an adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe (get used to seeing that name on this list) story of the same name. However, maybe because of its strangeness it never quite caught on with audiences. Directed with a lot of style (see the swinging shot) by Robert Florey who is today probably best know for having ALMOST made classics like “Frankenstein” and “The Wolf-Man”. Lugosi creates one of his most interesting villains both in character and in visual look. Seriously this guy with his unibrow and tuffs of hair needs to become as iconic of a Universal Monster as any of the others. I can’t say how accurate it is to the original story as I have not read it so I won’t spoil the twist if you’re not already aware of it. Just so you know if you’re watching it and it feels sort of Sherlock Holmes-ish to you it’s because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was greatly inspired by Poe’s tale when he began writing his detective who also uses deductive reasoning.
4.) The Raven (1935)
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is a masterpiece of short story horror, but it’s a very difficult story to visualize. It’s more about the tension slowly building up in the mind of the narrator, not much physical action actually happens so how do you translate that to a visual medium like film? Well most filmmakers have gotten around that by basically ignoring the text. This is no exception, instead it’s about a mad doctor who is obsessed with the works of Edgar Allan Poe and uses the stories as inspiration for killing his victims. Think the John Cusack version of “The Raven” (2012) but much better. This film allows for Lugosi to cut loose with his evil side, there is no remorse, no tragedy, no grey area for him. He does evil things just because it amuses him. He even mutilates a guy’s (Boris Karloff) face just so he can force him to work for him as muscle. It’s just always great to see this type of character be so evil and also be so in love with being so evil like Lugosi is here, it’s a treat.