Tag Archives: Universal Monsters

Dracula! Bela Lugosi’s Dark Spell

In honor of Bela Lugosi’s birthday (A day late I’m afraid, but better late than never), I’ve sat down to treat myself once more to the fantastical whimsy of the horror film that really started it all, Dracula. No denying the German expressionism films were the pioneers of horror cinema, but Dracula was the very first ‘talky’ horror film. 

The fog crowded scenes and hypnotic visuals of the Count’s foreboding and far-away realm could now be heard as well as seen, and they used sound to their advantage for this eerie new project. Rattling carriages drawn by horses, creaking doors, and hissing bats. Audiences sat dumbfounded by all they heard. It brought the night-shaded horror of Transylvania straight to them. And there was no escape. Horror had entered a brave new era.

There was no going back. Dracula opened a secret door and a monsoon rush of sensational horror films has flooded through ever since. 

From the cracking whine of a camera in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the tolling of the bell in Hellraiser, a sing-song lullaby in Nightmare on Elm Street, and, last but certainly not least, the iconic sound Jason makes all stand out in our blood-splattered minds. These sounds immediately take us back to the chills and thrills of the films and are as iconic as the monsters we love.

Dracula began it all.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in each little minute detail of the film, but I’m no expert on the matter, just an avid fan. Somehow rewatching it this time around reminds me of the first time I ever sat my butt down to experience this macabre treasure. 

image courtesy of Universal, Bela Lugosi ‘Dracula’

Any of you remember those drop-dead sexy VHS covers Universal released a few decades back for each of their Classic Monsters library?

image via Amazon

One Halloween my mom got me both Dracula and Frankenstein, both of which I’m still proud to say I still own 

I was in 1st Grade and Castlevania had just released earlier that year and was my favorite game. Mom thought it was high time her little Manic watched the very original Dracula movie. I’d seen so many different movies with Dracula in them but never the initial film. That Halloween all that changed. 

I don’t think I moved or fidgeted once. I may have not even blinked! I was transfixed to the glowing screen, it being the only light allowed to remain on, as the living shadows of this gothic epic played out spectrally before my eyes. Sure I was a young kid but the film’s unique majesty and gripping narrative weren’t lost on me. 

To The Prince of Darkness

Now at the end of Bela Lugosi’s birthday, I lift a glass to his eternal legacy. A cheer of thanks and of memories to him.

Against the odds of English not being his native tongue Lugosi pain-stakingly pronounced each word spoken with adjective deliberate concentration. It gave the Count his often mimicked manner of speech and deepened his mesmerizing effect over horror history .

So the imitated accent of Dracula was in fact Lugosi’s Hungarian one. It served the part well.

image via belalugosi.com

Lugosi was not the first choice for Dracula, nor was he even the second. A fact that pained the actor considering how he’d played the part on stage and mastered the role to damn near perfection. So when the time came for him to don the vampire’s cape Lugosi fought and earned his right to bring Bram Stoker’s legendary nosferatu to cinematic life.

As grand and wondrous as he is in Dracula that’s not, in fact, my favorite of his various roles. That honor goes to his hideously fun part in Son of Frankenstein where Lugosi ditches the cloak for a huched back. Playing the nefarious Igor, Bela Lugosi shines and steals the show!

image courtesy of Universal, Bela Lugosi ‘Son of Frankenstein’

I feel that Igor allowed the man to show his more playful side. Even though his face is hidden beneath a ratty beard and layered of makeup the man can’t help but bristle with fun and life. He never loses that sinister sparkle in his beady, little eyes nor that vicious smile.

You know what? Stop right here. If you’ve not seen Son of Frankenstein then I insist you go do yourself a favor and correct that right away, my Nasties. Go watch Uncle Lugosi have the time of his life!

Bela Lugosi had both magnetism and charisma. Not unlike the genius of Lon Chaney before him, Lugosi could captivate people on a whim.

image courtesy of Universal, Bela Lugosi ‘Dracula’

Those who knew Lugosi said he carried an unearthly mystique about him. He would enter a room and every eye would gravitationally be drawn to him.

He was indeed Dracula, so much so that he was even buried in a cape echoing back to his most treasured role. 

Hope you’re enjoying this witching season, my Nasties. And I hope that in your Halloween movie watching you have a chance to pay respect to Lugosi’s devilish spell over horror history.

Castlevania! A Halloween Tra(con)dition

Once upon a cold autumn season a game was released that allowed horror fans to travel back into a time of macabre legends, of monsters and madmen. Ingrained in our minds were images of Dracula’s dark castle where the Lord of the Night and his beastly servants dwelt.

Hammer Horror gave us insight into the wonderful abyss of dark intentions, of gothic landscapes, broken vestiges of a land long-held in the iron grip of incarnate Evil, but, most of all, of unlikely heroes armed with stakes and a crucifix and dedicated to hunting the horrors of the Night.

gif via halloweenshindig

Vividly can we recall watching the brave Van Helsing (played by the one and only Peter Cushing) cornered by Count Dracula (brought to life by the extraordinary Christopher Lee) in a legendary fight to the death.

This was epic. It took the Universal era of horrors and increased the intensity and left us spell-bound. In the final battle, and trust me it was a battle, Van Helsing knows he can’t meet the Vampire Lord by strength alone.

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, ‘The Horror of Dracula’

So the man rushes down a long table and throws himself at some closed curtains, opening them, and allowing the day’s light to blast itself against Dracula, burning him, leaving ash wherever it touches his body.

I was probably a weird kid but fuck all if I didn’t want to fight Dracula too! I wanted to explore the Vampire’s evil castle and go back to times when monsters walked the land. Being part of such gothic adventures enthralled my juvenile imaginations.

Then late September back in 1986 a phenomena hit the land and monster-lovers from all over were given the chance to do just that.

Castlevania Hit The World

Armed with a whip graced with the power to slay Vampires you step into the role of Simon Belmont, the last Vampire Killer, and face the rusty gates of Castlevania

This lone barbarian warrior stands between the awakened horrors of the Night and the fate of humanity. Destiny is coiled within the whip and should you fail in your task of guiding Simon through Dracula’s haunted castle the human race is lost.  

This is Castlevania! A daring action-adventure game made as a tribute to horror films of the past that immediately upon release both enchanted and inspired a generation of blossoming monster fans.

Gamers, young and old, flocked to this nightmarish realm trapped in the shadow of Dracula’s demonic fortress to match whit and strength against the terrors the game had in store for us. 

Inspired by the exhaustive lore of both Universal Studios and Hammer Horror films, the game became the definitive monster game and immediately appealed to parents who grew up with those movies and found a new audience of kids who would grow up loving monsters from yesteryear. 

image via Hammer Horror, Christopher Lee ‘Dracula Has Risen From the Grave’

All the greatest names of gothic terror are included herein. The Mummy, Frankenstein’s tortured monster, the deep ones and gillmen of the watery murk, werewolves (in later titles), and the Lord of Death himself, Count Dracula!

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, art by Ayami Kojima, ‘Dracula’

Medusa is even included here and you will face off against the Queen of Serpents.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, art by Ayami Kojima, ‘Medusa’

Ghosts, vampire bats, haunted suits of armor, and skeleton soldiers! Of course, this game became an instant classic upon its release and the definitive Halloween game to play again, and again.

image via Konami, ‘Castlevania’

Upon playing the game countless times images of Frankenstein’s monster, Mummies, and Dracula could not be erased from my head. For the first time the extensive library of monsters given to me via Universal and Hammer came to life in a whole new way. I was now finally able to explore a world filled with them!

image via Universal Monsters

I remember getting in trouble in school for drawing a Castlevania pic with Dracula and the Grim Reaper floating over a bloody skeleton. 

The teacher had to call in my parents over a ridiculous concern that maybe I was under Satanic influence. Yup, it was mid-eighties and the stupid fucking Satanic Panic was in full swing which made it tough to be a horror fan in school. At least in Minford, Ohio.

Why couldn’t we draw graveyards and zombies under a gibbous moon frosted with Death’s shroud? 

Well, that shit was straight up frowned on, kiddies! 

Luckily, I had/have cool parents and my mamma raised Manic on classic horror movies and we made a big deal about Halloween. So we agreed the teacher was a dumbass then went home to play Simon’s Quest.

My Introduction to Castlevania

“Hey! Have you heard of Castlevania?” my best friend asked me over recess one day. The name alone captivated my attention. The title was alive with full-moon images of gothic horrors. I just knew it had to have something to do with Dracula. 

“It’s game about monsters and has Medusa in it,” he went on to tell me, barely able to contain his own excitement. “And the final boss is Dracula!” This was a big deal to old school gamers. I mean come on! King Koopa was the final boss in SMB which made him Mario’s arch-enemy. Same with Ganon and Link in Legend of Zelda. The final boss was Shredder in TMNT. So the role of Final Boss was designated to the biggest and baddest villain around, the arch-enemy! 

So Dracula meant business, and his business was death and terror. And business was good, which wasn’t good at all for humanity. 

“You even have to fight the Grim Reaper!” Honestly, I didn’t need to hear anymore because I was sold! I HAD to play Castlevania. It sounded like a horror freak’s dream come true. 

image via Konami, ‘Castlevania’

The rest of that day draaaaggggggeed on and all I could focus on was getting home so I could tell mom about this amazing game we just had to play. 

When the time came I leaped out of the bus and ran my little butt up the hill as if the Devil himself was driving me. I had to get home and tell mom! I had hopes that maybe (just maybe) I could convince her to go out and rent it. 

I slammed through the door, yelled out for mom, rushed down the hall, and as I got closer to the back of the house I heard beautiful 8-bit music I didn’t recognize but instantly fell in love with. So I knew she was playing Nintendo. But oh my God what she was playing! She had already gone out and rented Castlevania and was playing it! Playing it and waiting for me to show me this fucking cool game! 

image via Konami, ‘Castlevania’

Was I hooked? I don’t know. It was more like being drawn to it like a bee is drawn to pollen. Or an ant to a picnic. It was natural gravitation. It felt like a game tailor-made for people like me. For the first time gamers were permitted the opportunity to tread beyond the dilapidated threshold of Dracula’s castle and discover the many dark miracles hidden within. 

Castlevania was a game shared by me and mom and became our daily thing to do. It wasn’t until Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest was released that mom and I really got into strategizing together. I’d come home from school and she’d pass the controller off to me to advance the progress. “I got us the chain whip,” I remember her saying one day, and that was huge news for us! 

Castlevania Cannot Die!

image via Netflix, ‘Castlevania’

Crossing generations and gaining new legions of fans the beloved franchise has enjoyed resurgences, and is a celebrated anime now on Netflix. Using the enriched-lore of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse as its source of inspiration (a stroke of genius!) the show takes place a generation before Simon and tells the story of his father, Trevor Belmont’s, war against the Undead.

Once again I was spellbound by Castlevania. The show may not be perfect but it is a beautiful new way to explore the haunted world I grew up playing in.  The show also has given people a desire to play the games once again and for that I applaud it.

Might as well throw this in here too. Just in case you can’t display your love for game franchise enough and need more to add to your life there are some beautiful Castlevania figures. A few years back Neca released their own line and their prices are quite hefty. But a new line of figures are being leased now by Diamond Select and are based off the anime.

Castlevania Anniversary Collection 

In case you never had the chance to play the original games or if you’re dying to jump back in but don’t have an NES lying around you’re still in luck. The Castlevania Anniversary Collection is available on PS4, Xbox One, Steam, and the Switch. 

image via Konami, ‘Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse’

Not only does the CAC come with the three original NES Castlevania trilogy, but it also includes the two Gameboy Castlevania games, Castlevania Adventure, Castlevania: Belmont’s Revenge.

You also get Super Castlevania IV, and the Sega Genesis Castlevania: Bloodlines. 

image via Konami, ‘Super Castlevania IV’

And just for the Hell of it they’ve thrown in Kid Dracula

This collection also includes the original Japanese versions for some of these titles giving Western players the chance to check out their favorite vampire-hunting games in their original format.

We are not sponsored by Konami at all so this is just Manic loving the hell out of a game series he grew up with. Every Halloween I return back to Castlevania to ring in the witching season. So grab your whips and crucifix and let’s celebrate the terrors of the Night.

I know you need some more Halloween fixes from us over here at Nightmare Nostalgia. So be sure not to miss why Michael Myers had blonde hair in Halloween 4 by clicking right here. Yeah, ain’t that the weirdest shit? Our beautiful mind behind our madness here at NN answers all the obvious questions of why, how, and huh so don’t miss it.

And we love all you guys and wouldn’t be what we are today without our faithful readers, our nasties, and our legions. We were honored to be part of Feedspot’s Top 100 Horror Blogs and Websites For Horror Fans ! That’s a huge deal to us. We promise to bring you only the absolute best in horror and retro fun.

So Happy Halloween season, my Nasties!

VHS Memories: The Classic Universal Monsters Collection to Die For!

In my humble opinion, there really isn’t a horror franchise that bleeds the highest of importance to the genre quite like the classic Universal Monsters. Stories such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolf Man have been retold countless times over the past 100 years in film, starting firstly with 1910’s silent movie Frankenstein by J. Searle Dawley. However, nobody really pulled it off quite like Universal with its surge of successful flicks that put the fear of GOD into audiences back in the golden age of film. And MCA’s 1991 release of the classic Universal Monsters VHS collection was the ultimate spooktacular event that fans had been waiting to sink their teeth into!

Opening_To_Phantom_Of_The_Opera_1991_Version_2_VHS

I’ll admit, even though I was already a huge fan of the classics, the promos for the now coveted massive ensemble of VHS monster madness was what had me begging the parental units for $14.98 a week to nab one monster movie after another. Those flying VHS tapes towards your face before the beginning of each Universal monster flick in one of the original promos is the one I remember the most, and also served to hypnotize me into really expanding this ever-growing stack of VHS Universal goodness. And the list just seemed to grow every time we snagged a new cassette!

Slick move there MCA/ Universal Home Video. Mesmerizing the shit out of me with that enthusiastic voice-over urging me to visit my local retailer to ask for the Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection in a dark and serious tone like I meant fuckin’ business. I’m also going to tell you that I totally did that too. It was absolutely worth both the giggles and awkward stares from the guy behind the Video Rental counter.