Tripwire Reviews Lugosi: The Rise & Fall Of Hollywood’s Dracula

Something To Get Your Teeth Into

Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Hayes takes a look at Koren Shadmi’s Lugosi: The Rise & Fall Of Hollywood’s Dracula out now…

Koren Shadmi’s biographical comic about Bela Lugosi does not whitewash the selfishness of the man with his name in the book’s title, or his embrace of more than one damaging addiction with calamitous results, or make him seem anything other than a trial as a husband. It does though decline to condemn him outright for his many flaws, or pretend that he wasn’t buffeted by a few of the 20th century’s most severe political and cultural shits, an immigrant who did everything his adopted country asked but still came off worse. And the life of young Béla Blaskó in 1890s Hungary isn’t that sunny in the first place, his heart set on becoming an actor while his family treat the idea with contempt and the boy himself as an embarrassment. The fire kindled in the man who changed his surname to Lugosi in response never goes out, even if it it also engulfs him at regular interviews.

The arc of Lugosi’s troubled life story isn’t exactly unknown, and Shadmi starts with an elderly drug-addicted Lugosi checking himself into a rehab clinic while falling to pieces. The actor’s morphine withdrawal crack-ups bring flashbacks of his life and career disappointments, as well as hallucinations of bedside visits from a sequence of phantoms including former wives, the actor Boris Karloff, and inevitably Count Dracula himself, all individuals with whom Lugosi had fraught and tangled relationships. Shadmi is great at faces, characters exaggerated into cartoons but still affectionate likenesses of his subjects, and the artist drops them into realistic drawn environments for added tension. Stuck for work, Lugosi plays Frankenstein’s monster, a demented hunchback, gypsies, an ape man, and another vampire just far enough from Dracula to avoid copyright infringement, and in all of them the same eyes and their troubles peer out at the reader. 

Eventually the elderly and frail Lugosi meets filmmaker Ed Wood for, if not exactly a career renaissance, then a period of regular employment; and Shadmi carefully leaves open the question of whether Lugosi has mellowed or just remains as susceptible to flattery as he ever was. Sympathising with Wood’s non-conformist nature, Lugosi claims that as long as nobody is hurt then everyone should be free to live as they want, with both the cartoonist and the reader aware of the damage Lugosi has caused to other people by applying this theory. The book’s California is no sunny landscape of luminous air, but all shadows and pastel washes, colours of doubt and thwarted best-efforts. So when immortality arrives for Bela Lugosi on the last page and the book arranges for him to express his contentment about it, other interpretations are available as well.

Lugosi: The Rise & Fall Of Hollywood’s Dracula is out now

The post Tripwire Reviews Lugosi: The Rise & Fall Of Hollywood’s Dracula appeared first on TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE.

Something To Get Your Teeth Into Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Hayes takes a look at Koren Shadmi’s Lugosi: The Rise & Fall Of Hollywood’s Dracula out now… Koren Shadmi’s biographical comic about Bela Lugosi does not whitewash the selfishness of the man with his name in the book’s title, or his embrace of more than
The post Tripwire Reviews Lugosi: The Rise & Fall Of Hollywood’s Dracula appeared first on TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE.Read MoreTRIPWIRE MAGAZINE

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