Things Roddy said during “Dracula”

Hammer horror: perversely seasonal. DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS.

Roddy sure likes his vampire movies. He watched the Hammer DRACULA, DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS, and TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, over three days, and found room for the Universal DRACULA with Bela Lugosi too.

Gotta love the way the theme music to DRACULA — better known as Swan Lake — warbles like a faulty gramophone.

And then they take care to explain all about vampires before we see any, and then cut ahead to Castle Drac to see the Count rising from his sepulchral slumber, along with his pet bugs and opussums. It’s all about clarity — establish that he’s a vampire, see? because if you don’t do that, the extreme reticence with which the film treats his blood-drinking makes him look like a sexual pervert. Dracula descends on Dwight Frye: fade to black. Upon a little waif in a dark street: fade to black. Frye creeps up on an unconscious woman: fade to black.

Ben Hecht wrote that Hollywood’s insistence on fading out for sexual interludes led him to imagine rampant intercourse whenever a film faded out for any reason whatever: the DA rogers the judge across his desk, the coach assaults his team, the chorus line fall upon, de-bag and ravish Warner Baxter. All is fade-out depravity.

At a not-too subconscious level, this erotic subtext is a big part of Roddy’s love of vampire movies.

“Oh, there’s the castle, ho ho!”

“Uh oh — David!”

“Where’s the female vampires, can’t even see them…”

Roddy keeps up a running commentary of non-sequiturs during most films, as well as baths, trips to the bathroom, and any other activity that doesn’t fully occupy his mouth muscles.

Love the track in on Lugosi during his first entrance, perversely accompanied by opossum squeaks. Reminds me of Deneuve and the cats in BELLE DE JOUR — the similarity is so striking that I suspect an influence. After all, Bunuel was just getting into movies when DRACULA came out.

“Oh, there he is!”

“You look busy writing there, David.”

Dracula: “I never drink…” and then the word “wine” is drowned out by Roddy, the teetotaler, declaring “Good man!”

“It’s only a bat, for God’s sake!”

“What’s happened there. What’s he doing? What’s he — uh oh!”

“They’re nice girls. Well, they seem friendly.”

When the asylum nurse calls Renfield a loony, “Loony, ho ho!”

“Do you think there’s such a thing as bats?”

Roddy, as usual, speculates on what he’d be like as a vampire: “I’d have to wear a black jacket, a red-black cloak, black shoes, and then I’d be like that Dracula.”

So if you happen to encounter a short, stout man, caped, black-jacketed and shod, naked from the waist down, do not be unduly alarmed.

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23 Responses to “Things Roddy said during “Dracula””

  1. Have you seen the Spanish-language Dracula directed by George (East of Borneo) Melford and shot at the same time on the same sets? It’s quite good, and Lupita Tovar (Susan Kohner’s mother!) has a lot more va-va-voom than Helen Chandler.

    But then so did David Manners.

  2. david wingrove Says:

    I love Ben Hecht’s argument about the fade-out, which I’d never heard before. You might even argument that as the movies have replaced fade-outs with graphic bouts of sex and blood-letting (or both, in the case of vampire movies) they have progressively lost more and more of their fascination.

    Mind you, one has to make a few exceptions…Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon mingling bodily fluids in THE HUNGER, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt going airborne in INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, Lucia Bose anjoying a ‘blood shower’ in LEGEND OF BLOOD CASTLE. The graphic approach does pay off on occasion.

    But perhaps these are the exceptions? Wise man, that Ben Hecht!

  3. Hecht was all in favour of explicitness, he found the fade-out approach rather ridiculous. Since the movies insisted that both the hero and heroine be virgins, and this bored him silly, he came up with the idea for Sternberg’s Underworld as an excuse to not have any heroes, only villains. Of course his gangsters and their molls promptly became heroes…

    I thought you were going to say that when the movies became more explicit they lost a lot of their fade-outs — which they did!

    Yes, the Spanish Dracula has some great shots not in the Browning, and a very good cast, especially Lupita, but it doesn’t have anything equal to Lugosi. You can tell their star is forcing it. Bela doesn’t have to.

  4. True.

    Lugosi plays the Count as a Central European Lounge Lizard who would have been a social menace had he merely been seducing the wives and girlfriens of the social set he slithers through, rather than drinking their blood as well. Later Druclas like Christopher Lee and Ferdy Mayne in The Fearless Vampire Killers portray a highly sexual Count.

  5. david wingrove Says:

    Steamiest of all was German Robles, who played a vampire aristo in Mexican horror movies of the 50s and 60s. In my view, he was the sexiest thing to come out of Mexico since Ramon Novarro!

  6. Germ is quite a hombre. It’s bizarre to see the tropes of the Universal horror movie, Transylvanian division, uprooted to 50s Mexico, but it’s actually a pretty smooth translation. Those foggy haciendas!

  7. El Vampiro:

    .

  8. Christopher Says:

    LOL..those quotes crack me up!…Uh oh!-David!….”They’re nice girls.Well ,they seem friendly”.etc…
    Theres a great bit of business in the beginning of El Vampiro,where,having met at the railroad station,the hero and heroine ride up to Count Duval’s home together in a Cart sitting on top of the vampire’s coffin going up the same direction..
    German Robles recently played a pirate in a mexican Soap..and he looked just perfect..Just like out of an illustration in some childs old Classics Reader..

  9. Glad to hear he’s still at it!

  10. Your endorsement of Lugosi over his Mexican counterpart only tells the half of it. I find Dwight Fry’s Renfield much more compelling than his south-of-the-border double as well, this despite the fact that in the Spanish version Renfield’s character is given more screen time. Even though Fry was somewhat unhappy about being cast as idiots and half-wits I relish his presence in the Universal horror films, he made his parts both humorous and unforgettable. That laugh he gives while staring up from down in the hold of the ship is sublimely demented, priceless.

  11. And that’s an amazing shot.

    I found time to enjoy Helen Chandler and, to a lesser extent, David Manners, this time, having liked them so much in Dieterle’s The Last Flight. HC can’t really find an outlet for her unusual cockeyed charm in this one, so it’s just THERE, unacknowledged and making all her scenes a bit strange.

    Lupita Tovar is the real star of the Spanish version. When her grandson saw it, he said “Now I know why grandfather married you!” (And produced a daughter, Susan Kohner of Imitation of Life fame.)

  12. I’ve just come back from my parents where we all piled in to watch Love At First Bite a film I grew up with but haven’t seen in ages. And it turns out George Hamilton is extraordinarily good in it. I mean really good. It’s a very clunky film until richard Benjamin shows up and yet from the off the King of Tan manages to juggle the called-for campy Lugosi imitation with unfaultable timing and a really sympathetic tenderness. I wish he’d done more now.

  13. I saw Richard Benjamin and Paula Prientiss last week at screening of the loathesome new Sherlock Holmes — un film de the former Mr. Madonna These days Dick and Paula both have white hair –making them look like twins.

  14. “It’s only a bat, for God’s sake!”

    I think Roddy sums up what I think about vampire films generally…

  15. “It’s not even a real bat,” might be more to the point.

  16. I had a temp job at an agency which had a ‘Batline’ for people worried about bat infestations. There was also a dead swan hotline…

  17. Anyone interested in Bela Lugosi might like to visit my blog, Howlin’ http://www.andibrooks.wordpress.com where they can find an archive in support of the Lugosi autobiography Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in England by Frank Dello Stritto and Andi Brooks.

  18. Sounds great! I’m very interested in Blea’s British work, and will soon be watching Dark Eyes of London.

  19. I love Dark Eyes of London. I was lucky enough to interview the cinematogrpher in the 1990s. He hadn’t watched the movie since it was made. When I showed it to him on video he didn’t think very highly of it, but was very flattered to hear that it was a still watched regularly. I’d be interested to hear what you think of it.

  20. Bryan Langley had an excellent eye for expressionistic night shooting, as his work on Hitchcock’s No 17 shows. I’ll be very interested to check out his work here.

    You might be the person to ask: I’m looking for a copy of the 1948/9 British version of Fall of the House of Usher, and also Castle Sinister from the same year. Any help would be much appreciated.

    And for a review copy of your book I will plug the heck out of it.

  21. You can get a DVD of the British Fall of the House of Usher from http://www.creepyclassics.com/category.sc?categoryId=10
    I haven’t seen it myself. I need to go through my pile of unwatched DVDs before buying anymore. I’d be interested to hear a first-hand review.

  22. Many thanks! I’ll look into it and report back.

  23. […] loss here is not getting to watch movies with Roddy, which is always entertaining. Recently I read about Williams Syndrome, Roddy’s condition, and it fitted his viewing habits […]

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