LUGOSI: THE RISE AND FALL OF HOLLYWOOD’S DRACULA/ Story and Art by KOREN SHADMI/ Letters by TOM NAPOLITANO/ Published by HUMANOIDS
I’m broadly familiar with the later days of Bela Lugosi, by virtue of Ed Wood being one of my favorite movies of all time. Given that, it was with a great deal of interest that I sunk my teeth into Legosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Dracula. (I know, I know. I just couldn’t resist!)
Much has been written about Lugosi’s later years, his battles with drug addiction and poverty, and how his final film role was in a movie largely improvised around Bela’s own improvisation of an old man ruled by sorrow and risen from the dead for revenge. Indeed, Koren Shadmi’s biography of Bela opens with his committing himself to a treatment facility and looking back on his life as he hallucinates his way through the withdrawal phase. Yet the lion’s share of this book is about a side of Lugosi rarely considered today. We see Lugosi as Dracula, of course, but we also see Lugosi the immigrant, Lugosi the union organizer and, of course Lugosi the lover. One doesn’t think of Dracula as being a player, but the story does not spare the details regarding Bela’s long line of lovers and his eye for the ladies, even as his health worsened.
Shadmi is rightly praised and acclaimed and the art for this volume achieves a fine balance between caricature and cartoon. The art takes on an almost animated quality as the story unfolds, with the monochromatic rendering encouraging the impression that we are watching a Bela Lugosi movie unfold. The lettering by Tom Napolitano is also noteworthy.
While Bela Lugosi may be dead, it cannot be denied he found a form of immortality that rivaled that of his most famous character. Fans of classic horror and Lugosi’s work may learn a thing or two about the old master they never suspected in this splendid book. Even those who already know will find this retelling of Lugosi’s legend a worthy one.