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Disclaimer

Unless otherwise noted in the post title, these are not
reviews, per se. They are articles for people who have already seen the film or read the book in question--meaning that there will be spoilers. If you're already familiar with the material being covered, or don't mind the plot being spoiled, please read on and leave a comment.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

You Asked For It: Bela Lugosi (1953)

YOU ASKED FOR IT was an odd spin on the variety show format that originally aired on the defunct DuMont Network beginning in 1950.  Viewers would write in to the show and request segments covering subjects that they were interested in, and host Art Baker would read their letters and postcards, and introduce the segments.

In this episode from 1953, Mrs. Harriet Frasier from Springfield, Massachussets wrote: "Ever since seing DRACULA, I have been an ardent admirer of that fine character actor Bela Lugosi.  I have missed his unusual roles on the screen recently.  Could you arrange for me to see him on your show?"

Bela Lugosi on YOU ASKED FOR IT (1953)
Bela Lugosi, Master Illusionist

Art Baker declares that Bela Lugosi shall be premiering a new role on the program tonight, that of a "master illusionist" who will perform the "weird vampire bat illusion".

It doesn't seem like a new role, though.  It just seems as if Dracula has taken up the hobby of cheap parlor tricks as Bela, aided by his hunchbacked assistant, emerges from a coffin in his typical vampire garb.  A beautiful blonde girl (Shirley Patterson) is fetched for Bela...but not to be feasted on.  Instead, the girl (wearing a subtle inverted cross on her dress) is hypnotized, placed into a magician's cabinet and, after a bit of silly showmanship, transformed into a bat.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Weird Vampire Bat Illusion.

Bela Lugosi and Shirley Patterson on YOU ASKED FOR IT (1953)
Bela Lugosi & Shirley Patterson

Following the segment, both Bela Lugosi and Shirley Patterson join Art Baker on stage to discuss their current and upcoming projects.  Shirley promotes the film SECOND CHANCE, the first 3D movie to feature "Important Stars" (which I'm sure was a blow to a lot of actors who had appeared in 3D films previously).  It does seem rather unusual that Shirley would be used to promote the film, though, since her role, whatever it was, was so minor that it went uncredited.  

Bela then went on to plug his upcoming projects, the 3D feature film THE PHANTOM GHOUL, and a television series entitled DR. ACULA--not DRACULA, as he is quick to point out.  Unfortunately, neither of these projects ever came to fruition.

It's not a terribly fascinating bit of television, but it is a lot of fun to see Bela Lugosi hamming it up for the camera in a more obscure setting.  Vamp fans should definitely take a look.  The 10-minute Lugosi segment is available to view for free at the Internet Archive by clicking HERE.

--J/Metro

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