From Bela Lugosi To Tom Holland

First and foremost, if you’ve not checked out any of my previous Six Degrees posts, i’d urge you to do so. The basic premise of the game has been explained before but to quickly sum up, I take two actors and try to link them through film and TV appearances. It’s basically Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon, but without Kevin Bacon. Except for the times when it includes Kevin Bacon. Moving on…

I asked and by crikey, you answered. I had several excellent suggestions for this week’s #SixDegreesSaturday post but one in particular called to me. Thanks @EruditeKnight for this little gem…

The good Sir Erudite suggested this with every intention of finally breaking me, but he had no idea about my deep and burning love for the horror movies of yesteryear. Lugosi to Holland? Childs play.

A still from the movie Childs Play, showing the Chucky doll and child
“No kid, Bela Lugosi played Dracula. Robert Pattinson was Edward Cullen”

Bela Lugosi is the first face that springs to mind when I think of Dracula, which I do fairly often given my strange affinity for vampires. One day i’ll have the money to buy a mountain and when I do, I shall employ many fine craftsmen to carve out a Mount Rushmore of Dracula actors. Left to right, the faces would be Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Gary Oldman and Leslie Nielsen.

Now, I realise the inclusion of the sadly departed master of parody might seem strange to the majority of the population who seem to have missed out on Dracula Dead And Loving It. If you can find it somewhere, give it a watch. It’s got some brilliant comic moments and is the reason I have a tendency to shriek “RENFIELD YOU ASSHOOOOLLLLEEEE” whenever I see Peter Macnicol. I’m off topic, back to Bela.

Even though Lugosi is arguably best remembered for his starring role in Dracula (1931), that was a legacy with which he struggled throughout his life. In an interview, he once said “Never has a role so influenced and dominated an actor’s role as has the role of Dracula. He [Dracula] has, at times, infused me with prosperity and, at other times, he has drained me of everything.”

Despite his difficulties with typecasting, Lugosi carved out an impressive career spanning almost forty years and worked with some of the other great masters of the horror genre, including another actor who would be forever remembered as one of the great movie monsters. Our first link is via Frankenstein’s “monster” as portrayed by the one and only Boris Karloff.

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster
“Actually, my creator is Frankenstein. I’m Frankenstein’s monster. You can call me Geoff.”

Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi have a link that goes beyond the multiple movies in which they acted together. In 1931, Karloff made his breakout performance in Frankenstein, a role which led to huge success and a career which would ran into the 1970’s. None of this may have come to pass, however, had the role not first been turned down by… Bela Lugosi. The two would go on to become friendly rivals and were instrumental in the development of The Screen Actor’s Guild. Quite a legacy which extends well beyond their eternally memorable performances as some of the greatest monsters in cinematic history.

As Karloff and Lugosi starred together in several films, i’ve picked the 1935 adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” as the link. The Raven was a little too horrific for the 1930’s audiences and was partly responsible for a temporary ban on horror films in England, which led to a difficult time for Lugosi as he struggled to find work outside of the genre. He was a man who found both success and sorrow in equal measure throughout his life, but both he and Karloff have certainly earned their place in the horror hall of fame. Who else would we find in that hall, do you think? One name certainly springs to mind…

Vincent Price
“With these looks and this voice, it was either actor or gentleman thief.”

Vincent Price. A man with an incredibly distinctive voice which I have failed to imitate despite years of attempts, Price was captivating in everything from horror to comedy. From classics of the macbre, such as the original 1958 version of The Fly, to voicing roles in children’s favourites such as Scooby Doo and Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective, to the unforgettable spoken word section of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller“, Vincent Price did it all.

In 1963, Price would star in yet another adaptation of The Raven, this one a horror comedy and far removed from the 1935 movie. The reason I picked Lugosi and Karloff’s version of The Raven as the link between them is that oddly enough, Boris Karloff also starred with Vincent Price in the 1963 version. As i’ve mentioned in previous Six Degrees posts, you find these odd links as you dig deep into the careers of Hollywood’s finest. That takes us from Lugosi, to Karloff, to Price but we’re still talking about someone who passed in 1993 and the links to today’s crop of young stars, Tom Holland included, must be pretty far spread, surely?

Not a bit. As some of you have no doubt already realised, Vincent Price played The Inventor, the man who cobbled together Johnny Depp out of spare parts in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. A story which draws strong comparisons to Frankenstein, this film genuinely gave me chills when I was younger. The Inventor’s death scene particularly, dropping to the ground before he could replace Edward’s blades with real hands, was utterly heartbreaking.

So, where do we go from Johnny Depp? We don’t. I’m sure it would be pretty easy to make the connection from Johnny Depp to someone to Tom Holland, given the broad scope of Depp’s career, but there’s a more interesting option. Edward Scissorhands also featured Winona Ryder as Kim, the girl who fell in love with blade handed corpse-boy Edward and led to a thousand schoolyard conversations which began with “But how would they even…” and ended with in much giggling. Winona Ryder is our link, which brings me back to my vampiric Mount Rushmore.

Gary Oldman in costume as Dracula
“Oh Garfield, you certainly dislike Mondays!”

That is Mr Gary Oldman. Unlike Vincent Price with his unmistakable voice, Gary Oldman has portrayed characters with such a broad array of accents and tones that I am no longer sure what he sounds like in real life. For his role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, playing the blood sucking count himself, he reportedly hired a singing coach to help him add an extra spooky layer to his voice.

This version of Stoker’s classic moved away from the out and out horror, to a degree, to focus on the real story behind everyone’s favourite toothy Transylvanian. The book is rich with erotic romanticism and Coppola’s adaptation drew upon that, while still serving up a goodly portion of blood and the like. Hell, even if you’ve never seen the film, chances are you’ve seen the image of Oldman as Dracula, resplendent in red robes and bizarre white hair-do, running a straight razor along his tongue to get just a taste of Keanu Reeves and i’m sure we’d all do the same. Right?

Moving swiftly on, Coppola’s Dracula is bloody fantastic, pun very much intended, with perhaps the greatest VHS special release of all time. My father has this tucked away somewhere and it’s an object of pure unadulterated lust for me, given my desperate urge to collect everything i’ve ever watched. Seriously, just look at it…

An image of the inside and outside of the VHS special edition of Dracula, in a coffin shaped box

This version of Dracula also starred Winona Ryder, of course. I haven’t forgotten that whole linking business. She pulled double duty as Mina Murray, fiance to Reeves’ Jonathan Harker, but also portrayed Elisabeta, long dead love of Dracula. Honestly, if you’ve never seen this film and you fancy alternating between sighs of romantic longing and gasps of horror, get it watched. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. So, we’ve come from Vincent Price to Winona Ryder and then on to…who? I toyed with connecting via Gary Oldman or the breathtaking Keanu Reeves, but ultimately the choice was simple. I had to look to god. A god, anyway. I am of course speaking of Odin, of Asgard! Anthony Hopkins, who plays opposite Oldman as the Count’s nemesis, Van Helsing, also plays the ruler of Asgard and father of Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ve done it!

I haven’t. You see, I was almost certain that Odin popped up in one of the later Avengers films, in a flashback. Almost certain. That would have let me link directly to Tom Holland as Spider-Man and I could have knocked off for the night and caught some shuteye. As I couldn’t be absolutely sure, I had to add one last link (good job too, I was wrong about Hopkins popping up in the Avengers films) and I decided not to opt for Chris Hemsworth as Thor, although that would obviously work too. No, I opted for the big green son-of-a-bitch, The Hulk! Portrayed, of course, by the man who absolutely must play Columbo if they ever reboot the best detective show ever, Mark Ruffalo.

Mark Ruffalo in a scene from Avengers Assemble
“That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always horny” – “CUT!”

The chemistry between Mark Ruffalo and Chris Hemsworth throughout the MCU was one of my highlights of the franchise and their incredibly funny and heartwarming turn in Thor: Ragnarok never fails to make me smile. Mark Ruffalo is incredible as Bruce Banner and while the Edward Norton incarnation was enjoyable enough for what it was (we will never speak of Eric Bana again) it does irk me to look back and wonder what could have been if Ruffalo had been playing the brains behind the big, green muscles from the very beginning. That’s not the only time this has happened in Marvel movies, either.

I mentioned in my last post (From George Formby to Sigourney Weaver, give it a read!) that I much prefer Don Cheadle’s Rhodey to Terrence Howard. Similarly, though I enjoyed Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker and his costumed alter-ego, Spider-Man, I felt that Andrew Garfield mastered the cocksure attitude and quick wit which are quintessential character aspects of ol’ webhead. Then Tom Holland came along and my favourite superhero of all time was finally portrayed to perfection. Yup, we got there!

Mark Ruffalo and Tom Holland would, of course, both star in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, but they also share a special bond. They are both, awesome as they are in so many ways, bloody useless at keeping their mouths shut! I’m talking spoilers. Mark, Tom, if either of you are reading this, feel free to slide into my DMs anytime you’re finding it hard to keep your lips zipped about any upcoming Marvel projects. I promise not to tell a soul.

That’s the chain, dear readers! Bela Lugosi to Boris Karloff, to Vincent Price, to Winona Ryder, to Anthony Hopkins, to Mark Ruffalo and finally to Tom Holland. Six Degrees of Separation, bang on the money. Sir Knight, you are bested.

As always, thanks to IMDB for the actor and movie info linked in this article. Not that they know about it, but i’m sure they wouldn’t mind.

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