Behold! Dracula, the movie that launched a twenty-three year progression of monster movies we call Universal Classics. Who could have predicted the success despite a rather tremendous stage career of not only the film but also the glowing eyed antagonist, Bela Lugosi? Dracula, the dashing, mysterious godfather of modern horror cinema, released at the Roxy Theater in New York City, on February 12, 1931. Even the cleverly crafted “fainting” rumors and “on-call” medical staff in the lobby orchestrated by nervous executives, hoping to induce some natural sense of morbid curiosity, was unnecessary. According to film historian Michael Fitzgerald, within the first 48 hours of Dracula’s release, the Roxy Theater had sold over 50,000 tickets. Horror had just become mainstream. Dracula’s acclaim paved the way for the other classics we’ve grown to love, our other Universal Studios Monsters, such as: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Wolfman, each owing their existence to the success of one film, even if said film wasn’t entirely all that great. There were some issues, on and off stage. But I think, by and large, the success, as it began at first, was due to the period in which the film released. Lets take a look back in time (key Twilight Zone theme).
The golden era of Universal Studio monster movies is one of most interesting bits of Americana cinematic history. Why? I’m glad you asked! As the roar of the 1920’s was coming to an end, the decade that had ushered in high booms and some of the best silent pictures would eventually end in the same dramatic fashion. The Stock Market Crash, also known as “Black Tuesday,” on October 29th, 1929, while still under much debate among certain historical circles, we can say that following the panic, America went into the greatest depression she, thus far, had ever known. By March 1930, 3.2 million people would be unemployed. And while Americans were growing uncertain regarding the future in the face of food riots, strikes, and lamentable upheaval, not to mention prohibition, even more uncertainty was developing on the horizon.
Beginning in 1928, against the backdrop of Germany’s almost two decade long depression following the end of the Great War, and the peoples utter discontent with what they considered a failure of Wiemar Democracy, the Nazi Party (The National Socialist Party) slowly began taking over the Reichstag (Reichstagsgebäude). Fascism was a darkening cloud over the Atlantic. By January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor. By 1935, the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws were established, and in 1939, with Germany’s invasion of Poland, World War II officially began.
This, of course, is just a brief look at the world during the era Universal Horror shared. Only with the luxurious logic of hindsight can we contemplate why executives were nervous over Dracula’s success in the first place. Some things we can guess. This was a film, based on a stage play, based on a novel that was, at the time, rather dark and perhaps too sexualized for tastes during the 1930s. And across the pond, the world was in turmoil. And not just that, but Lon Chaney, the Man of a Thousand Faces, the producers first pick as Dracula, had recently and tragically passed away.
Who would they cast now?
In the end, it boiled down to Lugosi, and mostly only because he was literally the last option and would work for cheap, about $500 a week. Certainly, the film was a risk for Universal, but as history proved, Dracula became one of the greatest escapes for worrisome audiences listening in on radio broadcasts about invasions, famine, poverty, and war. And of course this was no simple drive to the movies! Not at all. For the silent and talkie black & white era “going to the movies” was no humbug experience with sticky floors and hoodlum teenagers. Especially for theaters such as Roxy, in New York City. The Roxy was a Grand Theater, a “Cathedral of the Motion Picture.” Going to the movies to see Dracula was not the same experience as going to the movies today, to say the least. Going to the movies during the 20’s and 30’s was like going to the Opera in today’s standards. Folks got dressed up for cheap tickets and excellent performances. Live orchestras opened the night before a large velvet curtain pulled away revealing the white projection screen underneath. Going to the movies, was indeed The Greatest Show on Earth.
But that was then. Now, we’re sitting at 87 years since Dracula’s original release. What does Dracula say for today’s audiences. Well, to be honest I’d say most people probably feel Dracula is rather dated. Tod Browning’s directorial control seems very lacking in many regards. Consider the piece of cutout cardboard left on a lamp for one of Lugosi’s closeups. In fact, we should probably give more directorial credit to Karl Freund, famed cinematographer of 1927’s German Expressionist masterpiece, Metropolis. And the lack of a musical score gives one the impression of empty space, like watching a High School stage production than a big budget Hollywood movie. Its choppy. There’s a sense of discontinuity.
Despite all that, Dracula, in my most humble opinion, is an incredible film that at times is still scary today. The fact that the movie is, in its own way, still disturbing stresses something important about the kind of story being told. A horror story playing on fears realized in the hearts of humanity told since the first campfire. Dracula tells us about (though, i’d argue for socially different reasons between 1931 and today) our fears of the so-called foreign invader, fears of madness, fears of hierarchical purity (Nazis called this, Volksgemeinschaft; the United States called it, Eugenics), fears of the unknown, fears of losing free will (especially the freedom of choice), and fears of death.
One of the greatest (of many) appeals with Dracula is its quality of acting. While Dracula was Bela Lugosi’s signature role, a role he played beautifully and held audiences with his mesmerizing Hungarian accent, my favorite was actually Dwight Frye’s portrayal as Renfield. Watching the movie, even now 87 years later, Renfield gives me the chills. His sensibility as Dracula’s minion, his raving lunacy, devouring spiders and flies alike, was delivered with pure genius and incredible character acting. Especially during the scene aboard the Vesta, when the London longshoremen discover Renfield hiding below deck, the look on his face looking up at them from the staircase is, to say the least, disturbing. And this pretty much goes for the rest of the supporting cast. Edward Van Sloan as Abraham Van Helsing was marvelous. And who could deny the captivating charm of Helen Chandler as Mina Harker, the subject of Dracula’s desire?
Yes, Dracula has some production issues that could sway you away into settling with a few YouTube clips to satisfy your curiosity. If I could somehow convince you otherwise, I hope this review helped. There’s certainly an historic importance with Dracula, but not just that. Dracula was, regardless of the all its mistakes, hauntingly human, and, as it was billed back in 1931, a strange [otherworldly] romance that started a chain of monsters that we for better or worse take for granted.
From the battlefields of Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front to the horrors of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot to even the absurd cult classics of J. Michael Muro movies, Street Trash, Thomas S Flowers’s love for gross and equally deeply emotionally things has no bar or limit. Such appetites saturate his own writings, from the paranormal happenings of his PSTD ridden thriller series Subdue, to his gory zombie infested PLANET OF THE DEAD series, to even his recent dabbling of vampiric flirtation in THE LAST HELLFIGHTER. He hopes that his love for the genre seeps into the minds of his readers. And that you will enjoy his books just as much as he enjoyed writing them. You can follow Thomas and get yourself a FREE eBook copy of FEAST by joining his MONTHLY mailing list. Sign up by vising www.ThomasSFlowers.com
(available on eBook, paperback, and audiobook)
Here in Houston, Texas, the weather has finally let in a little sunshine and “cooler” temps. Yes, “cooler,” as in less humid, which in Houston creates our version of fall. Indeed, it does feel like fall outside, my favorite time of year. A relief from the sweltering summer AND the beginning of the season of the macabre. That’s right, I’m talking about Halloween folks! And for us fans of what goes bump in the night, Halloween is no mere one day a year holiday, Halloween is a month long celebration.
This year feels…what’s the word? More horrorcentric, perhaps? It seems horror has become more or less popularized in that there are more than the usual blockbuster movies hitting theaters, and Netflix has begun releasing more original titles, and not just small B-rated stuff, but the real McCoy, such as the new show The Haunting of Hill House, which I believe just released today. Over on Machine Mean, we’re almost mid-way through Fright Fest. This year’s theme, voted by popular demand, is vampire movies. From Blade to Dracula to Let the Right One In to Interview with the Vampire to Nosferatu and even Blacula, we’ve got just about every vampire movie ever filmed covered. 31 days of horror from a number of guest contributors. Trust me, you’re not going to want to miss this seasons Fright Fest lineup.
In Other News…War for the Planet of the Dead released this past week on Oct 9, 2018. The preorder, of course, was made available last month. You can now purchase on eBook and paperback over on Amazon. The audiobook is currently in production with Rick Gregory doing the narration. Speaking of audio books, the audiobook for The Last Hellfighter also just released this week. Thus far its making a big splash with historic horror fans.
It may just be October and we’ve still got two more months in the year, but i’d like to share with you some ideas for new books in 2019. I have 3-4 solid stories that I’d love to explore and by nature force my readers to explore with me. First up will be Island of the Flesh Eaters, this will release early 2019–either late winter or early spring. What’s it about? Think 1980s zombie movies and there you go. The cover is already done, designed by the very awesome Michael Bray. This title will release through Darker Worlds Publishing.
The next title will carry with it a more serious note, called Palace of Ghosts. It’s mostly mapped out in my head. Though I never try to force a story to go somewhere. If it wants to turn right, its turns right. If it wants to turn left, it’ll turn left. What’s it about? I don’t want to give too much away, but the premise is that a psychiatrist invites a group of veterans suffering with PTSD to spend a week in a haunted house (palace) as an experimental form of therapy. Luke Spooner is doing the cover for this title, which I’ve been given a preview–and yes, I’m very excited to see this book unfold. Luke is an fantastic artist, his stuff always amazes me. You can check out his work here. I’m aiming for a summer release with this one.
Also slated for 2019 is the third book in the Planet of the Dead series, titled Escape from the Planet of the Dead. As per norm, there will be new stories set within the universe of Planet of the Dead, and a few more continuations, including Doctor Ying from War of the Planet of the Dead, and Polk’s crew. My friend Travis Eck will be doing the cover work again on this title–i’m curious to see what he’ll come up with. And Shadow Work Publishing will be releasing it come October 2019. And if you’re curious, this title WILL NOT be the last. I have at least one more book mapped out for the series.
Lastly, for late 2019, I’m itching to explore this idea of a vampire western book called A Bullet for Nosferatu. Other than the concept and title, I do not have much else. My aim is to have more on this later on in 2019. 4 titles total, not a shabby plan for a blue collar writer such as myself. And how, pray tell, will I accomplish such as task? Like anything else, I can’t do it alone. The only part of writing that truly comes from just me is passion, a passion to tell stories. But passion alone is often not enough. I also depend on the support of my family who allow me some quiet time in the evenings to write. The support of my readers who not only support through buying my tales but also leaving me some feedback in a review. And lastly, I couldn’t do it without the support of my writing community and publishers. Take my advise, writers who live on a island do not survive for very long.
The Last Hellfighter
WAR for the PLANET of the DEAD
Thank you for reading and for the continued support. Remember to stop by the movie review site, Machine Mean. Lots of good stuff there from some really talented writers. Great movie suggestions too, if you’re in the market for something scary to watch for Halloween. For those interested in supporting me on Patreon, follow the link here. And as always, don’t forget to…
Yup. It’s about that time when I start fantasizing about which actor and/or actress would play what character in my latest book. I know these castings will never happen, but it is fun to pretend. Isn’t that what part of writing is, pretending you are somewhere or someone else? And truth be told I think the Planet of the Dead series would be difficult to turn into a movie (or easy depending on how you go about doing it) considering the format of the book is broken down into character stories instead of traditional chapters.
That said, here are the actors I imagined for my ideal pretend movie casting!
For Polk, I’d pick a strong but relatively young actress. I really liked Sophie Turner in the new X-Men movies as Jean Grey. I think the part would fit Miss Turner perfectly. In the story, Polk has the weight of the world on her shoulders–a kind of battle worn fatigue from her service related injury and guilt for the loss of close friends. Polk is a quiet loner with a badass bionic arm, perfectly suited to be a lone wolf, but as things progress she discovers perhaps being alone is not the smartest way to go about surviving the zombie apocalypse.
For Jelks, while based on a good friend of mine from my Army days, I imagined Jensen Ackles from Supernatural playing the role of the all-around-ruff-around-the-edges-good-guy. In the story, Jelks may be AWOL from the Army, but he has a heart of gold. He’s a survivor with a strong moral compass. When he runs into Polk, he can’t help but want to help her even though she doesn’t seem to need it. He wants to survive but he doesn’t want to lose his humanity in the process.
For Collins, while also based on a good friend of mine from my Army days, I imagined Anthony Mackie (Falcon from Avengers) in the role as a modern take on Ken Foree as Peter from Dawn of the Dead (1978). Compare the two actors and you’ll see what I’m talking about! In the story, Collins is a thick skinned solider who teams up with Jelks to try and survive the spreading zombie apocalypse. While he would do anything for a friend, he has his doubts about helping Polk.
For General Rusk, if you’re going to go big, why not shoot for the moon? If I were to imagine a stern, creep as hell Army General, Mel Gibson would be my man. The guy is not stranger to playing what i call quiet eccentric roles. Quiet as in you can see the madness in his eyes, but he’s not goofy, he’s utterly insane. In the story, Gen. Rusk was a washed out General reborn in the zombie apocalypse. He’s smart, tactical, efficient, and worse of all patient.
For Doctor Ahuja, I wanted an older actor with a silent charisma about him. After watching Jurassic World, Irrfan Khan would be my pick. In the story, Doctor Ahuja is oddly disconnected to what is happening in the world around him. The very fact that his sister dying and then turning into a zombie in front of him hardly phasing him is a bit off putting. His motivation seems to be focused almost exclusively on his research. What research is that? Designing advanced (wink wink) prosthesis for the United States military.
There are way more castings we could do, like I said, the book is filled with “short story” style chapters. There are a lot of one-off characters that help tell the global story of the spreading zombie apocalypse, from news anchors to scientists and junkies to hillbillies from the world over. While I cannot cast everyone, here are a few Bonus Castings!
Peter Stormare as… Vladimir Ryazanskiy. Yeah, so okay, Peter Stormare may be Swedish born, but I think he would be awesome for this role as our hardened, experience Russian cosmonaut—trapped on the International Space Station with British and American crew members who are no so fortunate in the zombie apocalypse while the world below collapses. Stormare has played his share of interesting characters. In the story, Vladimir will do what he must to survive and try to make it back home while there is still a home to make it back to.
Michelle Yeoh as… Doctor Ying. From James Bond to Hong Kong action films, Michelle Yeoh has certainly proven her versatility as a meek but strong character actor. In the story, Doctor Ying must persevere after being devastated at being forced to leave behind her husband to join a special research team at a top secret facility off the coast of China. She’ll join some of the People’s Republic’s greatest minds–protected by a strict military unit. Doctor Ying is my introduction to a Day of the Dead (1985) inspired story that will further develop in Escape from the Planet of the Dead (scheduled to release in 2019).
“This author’s writing style is interesting. I kind of dig this little stories…”
“The story has a lot of promise for development and growth. The author presents interesting and compelling characters and I look forward to seeing their paths, decisions and adventures in future chapters…”
“Planet of the Dead was one of those stories that I didn’t know I was going to enjoy. Sure, I love zombie books as much as the next guy – but I just didn’t know going into it. Well, I loved it and had a blast flying through this book. Flowers way of skipping from person to person explaining the story from their viewpoints really made this so easy to read. Even if you didn’t like a person or a point of view – you knew it was going to move on to another person soon after…”
“Planet of the Dead is incredibly fast paced. Once things start going, they don’t calm down until the end. Some people think there is nothing new in the zombie world, but Flowers proves them wrong. I read A LOT of zombie books and Planet of the dead is most definitely in my top 3-5 favorites…”
Where will you be when the world ends? When it comes to apocalyptic movies, the beginning has always been my favorite part. Sure, its fun to see the aftermath, what the world looks like when the dust settles, but what I find absolutely intriguing is what happens in those defining moments when normalcy gets flipped on its head. This is a huge reason why I’ve always enjoyed George A. Romero’s films. Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead are (among other things) about what happens in the moment when the world ends. Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead are films about how people are doing after-the-fact. Good movies, but they’re missing that special punch. As we discuss Diary of the Dead, let that defining question sink in, that is, What will you do when the world ends? Continue Reading
Happy Friday, folks! It is my extreme pleasure and utmost excitement to officially announce the next chapter in the Planet of the Dead series, WAR for the PLANET of the DEAD. And to unofficially announce the upcoming titles of later sequels in the series. In 2019, ESCAPE from the PLANET of the DEAD is planned to release. And in 2020, VOYAGE to the PLANET of the DEAD. Those are the planned books, thus far. Could there be more? Time will tell. For the foreseeable future, I have stories and characters planned out for the listed titles above. WAR for the PLANET of the DEAD is scheduled to release October 9th 2018 on Amazon Kindle, paperback and audiobook shortly thereafter. You read right, next month!
Huge thanks to my friend Travis Eck for designing all these awesome original covers. And my new editor, Chad A. Clark. And of course to the man Duncan Ralston for spearheading Shadow Work Publishing and taking on all these flesh eating tales.
But that is not just it… WAR for the PLANET of the DEAD is currently available for preorder on Amazon Kindle. And as per norm, I’ve marked down the preorder to $0.99. Why? Because I know I’m no big shot writer, I just like telling stories. Why not make my books super affordable? Right? As for this story, I had a LOT of fun writing this one. PLANET of the DEAD was my homage to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). It had a somber tone throughout all the different character stories. WAR for the PLANET of the DEAD is less somber and more action oriented. This is my homage to THE greatest zombie movie ever made, Romero’s DAWN of the DEAD (1978). Several parts in this book were inspired by Dawn with the cutthroat in your face brutality. The PLANET of the DEAD is truly at WAR in this new chapter in the series.
Following the events of Planet of the Dead, survivors of the expanding outbreak take shelter in homes and bunkers and apartment complexes. Across the world, armed police and military struggle to maintain safety. Tensions mount as the worst imaginable comes to pass when nuclear weapons are used on civilian populations overrun with the living dead. Soon afterward, a coup mounts between warring factions of Generals, ruining the best-laid plans of two AWOL soldiers, a cybernetically enhanced veteran, and a scientist, forcing them to fight both humans and flesh-eating hordes of undead as they seek refuge from a planet plagued by war.
Thanks for reading!
Available on eBook, paperback, and audiobook
From the author of FEAST and REINHEIT comes a collection of 9 dark fiction stories inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
They Came to Gordium an elderly man is haunted by the crimes of his past.
Immolate a widower detective struggles to solve the connection between a series of eerily similar suicides.
Sunnydale Wolves a romantic stop at a popular overlook turns deadly.
The Hobbsburg Horror is a Lovecraftian tale of a weary reporter pulled into an otherworldly story of murder and a lodge with reports of strange colors at night.
Hobo a well-to-do housewife’s picture-perfect life is shattered by a home invasion.
Are you hungry, dear? down on his luck divorcee Jacob Miller, after consuming a free pizza is possessed by an internal parasite.
From the Sea is a tale of an amateur sailor and his wife who are besieged by creatures that come from the sea during a storm.
Neon Fortune Teller Madam Drabardi reads the future of paranoid businessman Ronald Murray who believes his wife is cheating on him, but infidelity is not all Drabardi sees.
Nostos Katherine Adonis journeyed light years to escape the nightmares of her past, but some ghosts can never be escaped.
“…extraordinarily enthralling novel which weaves from contemporaneous society into the future and back to the early 20th century American culture and the Great War” -The Haunted Reading Room.
“…an unique take on the Dracula legend with some great historical aspects to it” -Amazon Reviewer.
In the year 2044, reporters from the Public Relations Ministry gather at the home of Benjamin Harker, the last surviving member of the Harlem Hellfighters. At the age of 144, he is the oldest recorded man alive.
Hidden among them, Clyde Bruner is looking for a different kind of story. Across the United States, despite the Great Walls and patrol drones built to keep America secure, something has found its way in. And now towns are vanishing during the night. Entire populations, gone. Only to return after the sun sets, changed, unholy, and lethal. And whatever this evil is, its spreading west.
According to a bedtime story Bruner’s grandfather told him when he was a boy, Benjamin Harker has seen this before. He’s faced this scourge. Fought this evil. Survived them. Killed them. From the trenches of the Great War to the jungles of Vietnam to the sands of Iraq, Harker will search his past to save our future. But as each city light extinguishes across the country, is there no time left to stop what’s coming?