CineSavant Column

Saturday November 23, 2019



Ha! Gary Teetzel’s researches unearthed this ancient news item (from August 28, 1935) which he referred to as ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Lugosi.’

— the clipping and the photo below can be made larger if opened in a new window —

The news clipping mentions yet another Bela Lugosi project that never came to fruition: playing in a remake (?) of the 1919 classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.  Announcements of movies that never got filmed have of course been a staple since the business got rolling — Famous Monsters and CineFantastique included title- and name- dropping columns in which Peter Lorre or Vincent Price, etc., was ‘announced’ as soon to be playing this or that intriguing title we never heard of.  Most came for naught — I remember Bill Warren put an addendum in his Science Fiction Encyclopedia listing a couple of hundred phantom sci-fi movies, announced but never produced.

The question is, what role was Bela Lugosi going to play?  ‘The star role’ would have to be Dr. Caligari, the sideshow mountebank who may have a double identity as the director of an asylum.  Gary pointed out that Lugosi’s Dr. Mirakle in Murders in the Rue Morgue is a similar character, with some added sex perversion. If Lugosi were to play Dr. Caligari, who would Werner Krauss be?  Krauss was of course Dr. Caligari sixteen years earlier, in Germany; in 1935 he was only 51 years old. Gary doesn’t think Lugosi would want to play Cesare the Somnambulist, as it’s too much like the Frankenstein monster role that he turned down. Did Lugosi think he was going to play the youthful handsome student, the supposed hero?

My guess it that maybe the reporter fumbled the interview — that Lugosi might have said (in his thick accent) that he was going to play the Werner Krauss role, and the note-taker thought he said he’d be playing with Werner Krauss. It doesn’t look as if Krauss was making other movies in England or America at this time (or any other time).

But I very much like to imagine Lugosi having fun and relaxing on a genuine ocean cruise, where he could be ‘the celebrity.’  Do you think any ladies asked to have their picture taken with him, biting their neck?  Probably not — too vulgar for First Class.

CineSavant wastes time department: I see this building a block away in Culver City every couple of weeks when we go to eat there; it’s always looked like an example of bad art direction escaped from Culver Studios or Sony, just a couple of blocks to either side. I keep thinking the tower would do well serving as the top of the Daily Planet for a ’40s Superman show. The ball-in-balance sculpture would also suffice for the headquarters of an arch-villain. The tower could equally say, ‘Evil super-genius lives here.’ Anyway, the sunset light was good enough here for me to give it a shot — it suddenly looked more dramatic.   I take the Bad Art Direction comment back — since I notice it every time, I obviously like it.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson