CineSavant Column

Saturday July 28, 2018



Continuing his deep-dive research activities into film arcana, the indomitable Gary Teetzel has turned up a winner, a publicity blurb for Flint, Michigan’s The Daily from 1958. Apparently the assistant manager of a theater showing the first-run engagement of Horror of Dracula took one of those pressbook publicity recommendations seriously: to tout the booking of Hammer’s Technicolor horror picture, he ran around downtown Flint dressed as Dracula. The theater got the desired publicity, maybe a little too much of it.


The scan of the clipping chopped off the right extreme, but CineSavant never shirks its journalistic responsibility. Here’s a transcript:


Stunt for ‘Dracula’
Backfires in Flint

Special to THE DAILY

FLINT, Mich., May 28. — A street publicity stunt for the opening of Universal’s “Horror of Dracula” at the Capitol Theatre cost the Butterfield circuit $100 when it backfired here.
William Kern, assistant manager, clad himself as Count Dracula and walked the streets of the city for several days. Then several citizens complained, and he was taken to the police station on a breach of the peace charge.

Some Women Fainted
     Seems several local ladies screamed and fainted when the saw Kern, who had played a lump of putty over one eye, into which he inserted a large glass eyeball. His makeup also featured a large scar. And he was carrying the head of a display mannequin, into the face of which he had driven nails and ripped out one cheek. Into the aperture he had then inserted a bloody piece of raw meat dripping with catsup.

At the police station Kern drew a suspended sentence — but not until Henry Capogna, advertising head of the circuit, had paid $100.


That’s a great story, sort of a real-life prequel to the ballyhoo celebrated in Joe Dante’s Matinee, which also features a slightly irresponsible assistant donning a monster suit to scare up business for a new horror attraction. Assistant manager Kern sounds like a typical millennial gore hound, one with a sick, sick morbid imagination — or an average young art student. There’s every possibility that the news story was partly or wholly invented by a friendly newspaperman helping out a buddy over at the Capitol Theatre… even the cops might look kindly on this kind of gag.

I was hoping that the overeager sidewalk Dracula hadn’t been identified — because then we could have spread the rumor that a teenaged Michael Moore was the maniac going all radical on the old ladies of Flint. Oh wait, Moore would only have been four years old…

The date on the news blurb is May 28. The IMDB gives the U.S. opening date for HOD as May 8, so that part checks out. I didn’t catch up with the vampire fun personally until the 1964 reissue of Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula — as an extremely impressionable twelve year-old, I was floored to be confronted by a super dose of so much Hammer blood & thunder. Back in ’58, Peter Cushing and Chris Lee’s clash between of good and evil must have been the biggest Springtime movie thrill of them all.


On the obsessive filmgoer front, correspondent Michael Bjortvedt has located a full YouTube encoding of the cult Indian movie Gumnaam from 1965. It’s the feature that contains the full “Jaan Pehechaan Ho” rock ‘n’ roll musical number featured in Raja Nawathe’s Ghost World, the one in which the dancers shake their heads so violently, we expect to see their brains fall out. The insane surf-guitar song comes immediately after the main titles.

I watched a little — it’s still pretty amazing. If Flash Mob groups of the kind that perform Thriller were to do “Jaan Pehechaan Ho”, they’d need to call ambulances to carry away the injured.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson