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Guest column | Jerry Cowling

Dracula and friends bring brothers together

Bela Lugosi makes a sinister Count Dracula in the 1931 film Dracula. Was he scarier than the Wolf Man? Some say yes.

Associated Press

Bela Lugosi makes a sinister Count Dracula in the 1931 film Dracula. Was he scarier than the Wolf Man? Some say yes.

"Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers at night may become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms when the autumn moon is bright."

I love those old horror movies from the 1930s. My brothers and I used to pop some corn, raid the refrigerator for cold bottles of Royal Crown Cola and plop in front of the television on a Saturday night for a double feature of black-and-white scary films on a channel broadcasting from Fort Worth, Texas.

Our parents were out of the house for their weekly game of forty-two, some game played with dominoes and having rules like bridge. We didn't understand it, and we didn't care. We wanted to see Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. terrorize the countryside.

These movies were all atmosphere and no actual blood. When Frankenstein's monster tossed someone over the tower wall it was obviously a dummy. I don't think we ever saw Dracula's teeth actually sink into flesh, and the Wolf Man didn't do anything but walk around on his tiptoes with his rear end stuck out.

"Listen to them, children of the night. What music they make."

One Saturday night we had this intellectual discussion. Who was the scariest monster? I voted for Frankenstein's monster. My brothers said no. Frankenstein might have been big and strong but he was really stiff and moved slow. You could easily outrun him. The oldest brother said Dracula, but the other one scoffed. Dracula was scared of the cross and garlic, and you could drive a stake through his heart during the day if you found him in his casket. The other brother said the scariest was the Wolf Man because he was big and strong and the only thing that could kill him was a silver bullet or a cane with a silver handle on it. Who walks around the woods at midnight with silver on him?

"It's alive! It's alive!"

To this day I have all those silly old lines memorized. What argument can't be solved by quoting a movie made 80 years ago? Should we have booze at the party?

"I never drink … wine."

"Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.''

Those are the final words in King Kong, arguably the biggest, baddest and most sympathetic movie monster of all. I mean, if they had only left him alone on his island and not taken him to New York, he would have been fine. Ever since seeing that movie, I never trusted blonds.

In the last few years, Halloween, the official holiday of horror movie buffs, has come under attack because it seems all too supernatural, spooky, evil or whatever, but I love Halloween and let me tell you why.

My brothers and I were born about six years apart. Our theory was that once one child started school our mother wanted another baby to take his place. The end result was three boys who didn't really have much in common. The older two, for their own reasons, truly disliked each other and got into some nasty fights.

As the youngest, I was expected to take sides. If I said one was right the other would physically attack me because I didn't join with him.

Turn up the television, one would say.

Don't you dare, the other retorted.

If I just stood there, both were mad at me. When that station out of Fort Worth stopped showing horror movies on Saturday nights we didn't watch television together anymore. We didn't do much of anything together except fuss at each other, and we eventually moved away, both physically and emotionally.

But on these Saturday nights with Boris, Bela and Lon, we didn't fight. There was peace on Earth as long as the monsters roamed some mystical land with vague shadows looming over misty landscape. And when I married and had children, I had them watch all the old movies with me. They sat and giggled with Daddy about how silly they seem now.

A world without monsters to scare us into being kind to each other? Now that's a frightening thought.

Jerry Cowling, a freelance writer, lives in Brooksville.

Dracula and friends bring brothers together 10/29/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 29, 2009 4:59pm]
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