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HOLLYWOOD GOTHIC by David J. Skal (W. W. Norton: $39.95...

October 28, 1990|Kenneth Turan.

HOLLYWOOD GOTHIC by David J. Skal (W. W. Norton: $39.95). "I am . . . Dracula," Bela Lugosi announced to the world as only he could in Todd Browning's 1931 vampire epic, and the Hollywood horror film was born. But, as author Skal points out in this witty, comprehensive look at "the tangled web of Dracula from novel to stage to screen," the lure of the vampire began before Bela and bids fair to continue on long after his passing. Skal introduces us to Bram Stoker, the book's muddled author, and Florence, the protective widow who became obsessed with systematically destroying all copies of "Nosferatu," the classic German vampire film. He tells us how the 46-year-old Hungarian actor (shown above with Dorothy Peterson in a 1927 stage production) who spoke negligible English both got the role and later became a prisoner of it. For those who take Halloween seriously, this is something to gnaw on long after those trick-or-treaters are gone.

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