Bela Lugosi Did More Than Play Dracula. Here Are His Most Surprising Film Roles

Horror film actor Bela Lugosi made such a mark on pop culture as Dracula, that you probably can't picture the vampire count without imagining Lugosi's iconic portrayal of the character.

That success was a blessing and a curse for the actor who became typecast as the villain in monster movies. But he was cast against type on a few occasions. Here are three films in which Lugosi - who was born 134 years ago this week - played an unexpected part.

1. 'The Black Cat' (1934)

Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's short story of the same name, The Black Cat is an atmospheric film that draws the audience in before unleashing a sinister plot. The movie features necrophilia, human sacrifice and a Satanic mass officiated by an unholy priest played by Boris Karloff. And it's up to Dr. Vitus Werdegast - played by Lugosi - to stop these horrors from happening.  

Check out the trailer featuring the old school Universal Pictures logo and an unironic use of J.S. Bach's Toccata and Fugue.

2. 'The Return of Chandu' (1934-1936)

This film serial, which was released in segments over a period of two years, featured Lugosi in perhaps the most unstereotypical role of his career: the romantic hero in a fantasy story. Lugosi played Chandu the Magician, who uses white magic to prevent dark mages from sacrificing his lover to their evil god. 

In other words, lots of old timey melodrama with outlandish characters and suspenseful plot twists.


3. 'The Invisible Ray' (1936)

Bela Lugosi plays opposite Boris Karloff once again in this sci-fi horror about a scientist who suffers after probing too deeply into the mysteries of the universe. The Invisible Ray is one of the earliest instalments of the "mysterious meteor leads to catastrophe" narrative that's been used in films like the 50s sci-fi classic The Blob and the anthology horror film Creepshow (1982).  

The film's trailer also reveals that Boris Karloff was once only billed as Karloff, making him the Morrissey or Madonna of his era. 


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