Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the coolest dive bar for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Glad you stopped by on this windy evening. Please let us take your hat and coat. We’ve saved you a prime table in the second row. Bring your own beverage.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
The Red Sox eliminated the Rays, three games to one, with their second-straight walk-off win in Boston. The score of tonight’s game was 6-5. The Braves took a two-games-to-one lead in their best-of-five series with a 3-0 win over the Brewers. All three runs came on a home run by our old (but brief) friend Joc Pederson. It was Pederson’s second pinch-hit home run of the series.
The Giants beat the Dodgers 1-0 on an Evan Longoria home run. The Giants now lead the best-of-five series two games to one.
Last time I asked you who should be the National League Cy Young Award Winner. And if the actual voters are as divided as you are, this is going to be a really close race. The winner of the vote was a tie as both the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler and the Brewers’ Corbin Burnes finished with 31 percent of the vote. Right behind in third place with 20 percent was Dodgers/Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer. The Giants’ Kevin Gausman was fourth and the Phillies’ Zack Wheeler was fifth.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question if you want. You won’t hurt my feelings.
This weekend, I came across this article in The Atlantic about the discovery of a rare, lost recording of John Coltrane playing A Love Supreme live in Seattle in 1965. Coltrane rarely played A Love Supreme live—he just felt it wasn’t a work to be performed in the jazz clubs. Concert halls, maybe, but concert halls weren’t inviting Coltrane to play it.
You can read the linked article above to get the story behind A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle. And you can listen to the video that they’ve released ahead of the new album and hear “Psalm” from A Love Supreme like you’ve never heard it before. As the article says, it’s like discovering a new copy of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa except with blonde hair and a street scene behind her.
In honor of the upcoming holiday, tonight’s film is the classic 1931 Dracula, directed by Tod Browning (or was it?). Pretty much every vampire film made since this one has been heavily influenced by Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of the Transylvanian count. We’re all just naturally conditioned to think a vampire wears a tuxedo and speaks with a Hungarian accent because of Lugosi.
Sometimes lost in the caricature of Lugosi as a vampire is the film itself. Billed as the most terrifying movie ever made at the time, it lacks the power to put a fright into a modern audience. There are no jump scares. There are no graphic portrayals of death. The special effects are suitable for a modern college stage production.
But the film still has the power to thrill, if only because of the performances (especially those of Lugosi, Dwight Frye as Renfield and Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing), the elaborate sets and the incredible cinematography of Karl Freund.
I’m not going to go over the plot of Dracula with you. You’re familiar with it, either from having seen the original film or having seen a dozen derivative works. Suffice it to say that Dracula comes to London from Transylvania, kills a bunch of people before setting his creepy eyes on the lovely Mina Seward. Professor Van Helsing and Mina’s fiancé John Harker set out to stop the vampire.
Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel was a best-seller, but it was considered unsuitable for film because of its lurid and ghastly subject matter. The first adaptation of the novel came in 1922 with F.W. Murnau’s silent masterpiece Nosferatu. However, the German producers of that film never bothered to get permission from Stoker’s estate and all copies of the film were ordered destroyed. We lucked out that not everyone complied with that order, and Nosferatu is a masterpiece as well. But “Count Orlock” of Nosferatu looks like a creepy ghoul rather than the suave European gentleman we’ve come to expect in Count Dracula.
But Nosferatu gave the story of Dracula a new life and that led to a stage play in London based on the book. (Authorized, this time.) The London stage version certainly toned down the novel and the New York version proved to the studios that a film version could be made without running afoul of the censors. Although the Hays Code was still a few years in the future, there were still local morality boards that could keep a film from playing in their town (or even a novel from being sold). The phrase “Banned in Boston” was not simply marketing.
One director badly wanted to make a film adaptation of Dracula. Tod Browning had become obsessed with making the film throughout the 1920s. Browning was an odd man from Louisville who had run away as a teenager to join the circus. The baseball connection here is that Browning was the nephew of 1880s baseball star Pete Browning, the original “Louisville Slugger.” Eventually his time in the circus led to a job in Hollywood and he eventually worked his way up to directing silent pictures by 1917.
Browning convinced Universal Pictures head Carl Laemmle Jr. to allow him to make Dracula with Lon Chaney, one of the biggest stars of the 1920s, in the title role. “Junior,” as he was known, had just taken over the studio from his father as the Great Depression hit. He was under big pressure to prove he was up to job and that he could turn the fortunes of the studio around. A film adaptation of a scandalous best-seller with a big star sounded like a money-maker.
Chaney, however, was a heavy smoker and would die of lung cancer before the film got made. After failing to find a suitable replacement star, Browning settled on the Hungarian Lugosi, who had played the part on the New York stage. Lugosi had gotten good reviews for his performance as Dracula, but he was an unknown outside of New York and his accent was seen as a problem for Middle America. It was a risk that paid off.
What made the film great, however, was cinematographer Karl Freund. Freund had worked with Murnau in Germany (although not on Nosferatu) and had invented the “unchained camera technique,” which meant that the camera no longer had to be attached to a tripod. Pan and tracking shots were made possible by his innovation. Years later, Freund would perfect the “three-camera technique” for television as the director of photography for I Love Lucy and Our Miss Brooks. Freund basically invented the modern visual language of television in the early-1950s. Anyone who loves movies or television owes a great debt of gratitude to Freund.
Tod Browning, like his baseball uncle Pete, had a real problem with alcohol. When it came time to make the film, Browning was off drinking much of the time and Freund had to take over most of the work. David Manners, who played John Harker in the film, later said that he never saw Browning on the set and as far as he was concerned, Freund directed Dracula.
Even if Freund isn’t the official director of the film, his vision is all over the picture. As a horror movie today, it has zero scares and thrills. The plot of Dracula is not very involved. The dialogue is sparse, although it does give the Count several terrific lines to recite and Lugosi makes them both threatening and chilling. But the heart of this film is the way it looks. From the elaborate and gorgeous sets, the dark and foreboding lighting and the skillful use of camera angles and closeups, almost every scene seems worthy of being put on a poster. This is a gorgeous film, and Freund deserves most of the credit for that.
Dracula really plays like a silent film with spoken words. “Talkies” were less than four years old at the time it was made and filmmakers were still trying to figure out the best way to integrate spoken dialogue into their films. There is no music or soundtrack in the film, and the silence between lines adds to the creepiness. (Decades later, Philip Glass composed and the Kronos Quartet played a soundtrack for the film. If the quiet version bothers you, the version with the Glass soundtrack is easily available.) The film is always dark and the shadows cast an eerie tint to the entire thing. The special effects are primitive but they work. One shot of a rubber bat on a string; then a puff of smoke followed by a reaction shot of a Mina and then a wide shot of Lugosi standing next to Mina in her bedroom is one example. Modern audiences need more to get scared or thrilled, but it is still visually interesting ninety years later.
Watching the 1931 version of Dracula is pretty much an October tradition for me. I just get lost in the atmospherics of the film and the almost-hypnotic way that Lugosi delivers his lines with his Hungarian accent. Dwight Frye is also magnificent as Renfield, the real estate agent driven mad by his encounter with the Prince of the Night.
Here is the scene where Renfield meets Dracula at his castle in Transylvania. It also contains the famous line “Listen to them. The children of the night. What music they make!” You also get a great sense of what I’m talking about with the brilliance of Karl Freund’s camera work. The set is pretty amazing as well.
On Wednesday night/Thursday morning, you’re going to get a bonus in that I’m going to talk about the Spanish-language version of the film, shot at the same time and on the same sets as Dracula was.
Welcome back to everyone who skipped the jazz and movies.
There was an on-line Chicago baseball controversy over the weekend, and I thought I’d ask you to offer your thoughts on it.
A well-known Chicago celebrity was seen entering Guaranteed Rate Field wearing White Sox gear for game three of the American League Division Series. He was accosted by an internet White Sox personality who told said celebrity that he was a Cubs fan and that he need to get the heck out of there. Said celebrity then proceeded to prove he knew a lot more about the White Sox than that guy did and then everyone argued about it on-line.
I’m not going to give the name of the celebrity or the internet personality, because said internet personality works for a company that I have less than zero respect for. I will not give them the attention or the clicks, which is what they want. I’m sure at least 90 percent of you know what I’m talking about, so it’s not necessary to bring up the details here.
But I do ask you what you think about Cubs fans cheering for the White Sox and vice-versa? Do you have to pick one team and hate the other, or is it OK to cheer for both teams?
Personally, I’m not going to cheer for the White Sox this month, although that has a lot more to do with Tony La Russa and Jerry Reinsdorf than the fact that they’re the White Sox and the rival of the Cubs. But it’s my choice to not cheer for the White Sox. If your choice is to cheer for the White Sox, now or in the future, then that’s none of my business. This is sport and it’s supposed to be entertainment. If you’re more entertained by cheering for both the Cubs and the White Sox, then that’s fine with me. If you’re someone who will only cheer for the Cubs and hopes the White Sox go 0-162 every season, that’s also fine with me, as long as you don’t get abusive towards White Sox players or fans.
But let’s hear from you. Can a Cubs fan cheer for the White Sox? Can a White Sox fan cheer for the Cubs? Or must you pick one or the other?
Can someone cheer for both the Cubs and the White Sox or must they only be a fan of one or the other?
Yes. It’s a game. Cheer for whomever you want
No. Rivalries have meaning. Pick one or the other.
Thanks again for joining us. We’ll have someone bring your hat and coat. Have a safe journey home. You’re probably home already. We’ll be back again tomorrow night with an abbreviated version of BCB After Dark.