The billowing cape of Bela Lugosi”s suave Count Dracula is as much a part of American iconography as mom and apple pie, yet few have seen the film in its skewed, blood-as-sex-drenched glory. Both horror and film buffs tend to pass it over for Frank Whale”s flashier “Frankenstein,” but the whole feel of Universal”s classic monster movies came from Tod Browning”s slick classic, 1931″s “Dracula.” Both the uninitiated and legions of the Count”s “children of the night” will be able to see the film as never before, accompanied live tonight by Philip Glass and the Phillip Glass ensemble at the Michigan Theater.

Paul Wong
Lugosi, star of “Plan Nine From Outer Space,” was also in some vampire movie.<br><br>Courtesey of UMS

Martin Scorcese has called Glass “an artist of tremendous sensitivity whose music works from the inside of the film, from its heart.” The composer has been working since the 1980s in collaboration with music director Michael Riesman, sound designer Kurt Munkacel and his own ensemble to create live music to accompany films in a theater setting. Glass takes great pride in “combining a mechanically reproduced work, which is frozen in time, with live performance, which is not bound to time gives a special quality of interpretation that is unique.” This live ensemble creates an immediacy for the audience not present in a completed film merely being projected onto a screen.

Minimalist composer Glass, a film fan and Golden Globe winner for “The Truman Show,” was first asked by Universal Family and Home Entertainment to pen a new score for the film in 1998 for the world-renowned Kronos Quartet. The Quartet, who recently appeared on the “Requiem for a Dream” soundtrack, played the original score on the 1998 re-release of “Dracula,” before Glass arranged the score for his own ensemble. Glass”s music is wholly modern, yet the dichotomy of modern music and older films allows contemporary audiences to re-interpret classic films while still enjoying the original product in its entirety.

“I wanted to embrace the cinematic style of this early “Dracula,”” Glass said of the film, which lacked a musical score when it was originally released. “Without a living director, there is no one who can claim to have an authentic interpretation of the film, so while there are clues in the film as to what we should be feeling, it has been a question of what I bring to it.”

Original director Browning, who died in 1962, relied on Lugosi, or more specifically the actor”s famous Hungarian accent to aurally carry the movie. While the original intention of the film died with the director, it seems that Browning wished the audience would concentrate more on action and dialogue than music. The effect is quite the opposite on a modern audience so attuned to musical scores accompanying important scenes.

Browning”s oppressive shadows and brooding set pieces can still frighten, the original soundtrack has a shallow, metallic feel for the modern audience. Glass”s new score enhances the director”s vision. The score is sweeping yet non-intrusive, allowing the viewer to be caught up in the film”s momentum.

Unlike many of Universal”s classic horror films, “Dracula” is remarkably relevant 70 years after its release. The sexual themes that have become common practice in vampire films began with Lugosi”s Count and his obscene passion for blood. Lugosi did not merely need blood, but he enjoyed acquiring it. The closeness to his victim, the intimacy of biting their necks, the sexual charge of transforming them from a person into a beast that acts solely on instinct for survival gave the Count a hypnotic power over the audience. Glass has taken this paradigm vampire film and made it a more complete experience by engaging all of the viewer”s senses.

“Dracula,” being presented specifically for Halloween, kicks off the “Philip on Film” program, which runs through Saturday. The festival celebrates 25 years of Glass contributing to film and includes showings of cult classic “Koyanninqatsi,” Jean Cocteau”s “La Belle et la Bete,” and a collection of shorts by contemporary filmmakers such as Atom Egoyan and Peter Greenway. Tickets may be purchased at the league ticket office.

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