Bela Lugosi wasn’t always Count Dracula, but once the Hungarian-born actor stepped into the role on Broadway in 1927, the actor and part became inseparable. Lugosi starred in Tod Browning’s 1931 adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel for Universal, and in the process defined the character for movie audiences: at once charming and threatening, with a gaze that could melt ice cubes. But as much as Lugosi defined the role, the role defined him as well. Though a versatile, experienced actor, Lugosi largely worked in the horror genre for the rest of his career. The meant appearing in more than a few great movies—sometimes alongside rival Boris Karloff—but also in films like Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla. Lugosi famously ended his career working for Z-grade auteur Ed Wood, and publicly struggled with addiction at a time most stars keeps such struggles a secret.
For all the typecasting he experienced, Lugosi’s filmography is rich in terrific films. Some, like Dracula and The Wolf Man are well known. But dig deeper and you’ll find gems like 1934’s The Black Cat (directed by Edgar G. Ulmer), and 1945’s The Body Snatcher, the best of his films with Karloff. Or, if you want to be really shocked, check out Robert Florey’s 1932 adaptation of Murders In The Rue Morgue, and see just how nasty pre-Code horror movies could be. Here’s a trailer: