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Archive for September, 2012

Halloween is coming up fast, and with that in mind, we want to remind you that not only was the film and book of Dracula based in Hungarian-ruled Transylvania, but the actor who originated the role of Dracula, Béla Lugosi, was also Hungarian.  Below are some other lesser-known bits of Dracula trivia.

Lugosi in Plan Nine from Outer Space

1) The first film based on Bram Stoker’s book, The Death of Dracula, was made in Budapest. It’s true. Even film buffs typically credit Nosferatu as being the first adaptation, but in 1921, The Death of Dracula was released, starring a mostly Hungarian cast, and directed Károly Lajhay and co-written by Michael Curtiz, of Casablanca fame. This is considered to be a ‘lost film,’ with no reels known to be in existence.

The Death of Dracula

2) Vlad the Impaler, the Wallachian ruler who was the influence for Dracula, spent many years under house arrest in Budapest, when he was considered to be a liability to the Hungarian monarchy. Don’t feel too bad for him, as the house was the Buda Castle, where his jailor, King Mattias Corvinus, resided.

3) 1978 saw the release of the B horror film Zoltan, Hound of Dracula. Zoltan, for those who don’t know, is a traditional Hungarian name, allegedly left over from Ottoman times. The film starred Michael Pataki – the actor’s last name also speaks of Hungarian ancestry.

4) Bram Stoker never visited Transylvania, but rather relied on library books, travelogues, and lectures to recreate the mystical area, which seems fitting, because Vlad the Impaler was not originally from Transylvania either. Wallachia gets the distinction of being the birth place of this sadistic stick in the mud.

5) Béla Lugosi couldn’t speak English when he was cast in the Hollywood version of Dracula. He wasn’t even the first choice for the role; that would have been Lon Cheney, who couldn’t take the role due other obligations (like his funeral, he died shortly before the filming commenced). Lugosi had to learn his lines phonetically, not knowing what the words meant, which is just as well, because audiences mostly remembered his accent anyway.

We hope you were enlightened by this little lesson on the original blood-sucker. Much of the information comes from the book Just A Bite: A Transylvania Expert’s Short History of the Undead.

PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.

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Before David Blaine was entombing himself in ice, before Penn and Teller did magic upside down, before David Copperfield disappeared the Statue of Liberty before all of America’s eyes, and before about any magician dared tangle with a straight-jacket, there was Harry Houdini, or as he was known upon birth in a Budapest hospital, Erik Weisz. Though he  was considered more of a stunt performer, and made his name by performing daring escapes, his craft fell under the umbrella of magic.

Houdini was born to a Hungarian Rabbi in 1874, and was just four when the entire family emigrated, setting sail for the United States. It was there that he was nicknamed ‘Harry’ by friends, who riffed on his Anglicized name Ehrich. His first brush with fame came when he was nine, after he took up trapeze, and billed himself as ‘Ehrich, the Prince of the Air.’ He only acquired the name Houdini after falling under the influence of French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin.

Houdini was initially something of a disappointment as a magician. He tried his hand at card tricks in the sideshows and cheap nickelodeons of New York, but found little success in distinguishing himself. It was then that he decided to become more novel, and transform himself into an escape artist. His initial feats of escape brought him a small amount of fame on the Vaudville circuit in America, but his really publicity coup came when he was touring Europe, and was challenged to escape from a pair of Scotland Yard handcuffs. He succeeded, and before long, Houdini was being invited to escape from jails and shackles all across Europe.

Rich from his escapes, he became only more daring. Now it was not enough to escape from jail, he had to elude the clutches of death by hanging from skyscrapers or being immersed in water for his performances. For much of his career, he was one of the highest paid performers in America, eventually supplementing his career with film roles. Houdini died in 1926 of acute appendicitis, aggravated by several blows to the stomach delivered by a skeptical audience member.

Coincidentally, in the film of is life, Houdini, the magician was played by Tony Curtis, another Hungarian who made it big in the States.

PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.

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In its constantly changing role as double to other less photogenic cities, Budapest and been cast as Paris, Rome, Munich, and Moscow in recent years. Would it be such a stretch to consider our urban backdrops an appropriate stand-in for an American city? Is such a thing possible? The makers of the recently released film The Raven thought so, using Budapest to represent 19th Century Baltimore, Maryland.

Now, we’ve been to Baltimore, and aside from starting with a capital ‘B’ found scant similarity between the two cities. But that is not the point. The Raven is all about atmosphere, dark eerie atmosphere. In the film American writer Edgar Allen Poe is confronted with the task of saving his fiancée from a sadistic killer who is basing is crimes on Poe’s own short stories. Poe, the writer most famous for the macabre poem “The Raven” and his literary horror short stories died poor and distraught at the age of 40. Edgar Allen Poe would have fit right in with the Hungarian canon of writers who came to early, tragic deaths.

Shot in downtown Budapest and making use of our neighbor to the south, Belgrade, the film aims at being gothic and creepy throughout, and while Baltimore has its share of gothic turns, it is basically a cheerful East Coast American city. The mood in Budapest’s inner districts fits the bill perfectly in creating a grim and foreboding atmosphere that was needed. Directed by James McTeigue, and starring John Cusack, it was shot in 2010 and released last spring to mixed reviews. This is Cusack’s second time shooting in Budapest, after starring in the World War II drama Max, in which he played an Austrian art dealer who had a complicated relationship with a young student, named Aldof Hitler.

Only time will tell if Budapest’s turn as Baltimore will lead to more castings as American cities. If The Raven is successful, well, that would be something to crow about.

PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.

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Last week it was announced that the Hungarian Film Board’s choice for Oscar contention would be Bence Fliegauf’s feature Just the Wind (Csak a Szél in Hungarian). This is the latest in a series of honors for the film, which also won a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year. Just the Wind – already a well-known film here in Hungary – follows the lives of a Roma family on the day following the fatal, race-based murder of another Roma family in a small village in the Hungarian countryside. These themes are likely to appeal to the Academy, which looks for seriousness and progressive political viewpoints when selecting its nominations for Best Foreign Language Film. The last Hungarian film to win the actual statue was Mephisto, István Szabó’s dark tale of power-lust set in WWII Berlin.

Some interesting trivia on Just the Wind:

Just the Wind mostly features a cast of amateur Roma actors in the main roles.

The pic was inspired by true events, and ongoing struggles between the ethnic Hungarian and Roma communities.

Fliegauf was rejected from the main film school in Hungary, the University of Theatre and Film in Budapest. It wasn’t because the administrators were unimpressed with Fliegauf, rather they thought he was already qualified to embark on a professional career.

Fliegauf has already made an English-language debut, the well-regarded sci-fi/horror film Womb.

The budget for Just the Wind was less than a million dollars, which makes it ultra-low budget by Hollywood standards.

This is the second time the Hungarian Film Academy put forth a Bence Fliegauf film for the Best Foreign Language Film nomination. The first was his feature-length film Forest in 2003.

Only time will tell if the Academy will respond to Just the Wind with a nomination. Last year’s offering, Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse, was not nominated, and it has been since 1988’s István Szabó-helmed Hanussen that a Hungarian was selected for one of the five spots.

PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.

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