What: Gary Lucas Plays Spanish Dracula
Where: Central Presbyterian Church, Austin, TX
When: March 15
Escucha a ellos. Los hijos de la noche. What better place to watch a movie about a blood-sucking vampiro and his howling children of the night than on holy ground? With its red velvet-line pews — cue Peter Murphy's skeletal baritone repeating, “undead, undead, undead” — the Central Presbyterian Church in Austin was the site of Tuesday night's screening of the 1931 Spanish language version of Dracula, accompanied by a live score by N.Y. guitarist Gary Lucas, which attracted a surprisingly long line of folks wanting to come in from the wind and SXSW's first hectic evening.
Similar plot: Conde Dracula (Carlos Villarias) hypnotizes and terrorizes everyone in London, including doomed solicitor Renfield (Pablo Alvarez) and doctor's daughter Mina (Lupita Tovar, here as Eva) before he's staked to death. But at nearly two hours, the Spanish remake (filmed at night on the same Universal set as the Bela Lugosi incarnation by a non-Spanish speaking director to attract Latin audiences) is much longer. It's also more “full-blooded” and lusty, including the seductive, scantily-clad brides and fetching Eva.
Grammy-winning Lucas recorded, performed with and co-managed Captain Beefheart in the early '80s, and his band Gods and Monsters included a certain Jeff Buckley; he also co-penned a few songs on the late singer's classic Grace. Lucas conceived of the idea after playing a similar live soundtrack to another obscure horror flick, 1920's German The Golem. Simultaneously bluesy and creepy (made all the more eerie by the church's blue lighting), much of Lucas' score for Dracula is improvised, with nervy touches of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake thrown in.
After premiering in Havana in 2009, Lucas has since taken his live show to New York, London and, where else, the Transylvania International Film Festival, performing outside a castle, complete with “bats swooping around.”