A NORTH-EAST author is to speak about his work after the screening of a classic horror movie at a North-East film club.

The 1931 version of Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, will be shown at Darlington Film Club tomorrow (Monday, March 18), from 7.30pm.

It will be followed by a talk from Mark Iveson, author of the book Cursed Film Stars (Telos Publishing), which follows the rise and fall of five horror movie greats, including Hungarian-born Lugosi

Mr Iveson, 53, said memories of watching horror films on television as a child inspired him to write the book.

“One of the biggest things I enjoyed as a kid was the horror double bill on BBC2,” he said.

“There would be a black and white film starring Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff, followed by a Hammer Horror with someone like Peter Cushing.

“My hero was Peter Cushing, with Vincent Price a close second. What I found fascinating about those actors is how good they were in those movies.

“I grew up watching them - and now I love talking about them.”

As well as Lugosi, Cursed Horror Stars features the life stories of Lon Chaney Jr, Basil Rathbone and Peter Lorre.

It also includes a chapter on little-known actor Robert Quarry, best known for playing the title role in the 1970 film Count Yorga, Vampire. Mr Iveson believes his is the first book to be written about the actor.

Lugosi himself was born Bela Blasko in the town of Lugos, from which he took his stage name, in 1882. He began acting in Hungary, before leaving for Germany where he achieved some success in films.

After moving to America and establishing a career in the theatre, he was cast in the title role of a Broadway adaptation of Dracula, which enjoyed a successful four year run.

He lobbied hard for the role of Dracula in the film version – based on the stage play rather then the Bram Stoker novel – and eventually landed the part, despite being far from first choice.

Mr Iveson, a civil servant from Gateshead, feels Dracula can be challenging for modern audiences partly due to its origins as a stage play – there is a lot of dialogue, the second half feels “rushed” and the supporting actors can appear “wooden”.

“When you look at the film, there are some good moments but I don’t think it stands up very well, compared to, say, Frankenstein with Boris Karloff as the monster which stands up incredibly well today,” he said.

But he said that does not detract from its importance to the horror genre, adding: “The film put Lugosi on the map.

“For many reasons it’s a very influential film. It basically introduced Dracula to the cinema and created the Universal studio’s famous horror movie cycle.”

Although the film was was hugely successful, Lugosi’s career suffered after its release.

Mr Iveson said: “Lugosi thought he became a star through his talent, but it was really through the persona he created. His acting really was pretty limited.”

Lugosi’s decline was linked to his morphine addiction, a result of injuries sustained during the First World War. His health deteriorated and he became “unemployable”, ending up in a series of increasingly inferior films.

Mr Iveson will speak more about Lugosi, and the other subjects in his book, and take questions from the audience after the film has been screened.

“I’m really looking forward to it and quite excited about doing it,” he said.

'Dracula and Cursed Horror Stars with Mark Iveson' is on at Darlington Film Club on Borough Road at 7.30pm on Monday. Tickets £3, available on the door.