In popular culture, Valentine’s Day is a day for love and romance…how sweet…a card. But Hollywood has over the years sometimes come up with up with a chilling sub-plot, turning February 14th into A Day of Horror. On Valentine’s Day in 1931, Universal Pictures released Dracula starring Bela Lugosi. The vampire character created by Bram Stoker’s in his 1897 novel had made its first appearance in the 1922 German Expressionist silent film Nosferatu. In 1927 Dracula was produced as a very successful play on Broadway starring Lugosi. He was chosen to reprise his performance in the 1931 film, the first movie with sound to feature Dracula, which established the vampire as an icon of horror movies. Newspapers reported that at its New York premiere members of the audience had fainted in shock at the horrible scenes they had witnessed, a quote which the studio used in its national promotional campaign.
60 years later on Valentine’s Day 1991, Orion Pictures released The Silence of the Lambs, starring Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Jodie Foster as young FBI Agent Clarice Starling. Directed by Jonathan Demme, the film was acclaimed as a masterpiece, becoming only the third film in history to win the Big Five Academy Awards – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Actress (Foster) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally). It was also a box office success, grossing $13.8M for its opening on President’s weekend, and remaining on top of the charts for five weeks in a row. 30 years later, Hopkins is once again in the running for a Best Actor nomination for his performance in Sony Pictures Classics’ The Father. If he wins Oscar, Hopkins would become the oldest winner, at 83 years old, of a competitive Oscar surpassing Christopher Plummer’s record when he won Best Supporting Actor in 2012 at the age of 82 for his performance in in Beginners. Also note: Last Thursday, CBS premiered its new TV series Clarice, a spin-off based on Foster’s character Clarice Starling from the original The Silence of the Lambs. Hollywood loves an encore.