Getting into the spirit of "Dracula"

When Gary Lucas – a guitar icon whose career has spanned from playing for Leonard Bernstein to playing with Captain Beefheart – saw the NY1 story on the campaign to Return Film to the Palace in June he was so excited about the prospect of playing at the Palace that he reached out to UPCA before the spot finished airing. He had what he called the perfect fit for the United Palace nestled in a deeply Latino community: a live performance to a Spanish movie.

But not just any movie. This was the Spanish language version of "Dracula" made famous by Bela Lugosi in 1931. It was shot on the same sets and tells the same story as the English version, but with a Spanish (largely Mexican) cast and crew at night.

Since the film is filled with long dramatic silences (the production didn't have the funding to hire musicians) Gary wrote his own score to enhance the narrative. Using two guitars and a half dozen effects pedals (like a magician, Gary says he won't divulge the secret details of his craft) he has performed his trippy, atmospheric score to the film all across the world. When he played outside a castle in Transylvania he was dive bombed by bats during the performance.

But the Palace, Gary said, would be the perfect place to resurrect the film for a new audience. And the perfect night would be November 1, the day after Halloween and during the Mexican Day of the Dead.

UPCA supported the event with an army of volunteers dressed in the black of the undead (executive director Mike Fitelson even got into the spirit donning Gary's gift of a cape and fangs).

At the end of the performance, as Gary came out of his trance from communing with the flickering images of the actors on screen, the crowd erupted with enthusiastic applause. There were senior citizens and teenagers; English and Spanish speakers; long-time locals who hadn't been inside the theatre since their youth and, by a show of hands, at least 100 people who were visiting the Palace for the first time.

There is no better way than that to bring new life to a historic theatre, on the Day of the Dead or any old day.