Rhapsody in Death (1940)

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1940

Film adaptation of John F. Mauro’s Rhapsody in Death

Ogdensburg Journal, October 26, 1940

HIGHLIGHTS FROM LATEST BOOKS

If you’re looking for Halloween chiller-thrillers, John F. Mauro’s “Rhapsody in Death” (Fortuny $2) probably will fill all the requirements for keeping you awake on the night the ghosts walk. An insane scientist, firebreathing hounds, murders in quantity provide the excitement. Bela Lugosi, of the movies, wrote the introduction, probably will portray the fiend if and when this makes the screen.

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The novel was never filmed, but Bela did write the preface:

Mr. Mauro has spun an admirable fantasy in his Rhapsody in Death. I could not sleep until I had finished reading it – and then I could not sleep. Such is the hypnotic grasp it exerts on the imagination.

In one sense it is quite understandable that I should find it a fascinating story. I have a natural and inborn affinity for the slightly weird and morbid. As a small boy in Transylvania, I heard many tales of vampires, werewolves, and other strange animals and monsters of the dark. I listened, not unfrightened, but enthralled and spell bound.

This peculiar allergy to things supernatural has its origin in that strange race of people of whom I am part – the Magyars. We accept it as neither fortune nor misfortune, but merely as fact, that there are no others in Europe like us. When we are happy, we are always a little sad. As we love the mysterious because we understand it and feel its influence in our lives. To us, it is very real and tangible. It is part of the psychology of all Transylvanians.

Yet, for all of my natural sympathies, it has become second nature with me to view weird drama with the calculating eye of an expert. Starting with the stage and screen versions of Dracula, I have frequently played strange and mysterious characters, vested with super-natural and incredible powers. Thus, for some years past such stories have been the mainstay of my livelihood, and, perforce, I have read them by the score.

So, as both an expert and as a lover of these exciting tales, I pay tribute to Rhapsody in Death as an outstanding work, constructed with good craftmanship and adequate suspense. It should succeed admirably as a book, a play or a motion picture.

It is not often that an actor writes prefaces for books. Therefore, I plead indulgence, for I must express in a language that is not my own. I sincerely hope that Mr. Mauro’s book will have the success that it merits, and that the fine and horrible characters that he has conceived will come to be known by all who appreciate a good yarn gruesomely told.

B.L.

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