The year 1948 was a tough one. World War II had ended, the Cold War had turned former allies into adversaries, there seemed to be scary monsters everywhere. Hollywood held sway over the American imagination and sometimes it was difficult to tell the real from the unreal. It was a time when comedy and horror began to blend, on screen and sometimes in life.
“Bela Lugosi and the House of Doom” is the newest mystery/thriller by Dwight Kemper and part of the Marquee Movie Mystery series. Following on his novel “Who Framed B oris Karloff?”, it again turns some of the most notable screen actors of the day into detectives, working to unravel evildoing in the movie milieu. This time, Basil Rathbone, the screen’s Sherlock Holmes, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi are joined by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello , the immortal comedy team then in the midst of shooting one of their best-loved films, “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein”.
Bela Lugosi, the intense actor who starred in the first “Dracula” movie (and has been the standard ever since for actors playing the Transylvanian vampire) is both victim and sleuth. The novel begins with Lugosi comatose in his movie-lot trailer, along with his wife and son. Soon Universal Studios is the scene of arson, kidnapping and the presence of unreconstructed Nazis and unrepentant Communists. A few of Lugosi’s fellow Hungarians want to carry him back to his native land to be Minister of Culture.
They are led by a mysterious Madame Z, who kidnaps Lou Costello and young Bela Lugosi, Jr. (details of the boy’s life are accurate — he is now a prominent attorney in Los Angeles). The celebrity detectives are often in conflict among themselves and police strain to keep up with them, all in pursuit of spies trying to hide from the CIA while the allegation of Communist leanings threatens to draw the attention of the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Dwight Kemper is an actor, writer and producer from Binghamton who has written more than sixty mystery plays. His Murder Mystery Theater creates mystery weekends and special events in which the audience becomes the sleuth. An upcoming mystery will take place during a cruise to Bermuda. He is also a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Dwight is also an artist; twenty-five of his pen-&-ink drawings illustrate “Bela Lugosi and the House of Doom”.