The Man Who Made a Monster
Frankenstein was the coolest. Wait… check that. Karloff’s Frankenstein was the coolest. It was perfect casting. Even in the first movie when the monster is just a rampaging beast, Karloff still manages to make him sympathetic. Just look at what happened when Chaney and then Lugosi took over the role. Both just copy the original, but unfortunately for Lugosi when he portrayed the monster in ‘Frankenstein meets the Wolfman’ it was just terrible. He was 60 so he had to be doubled for many of the scenes. His monster was stiff armed because it was blinded as a result of receiving Ygor’s brain and he only meant them to be that way to protect himself as he walked. But the stunt men doubling him turned it into a lurching unintended iconic walk.
Karloff’s Frankenstein was such a wonderful creation. So fluid and darkly complex, not the caricature it became. I was a well deserved star making turn for Boris.
Just remember to stay away from the flowers.
You have created a monster, and it will destroy you!
Sorry, now I have to post a bunch of pix of Revell’s model Kit of Frankenstein. I posted a few photos of the complete Revell Monsters line of models in my post about my ‘LickedinPop Series’ illustration, ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ but I found a bunch of just Frankie on his grave base.
I do have to say as a kid I was wild about the lumbering pose, but I found out something cool I never knew before… And it’s all Lugosi’s fault!
Now I know what it feels like to be God!
Frankenstein is a 1931 horror monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale and adapted from the play by Peggy Webling (which in turn is loosely based on the novel of the same name by Mary Shelley), about a scientist and his assistant who dig up corpses to build a monster, but his assistant accidentally gives the monster a murderer’s brain. The film stars Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles and Boris Karloff and features Dwight Frye and Edward van Sloan. The Webling play was adapted by John L. Balderston and the screenplay written by Francis Edward Faragoh and Garrett Fort with uncredited contributions from Robert Florey and John Russell. The make-up artist was Jack Pierce. A hit with both audiences and critics, the film was followed by multiple sequels and has become an iconic horror film.
After Dracula, Bela Lugosi had hoped to play Dr. Frankenstein in Universal’s original film concept, but the actor was expected by Carl Laemmle, Jr. to be the Monster (a common move for a contract player in a film studio at the time) to keep his famous name on the bill. After several disastrous make-up tests (said to resemble that of Paul Wegener in The Golem), the Dracula star left the project. Although this is often regarded as one of the worst decisions of Lugosi’s career, in actuality, the part that Lugosi was offered was not the same character that Karloff eventually played. The character in the Florey script was simply a killing machine without a touch of human interest or pathos, reportedly causing Lugosi to complain, “I was a star in my country and I will not be a scarecrow over here!” Florey later wrote that “the Hungarian actor didn’t show himself very enthusiastic for the role and didn’t want to play it.”
Why it’s Lugosi’s fault for Frankenstein’s iconic lumbering sleep-like walk.
It wasn’t until twelve years later that Lugosi ended playing the Monster in ‘Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman’. So here’s the cool part… where the iconic walk comes from. Starting with ‘The Son of Frankenstein’, Lugosi played the role of Ygor. In 1942’s ‘Ghost of Frankenstein’ Ygor’s brain is implanted in the monster (played by Lon Chaney Jr.) and now can talk like Lugosi. At the end of the movie the monster is blinded.
Soooo…. in 1943’s ‘Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman’ the blinded monster is now played by the 60+ year old Lugosi. That stiff armed walk was created by Lugosi to show monster blindly feeling his way around crowded rooms only. The problem is that Lugosi was old and in failing health and couldn’t do a lot of the physical work in the monster makeup so the studio had several stuntman play the monster for the wide shots and fight scenes and they mimicked Lugosi’s walk EVERYWHERE.
The subtlety of Lugosi’s blind monster was completely lost and became the standard pose of the monster. The other bummer for Lugosi was the studio cut the monster’s speaking parts. Even though they established in the last movie that the monster has Ygor’s brain and now speaks like Ygor it was a impossible to hear the monster talking with a Hungarian accent without laughing.
We must find another brain
Jack Pierce was the makeup artist who largely designed the iconic “flat head” look for Karloff’s monster, although Whale’s contribution in the form of sketches remains controversial; the question of who actually contributed what to the makeup design will likely never have a satisfactory answer.
Kenneth Strickfaden designed the electrical effects used in the “creation scene.” So successful were they that such effects came to be considered an essential part of every subsequent Universal film involving the Frankenstein Monster. Accordingly, the equipment used to produce them has come to be referred to in fan circles as “Strickfadens.” It appears that Strickfaden managed to secure the use of at least one Tesla Coil built by the inventor Nikola Tesla himself. According to this same source, Strickfaden also doubled for Karloff during the creation scene, as Karloff was afraid of being burned by sparks being thrown off the arcing electrical equipment simulating lightning. Although he was partially covered by a surgical drape, Karloff’s abdomen was otherwise exposed during the scene and the high-voltage arc “scissors” threw white-hot bits of metal when they were used to create flashes.
There is no musical soundtrack in the film, except for the opening and closing credits.
All work in the LickedinPop Series begins as an original pen and Ink illustration. Rich and colorful, it is my homage to the work of Roy Lichtenstein tuned to my favorites in pop culture. Beautiful reproductions of ‘Frankenstein’ and all my work in the LickedinPop Series are available for sale at my Etsy Store. Please come visit!