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Hollywood Monsters I Know and Love Including Frankenstein
My love of movie monsters started when I was old enough to change the channel myself. Remember, there were no remote controls back then. You had to actually get out of your chair, or up off the floor if that was the case, go to the television and physically change the channel. Of course, when your parents allowed you to change the channel it was a move to independence in itself.
So I’m allowed to change the channel. However, it is best done when no one else is around because Lon Chaney Jr., Vincent Price, and Boris Karloff may not have been everyone's family favorites, but they were mine. What other performers made a more perfect monster and who makes a more perfect monster than Hollywood?
Let’s take a look at Boris Karloff. I watched him so much I think I can safely call him Boris. I know he was born in 1887 and he was still making movies in the ‘50s. He was the Frankenstein monster. He made the Frankenstein movie, Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and in 1970 he played Baron Von Frankenstein instead of the monster. For some unknown reason I was afraid of the Frankenstein monster. Not so much in the original Frankenstein when I actually felt sorry for him, but later in his other movies. It was an irrational fear and I knew it but what could I do? There was no one around watching TV with me when I watched Chiller Theater at 11:00 p.m. on a Saturday night so I just had to yell at the TV and climb further up on the couch when the movies were on.
Where did the Frankenstein monster come from? Mary Shelley wrote the Frankenstein novel. She started it as a short story when she was 18 and finished when she was 21. It started as a “ghost story” written as a challenge by Lord Byron. She made the short story into a novel at the behest of her husband William Shelley. The first Frankenstein film was made in 1910. The Boris Karloff film was made in 1931, the true birth of the Frankenstein monster. By the way, Mary Shelley called him Adam. Filmgoers were shocked by the 1931 version, caught off guard by what they saw but thrilled at the performance of Boris.
But that is not the only credit of Boris Karloff. In addition he played the Mummy! T his movie was Hollywood’s way to try to cash in on the supposed curse of the young Egyptian King, Tutankhamen. By having the mummy, Imhotep, interred alive, the story can begin. I believe Lon Chaney played the Mummy in more films than our friend Boris but Boris is the mummy you see most often advertised or referred to.
Another of Boris’ horror films is The Black Cat. What makes this special is it stars Boris Karloff AND Bela Legosi in their first movie together! They made six more together. Coincidentally the movie was said to be loosely based on The Black Cat written by my favorite author at the time, Edgar Allen Poe. However, if you read the story than watch the movie you might find it difficult to connect the two. According to amc FilmSite, “Some reviewers have considered it the first American psychological horror film, with dark sexual repression, twisted relationships, and aberrant behavior (Satanism (devil worship), black mass orgies, necrophilia, pedophilia, sadistic revenge, murder and incest).” If my mother knew that I never would have been allowed to watch that film!
Boris acted in over 100 movies, not all starring roles, but he was known as the King of Horror movies. After all these great movies he went on to sing The Monster Mash which caught on in a flash! He also played the Grinch in the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Boris loved children and was known throughout Hollywood for his kindness and gentleness. How could he not be my favorite actor?
Okay, what is the next greatest monster of my time? Dracula! Vampires have endured longer than Frankenstein given theater goers love of thrills and chills. The most famous vampire of them all was played by Bela Lugosi. Bela was born in Hungary in 1882 just a tad older than Boris. Bela played Dracula on the stage before starring in the film. The Dracula we know and love is an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel. Stoker, an Irish novelist did a lot of research before writing Dracula and it is believed his interest in the occult may have led him to write this novel. Bela was not the director’s first choice for the movie Dracula, but Lon Chaney was under contract to another studio so Bela was chosen. His great performance caused him to be typecast and a series of horror films followed; Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Raven, and Son of Frankenstein for Universal, Black Friday, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein,and the independent White Zombie. But I again digress. Vampires still live today in TV shows like HBO’s True Blood, and don’t forget Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Vampire movies continued with The Lost Boys, Vampire Diaries and of course The Twilight Series.Have you notice I associate my monsters with the movie stars who originally played them? Well then, next up is the Wolfman, Lon Chaney Jr. Lon’s father Lon Chaney Sr. was known as “The Man of a Thousand Faces” and his most notable silent films were The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He passed along his talents and abilities to his son, Lon Chaney Jr. even though he didn’t want his son to enter show business. Lon Jr. was the only actor to play all four of Universal’s main monsters. He also played many roles outside of the movie monster genre and was also a regular on a western TV series, but Lon Jr. is most noted for his role as the Wolfman, a role he played in four movies. Wolfman or werewolf is the most pitiful of all the Hollywood monsters. Werewolf known as a lycanthrope is a mythical human with the ability to shapeshift after being bitten by another werewolf. Werewolves are said to possess inhuman strength and are susceptible only to the silver bullet. The Wolfman was an ordinary man ruled by the full moon and unable to control his lust for humans and farm animals under that moon’s influence.
“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.
The transformation of man to wolf was long and difficult. It wasn’t shown on screen in the first movie for that reason but was shown in later films. The Wolfman movie was not based on any novel or published book. (Neither was the Mummy.) However, the writer of the screenplay did extensive research before writing it. There were other werewolf movies but none as good or sorrowful as the original Wolfman.
I seem to have totally lost my way in writing. I got wrapped up in each of the actors and the movies they did. But, even in looking back I still say they were my favorites and the monsters they portrayed my favorite monsters.
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