Tuesday, October 04, 2011

31 Days of Frankenstein: Wolf Man and Briefer

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1942)



Bela Lugosi's troubled relationship with Frankenstein is legendary. I'd always heard that Lugosi turned down the part of the Monster for the original Frankenstein film, because he didn't want to be hidden by the makeup. According to writer Steve Miller though, it was actually director James Whale's decision to recast the Monster with Boris Karloff. Not only that, Miller also says that Lugosi went up for the part of Doctor Praetorius in Bride of Frankenstein, but was again rejected by Whale. It wasn't until Son of Frankenstein that Lugosi was able to join the series as Frankenstein's hunchbacked assistant, Ygor.

Before Karloff was cast though (and, apparently, before Jack Pierce had figured out what the Monster would look like), a Frankenstein poster was made with Lugosi's name and likeness on it. How different history would be had they gone with that version.

Of course, Lugosi eventually did get his shot at the neck-bolts in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. He looks ridiculous in the get-up, but I do love the continuity in having him play the part. At the end of Ghost of Frankenstein, Ygor's brain is put into the Monster's body and we actually hear Lugosi's voice coming out of Lon Chaney Jr's mouth. It's fitting that the Monster's face eventually morphs into Ygor's too.

But even then, Lugosi couldn't really catch a break. It's established at the end of Ghost that an incompatibility between Ygor and the Monster's blood causes the creature to go blind. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man never reminds its audience of that and confuses the situation even more by removing all of Lugosi's lines. The result is a monster who's inexplicably mute and clumsy. Not exactly one of Lugosi's best-loved performances.



Dick Briefer's Frankenstein (1945)



I've got Craig Yoe's collection of Dick Briefer Frankenstein comics, but I haven't read it yet. I'm hoping to do that this month, but in the meantime, if you're interested in this awesomely stylized take on the Monster, I'll direct you to Yoe's post on the Frankensteinia blog that tells all about it:
Briefer was of two minds. The cartoonist drew a horrific version of Frankenstein during the horror comics craze of the 50s. The stories were dark, grim and foreboding. But, before that he drew a humorous Merry Monster version that was lighthearted, nutty, and wacky. Think The Munsters or The Addams Family--kooky and creepy, altogether ooky. This was the version Briefer himself preferred. Actually, when I was putting together the book I discovered that there was a THIRD version. The early 1940s original stories in Prize Comics, starting in issue #7 were almost a synthesis of the two known styles. At least art-wise. These seminal stories were gritty, but the art had a bit of that boffo, gusto, and bravado of the early Golden Age comics that had a simple cartoony flair, almost humorous, approach. Those comic books are trez expensive. I had to almost beg a collector to scan his valuable and fragile inaugural Frankenstein stories for me. So I am thrilled to present the fascinating rare first three Frankenstein stories in the book.
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