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SECRET ORIGINS OF FRANKENSTEIN - CHAPTER 15 of 18
MEET THE WOLF MAN


At the end of "The Ghost of Frankenstein," the Monster was given the brain of Ygor (Bela Lugosi), then blinded, and burned alive in a fire. Universal decided to continue the Monster's story from this point, and make it do double-duty as the sequel to both Ghost and another successful Universal monster film, The Wolf Man. An early version of Jack Pierce's Wolf Man make-up had been seen earlier in the 1935 film "Werewolf of London."
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Lon Chaney Jr. played Larry Talbot/The Wolf Man ("He was my baby!" Chaney said), and he had once played the Monster before too, so -- in a terror-filled foreshadowing of the Patty Duke Show -- a story leaked saying Universal would use trick photography and have Chaney play BOTH roles in "Frankenstein Meets The Wolf man" (1942). But in the end Chaney played only the Wolf Man.

Shock SuspenStories #17 (Oct. 1954), art by Reed Crandall, imagined what might have happened if Chaney HAD done both roles. Chaney is called Bela in this Roman a clef...
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THE SHOCK OF HIS LIFE

Lon Chaney, Jr'
s father was silent screen star Lon Chaney Sr. His mother was an alcoholic named Cleva. Junior's birth was premature, and he would have died if he had not been submerged him in a nearby lake, whose cold water shocked life into him.
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THE CHANEY'S DARK SECRET

Chaney's birth name was Creighton, and he resisted changing it until hard times and the studio forced him to cash in on his father's famous name. Creighton Chaney became Lon Chaney Jr. "They had to starve me to make me take this name," Chaney once said. Alcoholism runs in families, and like his mother, Chaney struggled with alcohol most of his life.

Like his famous alter ego, the Wolf Man, Chaney was plagued by an uncontrollable disease which struck him at regular intervals, caused him to lose control, and sometimes left him with no memory of the things he had done while "under the influence."
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SCREENWRITER CURT SIODMAK

The Wolf Man character was created by screenwriter Curt Siodmak, who had escaped Hitler's Germany for England, then came to America in 1937. The XWolf Man's origin is a reflection of Siodmak's experiences in Nazi Germany.

As German Jew of Polish descent, Siodmak had seen first-hand the horror of a regime which forced Jews to wear huge yellow stars of David on their clothing, so everyone would know they were an "accursed" Jew. The Wolf Man is also the story of a man cursed to a horrible fate by a star (a pentagram).

Siodmak thought Lon Chaney Jr. was a terrible choice to play the lead in the film. "I couldn't imagine any worse casting than Chaney," Siodmak once said, "But what could I do? They gave him the part."

BELA-STEIN

Who to cast as the Monster? Boris Karloff had said he would never play the role again, and besides, he was just beginning a national tour in the play "Arsenic and Old Lace." And so it came to pass that, at last, Bela Lugosi became the Frankenstein Monster, a role he had originally rejected for its obscuring make-up and lack of dialogue.

That was no problem now -- at this point in the series, the monster had Ygor's brain, Lugosi's voice, and in this movie, he had plenty of juicy dialogue. The part was a physically demanding one, and the frail, 60 year old actor was ill, but all that didn't matter. Bela needed the work! Poor Bela...
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In a way it made perfect sense for Bela to play the Monster, because the last movie had ended with Bela's brain being transplanted into the Monster's body, a concept satirized in Eerie #2, in a story titled "Frankenstein's Footsteps" by Archie Goodwin and Reed Crandall ...
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In this movies, the brain transplant worked, but it left Bela-stein sightless. In the Eerie story, the operation had much better results. For the Monster, anyway.
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The film's opening credits, where the actor's names are formed out of vapors rising from a test-tube, are the best in Universal's entire "Frankenstein" series (64-second clip). Click! Now!
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Make-up on Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man was done by the legendary Jack Pierce (who else?). The Wolf Man make-up consisted of a rubber nose and layers of yak hair singed with a hot curling iron.

Pierce improved on his earlier wolf make-ups for Chaney's Wolf Man -- still, the stuff took six hours to apply and three more to remove! That's NINE HOURS a day just for make-up. Chaney and Pierce supposedly hated each other. And Chaney played the Wolf Man in FIVE different movies. No wonder Chaney drank.
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The sequences showing Chaney's gradual transformation on screen took even longer to do. Time-lapse photography was used to blend the shots together. You can see it happening below, over and over again (sorry larry!) through the miracle of tinted Ani-Motion!
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XSILENCE OF THE HAM

Despite the Monster's top billing, he doesn't appear on screen for very long. This movie is essentially a sequel to The Wolf Man guest-starring Frankenstein.

It begins with a wonderfully spooky sequence where grave robbers break into Larry Talbot's tomb. They inadvertently remove the wolf's bane from his crypt, and he revives as the Wolf Man.

After he reverts to human form, Talbot travels from Wales all the way to "Vasaria" via horse-drawn carriage, seeking his own death through a transfer of his life-force into the Frankenstein Monster — who is, at this point, blind and sick. Or at least that was the ORIGINAL plan.

After shooting concluded, Universal belatedly decided that the Monster should not speak after all. No problem -- he wasn't in the film very long anyway, so the producers simply edited out all the scenes where Bela spoke!
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Talbot first discovers the monster frozen in a block of ice, 35 minutes into the 73-minute picture. When he does, the monster is played by stunt man Gil Perkins, doubling for an ailing Bela Lugosi.
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According to the original screenplay, the Monster was supposed to say the following dialog after he is released from the ice:

MONSTER: ‘Where are you? I can hardly see. Help me to get up. I once had the strength of a hundred men... It's gone... I'm sick.‘

LARRY: "How did you get here?"

MONSTER: “The village people wanted to kill me -- they burned the house down -- Dr. Frankenstein died before my eyes. I ran. my clothes afire, down into the cellar -- toward the ice-house where I would be safe. But I fell into the mountain stream. I lost consciousness. When I woke up (points toward the wall of ice in horror) I was frozen into that block of ice -- conscious for years -- unable to move!"

Since the finished film doesn't contain this explanation, watching the awkward Monster (Lugosi in this scene) feel his way around with outstretched arms leaves the impression that his long deep-freeze has somehow retarded him.

He lumbers about aimlessly, blindly, for no apparent reason. Yet ironically enough, it was this plodding, arms-outstretched portrayal that would stick in the popular mind and define the Monster's walk for all time. Karloff talked the talk, but Bela walked the walk!
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YOU TALKIN' TO ME?

Also cut was a subsequent discussion where the monstrous odd couple decides to locate Dr. Frankenstein's records, Talbot so he can die, and the Monster so he can regain his sight and strength, and, as the Monster was originally supposed to tell Talbot, "rule the world." But that line, along with all Bela's dialogue, was cut out of the film. Wasn't it? Maybe not.

Recently, a great controversy has arisen concerning a scene that some claim contains traces of Bela's voice. The Monster thinks the Journal he seeks is hidden in a secret space behind a large bookshelf. He leads Talbot there, as seen above, then they pull the shelf open, revealing a hidden vault. Supposedly Bela can be heard saying, "Here it is," or maybe, "It's in here."
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Is all this true? Let's listen, and YOU decide! The sound is extremely garbled and scratchy, but there's something there. SOME kind of noise. And right after this noise, Talbot turns his head to look inside the hidden vault, as if in response.

Does Bela speak? You'll have to play the clip below at least three times before you even BEGIN to hear it. The Monster doesn't seem to move his lips, but that doesn't mean the sound wasn't dubbed in before the decision was made to silence the Monster, then partially removed.

The clip is only six seconds. The "dialogue" occurs at the mid-point. The exact frame can be seen above. Does Bela speak? See what YOU think! Now HEAR this... CLICK IT!
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Reader, it's so feint and garbled, you may not have heard it. You may even think whoever supposedly discovered this is crazy. But guess what! -- the movie's original screenplay, written by Curt S iodmak. According to the screenplay, the line comes just a second later, as the Monster reaches in the hole, feels the box and says...
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GONE BABY GONE!
Anyway -- despite all this, it seems Dr. Frankenstein's diary is NOT in the hidden vault after all, causing Talbot to exclaim, "It's not here!" Originally, Bela was supposed to reply, "GONE."

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That's Bela's line, according to the original screenplay,,,
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This line was supposed to have been edited out, but somehow, it made it into the movie's final cut! Sort of. In the scene in the finished movie, the sound of Bela's voice has been deleted, leaving his lips moving unaccountably -- but this time Bela was facing the camera, and you can definitely lip-read him saying "GONE." But only if you can read lips, and only if you CLICK NOW.
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EDITING BELA OUT
Before rushing to condemn Universal's heavy-handed editing, consider the following exchange between Talbot and the Monster as he pushed barrels out of a wagon while they flee those pesky villagers...
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LARRY: ‘You think you're so clever. Frankenstein gave you a cunning brain, did he? But you're dumb! You've spoiled our only chance!‘

MONSTER: "Don't leave me — don't go! I'm weak. They'll catch me and bury me alive!‘

Imagine these lines spoken in a thick Hungarian accent and delivered with the intensity of a high-school Hamlet, and you may agree that maybe Universal knew what they were doing after all when they cut Lugosi's lines.

The demonic duo finally convince a woman who might be called "the Daughter of the Other Son of Frankenstein" to reveal the hiding place of grandfather Frankenstein's journal, boldly titled "The Secret of Life and Death."
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The journal's secrets are used to rebuild Frankenstein's oft-destroyed laboratory. Again. In the scene shown on the lobby card below, the monster is played by Lugosi's stunt double, Gil Perkins.
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Guess what? One of the Franken-Stunt Man, Eddie Parker, appeared in several films as an actor, including The New Adventures of Batman and Robin. That's him below, circled in green!
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BELOW: The menace-filled face of Bela Lugosi. As the film concludes, the monster is restored to full power, and full eyesight. Lugosi's twitchy, intoxicated expressions as vital electrical life-forces flow into his body are priceless. Watch it happen below, in awesome Ani-Motion!
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The final climactic battle with the Werewolf is handled largely by stunt men... although Lugosi does snarl convincingly in a few memorable close-ups. In the one below, you can clearly see where his Franken-headpiece ends and his real skin begins...
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Lon Chaney jr. gets in a few snarls of his own!
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FIGHT SCENE!
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But why talk about the fight scene when we can watch it? It's only 2 minutes, 13 seconds long, but it's still a memorable fight. And it's all "real" -- no digital effects back then. GRRRR! CLICK NOW!
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"I've got my eye on you, Talbot!"
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