Category Archives: Boris Karloff

Deadly Movies Investigates…,

.., The Strange Case of The Monster’s Home Run (case dated August 1940)

Here’s an old Hollywood urban legend that’s surely just too good to be true: “Did you know that Boris Karloff appeared in full Frankenstein’s Monster makeup for a charity baseball game and hit the home run?.., Oh and all footage of the event was deleted“. 1939s Son of Frankenstein was the last time Karloff would appear in a feature film as The Monster, so could it be that the spectators at The Los Angeles Gilmore Stadium would be amoung the lucky few who can claim to have seen Karloff’s Monster live and in the flesh? Well as amazing and surreal as it sounds, and it gets more surreal, this is completely true and even some footage has survived.

Karloff as The Monster, iconic as ever emerging from the shadows

The All-Star charity event was the last of its kind, and what event it must have been. If you had been lucky enough to be there you would have seen Comedians vs Leading Men, with Karloff batting for the later (again remember, in FULL Monster makeup and costume!). Imagine Field of Dreams but with movie legends rather than baseball hall of famers. The lineup included John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Gary Cooper, Peter Lorre, Errol Flyn, Fred Astaire, and Roy Rogers for the Leading Men, with The Three Stooges, Buster Keaton, Chico Marx, and The Ritz Brothers turning out for The Comedians. Take stock of that lineup for a moment, can you imagine seeing all of these legends in one place at one time…, playing baseball?!

Karloff takes to the field watched by makeup artist Jack Pierce

The great bonus for the watching audience was that Karloff wasn’t billed on either team sheet. Emerging from the dugout, and flanked by his legendary makeup artist Jack Pierce, The Monster took to the plate for a pre-rehearsed comedy skit that would see him hit a homer whilst all The Comedians fainted from fear at each base. Here’s how Karloff recollected the whole indulgent event in the Spring 1972 issue of Liberty Magazine (found at www.associatedcontent.com):
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The pitcher tossed the ball in my direction, I swung at it best I could, encumbered as I was in the Monster’s metallic overalls. Luckily enough, I managed to tap the ball, witch bounced crazily in the direction of the pitcher’s box. It should have been an easy out at first. But as I approached each base, the opposition player fainted dead away. And the Three Stooges, who were playing second, all passed out cold. It was a home run but horrible!”
The entire sequence was filmed but apparently deleted, however a very short ten second clip from the newsreel exists and you can see it on Youtube here. Karloff wouldn’t appear on film again as The Monster until a 1962 Halloween special of Route 66, all be it a rather rushed crude makeup job. So this particular appearance is rather unique in both it’s public nature, attention to make-up and costume detail, as well as having a somewhat mythical quality due to the lack of images and information. It’s a bit like a UFO sighting. This is one of those star studded events that epitomises the glamour of Classical Hollywood, and importantly serves as an ultra unique public snapshot of Karloff and The Monster who have become inseparable as horror legends and pop culture icons.

The Original Monster Squad – Tearing it up 1930s Style

Deadly Movies | Connections

Back in the 1930s and 40s Universal Studios assembled a collective stable to be reckoned with, often mimicked but never matched, these were the Universal Monster Squad. Comprising of Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, The Wolfman, and (to a lesser extent) The Invisible Man, these guys knocked out over 11 movies in under a decade and ruled the gothic horror box-office. Each of these iconic literary and movie icons will forever be remembered and attached to the actors that made them synonymous with terror: Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster, Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, and Lon Chaney Jr as The Wolfman. However synonymous these actors are with their respective characters, there existed a fair amount of role-reversal-musical-chairs. By the time the 40s came around you could walk into a cinema and see the unthinkable; Bela Lugosi as The Monster, Lon Chaney Jr as Dracula, Karloff in a Frankenstein movie but not as The Monster. There was a strange playfulness to the swapping of these roles, one that makes revisiting the Universal Horror’s an extra special experience. Let’s have a look at who played what and when:

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The Originals:

Frankenstein (1931): Starring Boris Karoff as The Monster

Dracula (1931): Starring Bela Lugosi as Dracula

The Wolf Man (1941): Starring Lon Chaney Jr as The Wolf Man (also featuring Claude Rains aka The Invisible Man 1933 and The Phantom of The Opera 1943)

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The Straight-up Sequel:

Bride of Frankenstein (1935): Boris Karloff returns as The Monster

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The Crossovers:

Son of Frankenstein (1939): Boris Karloff appears for the final time as The Monster, Bela Lugosi appears in a Frankenstein movie for the first time as hapless assistant Ygor.

The Kansas City Shufflers:

The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942): Lon Chaney Jr swaps The Wolf Man for the title role of The Monster, Bela Lugosi reprieves his role as Ygor.

Son of Dracula (1943): Lon Chaney Jr wasn’t contempt with playing The Wolf Man and The Monster, he now has a stab at Dracula, and boy does he look like a weird Dracula.

Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943): Hold onto your hats it’s getting complicated. Lon Chaney Jr reverts back to The Wolf Man, Bela Lugosi swaps cape and fangs for The Monster’s flat top and bolts. Bela Lugosi as the Monster! (He never held the role of The Monster in very high regard).

House of Frankenstein (1944):Glann Strange comes into the Monster Squad playing The Monster for the first time. Likewise John Carradine comes in for his first attempt at Dracula. Lon Chaney Jr reverts back to The Wolf Man and Boris Karloff appears in a Frankenstein film for the first time in 5 years, NOT as The Monster but as Dr Gustav Niemenn. Weird!

House of Dracula (1945): John Carradine and Glen Strange reprise their respective roles as Dracula and The Monster. And of course Lon Chaney Jr shows up as The Wolf Man.

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Hats off to Lon Chaney Jr who never gave up the fight of appearing in as many Universal Horrors as humanly possible.

Considering the backlash often aimed at the slasher genre of the 80’s for its constant production-line of sequels, this type of franchised movie making was pretty radical stuff back in the day. This group of films can probably lay claim to being the first example of a modern-day horror franchise, and for that us horror fans can all be truly grateful.

Also see: The Invisible Man (1933), The Phantom of The Opera (1943), Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

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