Saturday, October 9, 2010

Boris & Bela Fistfight in Hell

Talking about Karloff and Lugosi a little bit yesterday made me think of how much those two gentlemen shaped the Halloweens of my youth. In the sixties, the Universal Monsters still ruled the holiday. Most years it seems like Bride of Frankenstein was on TV at least once during Halloween week, and on the night itself you'd find plenty of pint-sized Frankensteins and Draculas stalking the neighborhood. Of course, for a kid like me my fascination extended beyond the monsters to the actors who played them, and I read everything I could find about Karloff and Lugosi. Mostly in magazines like Famous Monsters, but sometimes in books, too. I can remember getting Peter Underwood's Karloff and Calvin Thomas Beck's Heroes of the Horrors as Christmas presents. I just about wore those books out, and I still have both of them up on the bookshelf. In the time since then they've been joined by books written by other authors, including Gregory William Mank and David J. Skal.

It's probably no surprise that I still love the Universal Horrors. Nothing says October to me quite as thoroughly as those movies do. My favorites can be pretty changeable depending on my mood, but the ones I seem to watch every year include Bride of Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Mummy, Son of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, and Dracula’s Daughter. Of course, I love the later movies, too -- the monster rallies from the forties that wedge Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man into one movie… but those films always seem like they needed to be about twenty minutes longer (and have a whole lot more money spent on them, too).

Two favorites that are rarely discussed are a couple of Karloff/Lugosi pictures from the thirties: The Black Cat and The Raven. They're both included in a Bela Lugosi DVD set Universal put out a few years ago. If you haven’t ever seen these movies, I suggest you hunt them up before the 31st. They’re amazingly twisted for the time -- especially The Black Cat -- and watching Boris and Bela in them is great, creepy fun. Of course, when you peek behind the scenes, there’s a little bit more to the story than that. If you’re interested in finding out more about Karloff and Lugosi, click on over to my website for an article I wrote a few years ago: "Boris & Bela Fistfight in Hell."

Hope you enjoy it… and here’s to horror’s real kings. Long may they reign!