I was sorry to hear that Washoe has died. You should be too. If you don't know who Washoe was, you need to follow Infidel753's link to find out why you should care.
Now for some other links from October:
* Splotchy has some more great Two-Buck Schmuck reviews, this time of The Invasion, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and The Bourne Ultimatum.
* J.D. posts the creepiest movie poster I've ever seen, as well as character posters for The Golden Compass.
* Piper has some interesting thoughts on The Kite Runner.
* Times Online points to 10 historical accuracies in 300, as well as Plutarch's Sayings of Spartan Women.
* Something Awful presents the 22 Most Awful Moments in Science Fiction, while Times Online has the 40 Most Memorable Aliens.
* Ken Levine suggests more movies for the Farrelly Brothers can ruin, has a negative reaction to the saturation of Bee Movie ads and tie-ins, and ruminates on the reason for the WGA strike.
* Comics2Film has the animated trailer for a Turok movie I had no idea they were making.
* The Bleeding Tree has some thoughts on what's stalling the Barbarella remake and on movie nudity and modesty.
* The Orlando Sentinel lists movie endings that might have been, while Cracked counters with the 10 Most Asinine Movie Twist Endings.
* Cracked also has 9 Awesome Directors Who Temporarily Lost Their Mind, but I'm not sure some of their choices did so temporarily...
* Semaj has a three-part review of G.I. Joe: The Movie that brought back some memories (part one, part two, part three).
Now for some links somewhat less movie-related.
* MWB has had some weird fears, but he also has an excellent picture of Dorothy Stratten to illustrate his conception of robot butt.
* Chris has dos and don'ts and something I absolutely agree with about fortune cookies. A compliment is not a fortune!
* Becca has some new sketches and not just one, but two posts of new Aria Giovanni pictures.
* Splotchy presents what are, sadly, the final Green Monkey mixes, Speed It Up, Geography Pop Quiz, ABC, and Battle of the Sexes.
* TheMom ruminates on the Phil Spector mistrial.
* Cap'n Dyke put up an ad that made me smile and a religious statue I must have!
* Bubs has a clown problem. He also talks about the Chicago Marathon here and here. Boy, am I glad I didn't do that!
* Distributorcap has some beautiful pictures of Bryce Canyon.
* Ken Levine reviews Viva Laughlin and is embarrassed for Ellen DeGeneres.
* Holy shit, am I excited!
* Tom the Dog sums up the fall TV season.
* Dr. Zaius uncovers God's hatred of Velma Dinkley.
* Pop Matters has the oddest list I've ever seen about shows that should be on DVD. Seriously, I'm still not sure if it's a joke or not.
* Cracked: the 10 Most Terrifyingly Inspirational 80s Songs and the 8 Worst Places to Steal a Movie Idea.
* Wow, Kim Kardashian is a fucking moron, like most girls in their twenties these days. However, she's pretty fucking hot, so if you're interested, the Boobie Blog has Kim's Playboy layout.
* MC has a great Bit of Fry and Laurie.
* Marius points out only a few of the reasons I despise Perez Hilton.
* That's what she said: Exquisitely Bored in Nacogdoches has an Office compilation.
* Sleestak remembers Steve Ditko's birthday.
* Jesus, Layercake, that's one bizarre thingamajigger!
* Dr. Zaius had a swell party.
Political stuff... I've been trying to stay away, but here's some good stuff.
* Jess Wundrun on Ma Bell and terror (sort of).
* Bill Richardson on a 21st century military.
* Devilham has a bridge to sell you.
* Distributorcap is, thankfully, not one of those people always fobbing off about what a great lady Laura Bush supposedly is. For example.
* The Rude Pundit on torture, the Bush legacy, Blackwater, Congress, Bush at war, and Hilary.
* Atheist Revolution has a nice Richard Dawkins quote.
* Infidel753 has some astute words regarding religious persecution and life after death.
* Here Comes Johnny Yen Again with an interesting comparison regarding Cheney and some interesting thoughts on Leopold and Loeb.
* Zaius Nation has a great Valerie Plame clip.
* Dr. Evil makes an observation about reporting the truth.
* Semaj has a friend stationed in Iraq. Read about it here and here.
* I had sex with Larry Craig. Not me, the guy in the Wonkette story in the link.
And finally, there's Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein, truly a category unto himself. Read what he has to say about Mrs. Larry Craig, Dennis Kucinich's insanely hot wife, a lack of democracy, the people of Iran, right-wing crazies, Male Pattern Baldness Disembodied Head Guy, Jenna Bush (who is on a book tour and not doing whatever the hell she claims she's doing now), the worst jobs for the 21st century, that evil ratfuck Malkin, Republican fear tactics, SCHIP and Limbaugh, thirteen things he'd never say, that douchebag Rick Santorum, one very groovy room, a scary story, the language of the oppressor, and never forgetting, and tell my why, why, WHY you're not going to Get Monkey/Love 2008! Hell, the guy even graciously put up some excellent, hilarious National Lampoon scans, so what more do you need?
Saturday, November 03, 2007
I was sorry to hear that Washoe has died. You should be too. If you don't know who Washoe was, you need to follow Infidel753's link to find out why you should care.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Man, after a while, it seems like you've seen everything, doesn't it? Not a whole lot really excites me or fills me with joy these days. So I've stopped watching a number of shows I was giving a chance to.
On Mondays, I still watch Chuck, but it's already in a rut. Oddly, on a show about a man who looks at some pictures and magically knows every government secret, I find the most unrealistic thing about it is the way Chuck keeps pining over what's her name. Dude, it's her job, alright, you're not a couple. She doesn't notice you because you're what she does for work, not her boyfriend. Seriously, would you just move fucking on a bit, because there's not a whole lot of dramatic tension coming out of it; just a lot of whining and me getting annoyed. It's a fun show, but not so fun that I can do without it, you know?
Otherwise, I stopped watching Heroes (I'll catch it on DVD where it might be less slow) and Journeyman. I also realized that I had forgotten to TiVo every episode of The Big Bang Theory after the second one, but I wasn't really disappointed by that realization, so that's gone, too. I still love Weeds, but was I the only one who thought the end of Californication was total bullshit? I recognize when a writer is trying to eat his cake and have it too, and that's what happened here; two endings negates both of them, and I thought it was the only egregiously false moment in the whole series.
Tuesday, still on Beauty and the Geek, although some weeks it seems like the girls are getting kicked off in descending order of hotness, which is tiring. I'm getting pretty sick of this season's more obvious pretty bias; they won't take the girls out of their comfort zone as far as looks go. It's desirable for the guys to dress up and get made over, but heaven forfend the girls have to get all dowdy and see what it's like to be judged negatively by your looks. I think they did that in the first season (who can remember season to season, honestly?), but they don't bring that up anymore. Some "experiment."
Also, I'm enjoying Reaper. That show makes me smile and laugh my ass off. This week's Halloween episode turned it from a show I was a little uncertain about to one of my favorite shows on TV. And to think, I thought Ray Wise as Satan sounded boring! The guy's brilliant.
Wednesday... well, I like Gordon Ramsay, so I'll still watch Kitchen Nightmares, although I find the American version to be much more histrionic, sensationalistic, and--let's admit it--scripted than its more gentle, genuine, classier British counterpart. What was with that guy ranting about how he could never stand up to his dad while he was boxing? Come on, that's a scripted moment, and I think the show is poorer for that kind of thing. Americans are already much more highly strung than the British, we don't need to make it up as we go, do we?
I didn't go in to detail a few weeks ago and I won't now, but seriously, Pushing Daisies? Ick. That'll give you a goddamn toothache, it's so sugary. And it's oh-so-precious fairy tale narration? I wouldn't accept this in the Tim Burton style of movie it so self-consciously rips off, why would I tune in for it week after week?
Thursday is the one night I look forward to, because The Office and Ugly Betty are my favorite shows on television. (I realize that Ugly Betty also goes for the sort of fairy tale/soap opera/over-the-top tone, but it's just better at it and less obviously has a desperate need to be liked.) NBC has its problems, though. I was intrigued by the idea of keeping Earl in prison on My Name Is Earl, but heavily disappointed in last night's episode. Granted, last season's "Our Cops Is On" was one of the funniest episodes of the season, but doing a second one is a stretch. Especially when it's an hour long and, in the final moments of the show (a literal explosion of the kind of sentimental, patriotic, emotional pornography the show slides into in its weaker moments) even abandoned the central conceit of capturing everything on a TV camera. I hope this third season isn't backsliding into the kind of gimmickry and obvious jokes and over-reliance on big emotional moments that ruined the entire first two-thirds of the previous season for me.
30 Rock is as great as ever. I'm not sure what they're doing differently from last season, but it seems a little more confident this time around. The Office, somehow, against all odds, continues to be a pretty great show (and I say that even though this week's episode was on the weak side). I'm disappointed to see it reduced to an hour just so NBC can bring back a show as loathsome and terrible as Scrubs, when The Office is one of the few comedies on TV that can actually sustain an hour. I wish NBC would just finally keep their promise and dump Scrubs and, instead of replacing it with something lame, just expand The Office to an hour.
Ugly Betty is starting to show some cracks, unfortunately. What is this Gio shit? I don't know, I'm just one of those people who is of the mind that people who love each other should be together instead of forcing themselves to be unhappy. So I'm not a fan of this storyline where Henry and Betty keep forcing themselves to be apart instead of just biting the bullet and taking a chance. I was encouraged by this week's final moments. Seriously, if Henry loves Betty so much, why doesn't he just decide he's not going to marry Charly (pregnant or not) and be with Betty instead. He can still be a father to the baby even if he doesn't marry Charly. How is it better for a baby to have two parents who resent one another and the negative feelings that fill up a house in those situations? And if they have to go to that old saw of giving her a rival love interest, can't it at least be a better actor than Freddy Rodriguez? Gio is an unlikable piece of shit. Why do American movies and TV shows so often insist on telling women that the best person for them is someone who treats them with no respect and pushes and bullies them into being a certain way that's good enough for them to love? I hate it when series get tangled up in this kind of bullshit, frankly, and I hope it doesn't ruin Ugly Betty for me.
Fridays. Well, Fridays and Saturdays, whatever. Real Time with Bill Maher is on, at least. And Disney Channel. I was really going to watch Torchwood after giving up on it online after the second episode; this time I made it all the way up to the third before giving up. It just kind of sucks. I'm waiting for the episode that is about Captain Jack Harkness; I'll watch that and just hang the rest.
Sundays are alright, if bland. The Simpsons isn't funny very often, Family Guy repeats itself and every other movie and TV show in existence. How much must it suck being a Family Guy animator, sometimes asked to just draw something with thudding exactness that originally appeared somewhere else? I love Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Robot Chicken, and Shaun the Sheep brightens up my whole week.
So, there's that.
Alyssa, you're certainly a beautiful enough woman. I was a huge fan of yours back when you were on Who's the Boss? In fact, I think you were my first major teenage crush. But you're 35 years old. Granted, I know that parts for a woman your age are slim, and I hate that about Hollywood, but I'm getting kind of embarrassed watching you still trying to play women in their early-to-mid twenties. All of the facial work you've had done is bad enough, but sister, please, get it together and embrace your age already. There's nothing wrong with not being 22 anymore.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
|You Should Be an Artist|
You are incredibly creative, spontaneous, and unique.
No one can guess what you're going to do next, but it's usually something amazing.
You can't deal with routine, rules, or structure. You're easily bored.
As long as you are able to innovate and break the rules, you are extremely successful.
You do best when you:
- Can work by yourself
- Can express your personality in your work
You would also be a good journalist or actor.
|You Are a Werewolf|
You're unpredictable, moody, and downright freaky.
You seem sweet and harmless, until you snap. Then you're a total monster.
Very few people can predict if you're going to be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.
But for you, all your transformations seem perfectly natural.
Your greatest power: Your ability to tap into nature
Your greatest weakness: Lack of self control
You play well with: Vampires
|What Your Halloween Habits Say About You|
A bit of an introvert, you like the special occasions just as much as everyone else. You just have your own unique way of celebrating Halloween.
No one quite understands you, but everyone also sort of worships you. And that's exactly how you like it.
Your inner child is creative, patient, and whimsical.
Your fears are irrational and varied. It's hard to predict what you may be afraid of on any given day.
You're logical, rational, and not easily effected. Not a lot scares you... especially when it comes to the paranormal.
You are a traditionalist with most aspects of your life. You like your Halloween costume to be basic, well made, and conventional enough to wear another year.
|Your Karaoke Theme Song is "I'm Too Sexy"|
You're a total goof ball and a bit of a nut job. You don't take yourself seriously at all.
And while you may not be the greatest singer, you're the first to volunteer for karaoke.
You have a wild and unpredictable sense of humor that always gets people cracking up.
Irreverent and rebellious, your humor knows no bounds or limits. You enjoy shocking people.
You might also sing: "Like a Virgin," "Ice Ice Baby," and "Hey Ya!"
Stay away from people who sing: "Sweet Home Alabama"
|You Should Play the Guitar|
You're very independent - both in spirit and in the way you learn.
You can teach yourself almost anything, even if it makes your fingers bleed.
You're not really the type to sit patiently through a music lesson - or do things by the book.
It's more your style to master the fundamentals and see where they take you.
Highly creative and a bit eclectic, you need a wide range of music to play.
You could emerge as a sensitive songwriter... or a manic rock star.
Your dominant personality characteristic: being rebellious
Your secondary personality characteristic: tenacity
|You Scored an A|
You got 10/10 questions correct.
It's pretty obvious that you don't make basic grammatical errors.
If anything, you're annoyed when people make simple mistakes on their blogs.
As far as people with bad grammar go, you know they're only human.
And it's humanity and its current condition that truly disturb you sometimes.
|You Are 44% Good|
You are a fairly good person. You strive to live a moral life whenever possible.
You are usually kind, generous, and loyal. However, you do have a dark side that even you may not see.
When it comes down to ethical decisions, you tend to take the path of least resistance.
So you may end up lying, cheating, or engaging in other bad behavior... because it's just easier to do so.
You are also probably: Conflicted and confused about the current course of your life
Right now you are on track to being: A slightly crooked politician
To be a better person: Break one bad habit - whether it's telling white lies or spending too much money.
|There's a Chance You Could Be Violent|
Overall, you're a pretty chill person - and you have a good handle on your emotions.
Sometimes your anger gets the best of you, and end up regretting how you act.
Try to curb your temper more often. It only has to get out of control once to do some damage.
|You Are a Blue Crayon|
Your world is colored in calm, understated, deep colors.
You are a loyal person, and the truest friend anyone could hope to find.
On the inside, you tend to be emotional and even a bit moody.
However, you know that people depend on you. So you put on a strong front.
Your color wheel opposite is orange. Orange people may be opinionated, but you feel they lack the depth to truly understand what they're saying.
|You Are a Ferris Wheel|
Deep down, you are a fun, whimsical, and easygoing person.
You often enjoy life for what it is, and the littlest changes in course can be quite thrilling.
In relationships, people tend to feel what you feel. It can be liberating at first...
But after a while, the people closest to you end up feeling a little trapped.
Your life has perfectly normal cycles of ups and downs.
However, you can't help but sometimes feel that you're missing out on the most exciting aspects of life.
You only are happy when you're experiencing the highest of highs.
Your low points just make you feel depressed, restless, and bored.
At your best, you feel on top of the world with a great sense of perspective.
You believe that anything is possible, and that you are happily looking down on everyone else.
At your worst, you feel like your life is going in circles. You often feel like you're not going anywhere.
This is sometimes psychologically disorienting. And sometimes it brings on a sense of hopelessness.
If I were a Dead Russian Composer, I would be Sergei Prokofyev.
I was born in the late 19th century and was a child prodigy, composing at a very young age. I kept this talent up, earning myself quite a name and fully exploiting the bragging rights. I was disliked by Stalin, however, and I died the same day he did. My most famous work is "Peter and the Wolf."
Who would you be? Dead Russian Composer Personality Test
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Well, I didn't post for Halloween every day in October like I did last year. What with work and stress and blah blah blah, you know. Anyway, as has become annual Electronic Cerebrectomy tradition, I link back and say: Happy Halloween!
2006 Halloween Links
Night of the Living Dead Hippies
Head Full of Pulp (mmm, offensive!)
The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers
Scares I Have Had
Bela and Boris: Two Film Icons
Hall of the Mountain King
Disney's Halloween Treat
Jack O' Lantern
An Idelicate Halloween Question
My Long, Lame, Cliche-Ridden Halloween Mix
I Got a Link
Elvira for Halloween!
Well, I must say I'm a little disappointed by some of the Halloween turnout this year. The normally reliable retroCRUSH and X-Entertainment barely did anything for Halloween this year, which perfectly matches how little Halloween is being celebrated in DeKalb (and, I'm sure, elsewhere). One day, this holiday will just up and disappear. Well, I'm at home today, drinking my limited edition Jones Gruesome Grape Soda, and I'm putting up the Halloween-related links that I did see and enjoyed this year, so enjoy them today. It's still my favorite day of the year.
Lazy Eye Theatre had some great posts about non-scares, scares, dumb monsters, and movies to fear, and tops things off with a Saturday Night Live Halloween classic.
No Smoking in the Skull Cave has two Overlooked Movie posts: The Changeling and Hellraiser and Hellraiser II. She's also got a Halloween A to Z list and some Halloween cuties.
Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein lists movies that really scared him.
MWB has a post that, while not specifically Halloween-created, scared me and haunts my nightmares.
From Cracked: 30 Most Unsettling German Halloween Costumes.
retroCRUSH does have The 100 Scariest Movie Scenes of All Time and terrible Halloween costumes.
Not quite Halloween, but here's a nice Bruce Campbell interview.
The Film Experience lists top ten witches.
Dr. Evil's Halloween costume is scary!
Splotchy has a great post about Niki in the Garden and Frights on Forest.
Tom the Dog programs a day of Halloween viewing.
JA has a guessing game with Halloween's Ways Not to Die.
And finally, Becca wants to know: What's the Scariest Movie You've Ever Seen?
That's all for Halloween links; I'll have some other links this weekend. For now, enjoy Sorcellerie Culinaire by Georges Melies.
This is the pumpkin that professional carver came up with at the Brookfield Zoo on the day we were there. I set it up and forgot to point out that the last thing we did was check out what he came up with. I think it's a Chinese dragon.
And this is the pumpkin that Becca carved. I don't have the patience to do that thing where the skin gets stripped and stuff, I don't know why. But I think hers looks neat.
Here it is all lit up.
And here are some awesomely creative pumpkins that were sent to me in an email.
And, of course, the classic:
Posted by SamuraiFrog at 7:57 AM
The track listing for a little mix I made for this Halloween. We listened to it while carving pumpkins.
1. Danny Elfman & Cast: This is Halloween (from The Nightmare Before Christmas)
2. The Blasters: Dark Night
3. Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow: Hall of the Mountain King
4. Blue Oyster Cult: (Don't Fear) The Reaper
5. John Carpenter: Theme from Halloween
6. Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare
7. Danny Elfman: Beetlejuice Main Title
8. Ray Parker Jr.: Ghostbusters
9. Tenacious D: Tribute
10. The Marketts: Out of Limits
11. Iron Maiden: Number of the Beast
12. Richard O'Brien & Patricia Quinn: The Time Warp
13. Crispin Glover: Ben
14. Camille Saint-Saens: Danse Macabre (perf: The National Orchestra of France; Lorin Maazel)
15. Joy Division: Dead Souls
16. The Charlie Daniels Band: The Devil Went Down to Georgia
17. Ramones: Pet Semetary
18. Harry Belafonte: Zombie Jamboree (Back to Back)
19. John Williams: The Dance of the Witches (from The Witches of Eastwick)
1. Oingo Boingo: Forbidden Zone
2. Siouxsie & the Banshees: Halloween
3. Meco: Werewolf (Loose in London)
4. The Undead: Somebody Super Like You (from Phantom of the Paradise)
5. Beef: Life At Last (from Phantom of the Paradise)
6. Jack Marshall: Theme from The Munsters
7. Danny Elfman: Sleepy Hollow Main Titles
8. Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells
9. Rob Zombie: Living Dead Girl
10. Christopher Young: Theme from Hellraiser
11. The Who: Hall of the Mountain King
12. Spinal Tap: Stonehenge
13. Madness: Swan Lake
14. Philip Glass: The End of Dracula
15. Tenacious D: Beezleboss (The Final Showdown)
16. Modest Mussorgsky: St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain (perf. London Symphony Orchestra; Georg Solti)
17. Bobby "Boris" Pickett: The Monster Mash
18. Michael Jackson: Thriller
19. Barry Bostwick, Susan Sarandon & Charles Gray: Super Heroes
"And crawling on the planet's face,
Some insects called the human race,
Are lost in time and lost in space
An odd question: what is it about Scary Godmother that makes me horny? Not the comic book version, but specifically the animated version from two of my Halloween viewing staples, Scary Godmother's Halloween Spooktakular and Scary Godmother: The Revenge of Jimmy. She just really, really makes me horny.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow fucking ow. I twisted my ankle on the way into work this morning, just about three and a half hours ago. Twisted it good, too. It was one of those rare occasions where I just kind of lost my footing and, instead of stepping down on my foot, I stepped down on my ankle. There was a snapping sound, and it's hurt like a motherfucker since. The swelling was awful, but that's been going down today. It's still tender, and it still hurts, but I can hobble around okay. I can put weight on it. It's not broken, and I don't think it's really sprained. And, thankfully, it's my left foot, so I can still drive myself home.
You'd think I'd have the hang of this walking thing after three decades, but apparently not...
I have a bag full of ice in my sock. It's melting into my shoe now, but it actually feels really, really good. And I've been told that I don't have to come back into work tomorrow, so there's some sympathy for me here at the office. We're parting amicably, just a day early. Which means I don't have to work on Halloween! However, since I cracked my ankle, I'll probably just spend it on the couch reading. I've finally, after checking it out of the library three times, started reading Arthur & George by Julian Barnes, probably my favorite contemporary author.
So that's really the story of my week; sprained ankle, but at least I get to stay home on Halloween. And actually, Turner Classic Movies is showing horror movies... Well, I'll do that, then. Things are looking up.
Mostly because I'm looking at things from the couch, but it's still up, dammit!
Monday, October 29, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Béla Ferenc Dezsõ Blaskó was born in Lugos, Hungary, on 20 October 1882, the youngest of four children born to a banker father. He began acting on the stage in 1901, a career which was interrupted by the Great War. He volunteered to fight in World War I, where he was commissioned an infantry lieutenant and was wounded three times. In December 1920 he came to America and became an actor, taking the name Bela Lugosi, after his hometown (now Lugoj, Romania). In his homeland he had played Shakespearean roles, but his accent prevented that in America. In 1927, his stage performance of Dracula became legendary; in 1931, the same year he became an American citizen, Tod Browning directed Lugosi in the film version of Dracula and made him a Hollywood star. Unfortunately, Bela had let Universal have him for a mere $500 a week, letting other studios know he could be had cheaply. And for his part, Bela was only too willing to accept anything that was offered to him, no matter the quality.
Well, not everything. Certainly--famously--not the role of Frankenstein's monster.
Dracula had been a huge success for Universal, and they were eager to build on that success with more horror films. Ironically, Lugosi--who had been so popular in the stage version of Dracula--was not Tod Browning's first choice for the role. He wanted to go with his regular collaborator, Lon Chaney, who unfortunately died before filming. Bela Lugosi--with his thick Hungarian accent and his imposing, 6'1" presence, played the role so memorably that it is still hard to imagine anyone else--even Chaney--doing it. It's said that his Dracula caused such a sensation that for a time he received more fan mail from women that Clark Gable. I don't know if that's true, but that's what they say.
Universal intended next an adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The obvious choice to play Frankenstein's monster was Bela, hot off the success of Dracula. Robert Florey has been assigned to direct the picture. Bela was unhappy with the idea of playing a non-speaking role; so was Florey. They both thought it was foolish to put Lugosi--a handsome star with a memorable voice--in a role that, in Bela's opinion, "any half-wit extra" could play. Bela designed his own makeup for a screen test, but Universal executives were unhappy with it; they rescinded the offer both to Bela and to Robert Florey. Instead, the went with James Whale as director. According to legend, Whale spotted Boris Karloff in the studio commissary and knew that he had his monster.
Karloff was born William Henry Pratt on 23 November 1887 in London. Interestingly, Billy the Uncanny (a nickname of his) stood a full two inches shorter than Bela Lugosi. Boris was educated at London University (he was on the cricket team with fellow future actor C. Aubrey Smith) and either he or his father intended for him to be a diplomat; instead, he went to Canada in 1909 and joined a touring company where he adopted his famous stage name. He worked in low-budget theater before taking work in Hollywood during the 1920s, taking roles in B movies. Bela Lugosi would later claim the credit for Karloff's career, saying he didn't like the Frankenstein script and was told by studio head Carl Laemmle to find his own replacement, plucking Karloff out of obscurity.
However, there is also a story that Lugosi simply perpetuated the myth that he had turned down the role. In this version, Florey wanted Bela to play Dr. Frankenstein, but Laemmle wanted him to portray the monster instead, a role Bela was unhappy with. The Florey-direced screen tests convinced Laemmle that neither the director nor the actor were right for the film and fired them both. Whatever the truth, Universal went with Karloff as the monster and put Bela with Robert Florey for Murders in the Rue Morgue. Bela said later that he would've been happier to play Dr. Frankenstein, but that his thick accent made it hard for him to play a romantic lead. Bela was not yet fluent in English; even on Broadway as Dracula, Bela had learned most of his lines phonetically, and did the same for the film. It would be two more years before he spoke English fluently, but he would never learn well enough how to nuance his dialogue. After Bela died, Boris said of him: "He was really a shy, sensitive, talented man who had a fine career on the classical stage in Europe, but he made a fatal mistake: he never took the trouble to learn our language. He had real problems with his speech and difficulty interpreting lines."
Frankenstein, like Dracula before it, was a smash success. James Whale and Universal kept an air of mystery around the monster by not crediting Boris Karloff in the movie, instead putting a question mark where the actor's name should be. But Hollywood knew who he was, and he quickly became an in-demand character actor for other sinister roles. 44 years old, with 80 films to his name, he was suddenly a breakout star. But he didn't let the success go to his head, saying later in life: "You could heave a brick out of the window and hit ten actors who could play my parts. I just happened to be on the right corner at the right time." A contrast to the fiery, romantic Bela (who in 1929 was divorced from his wife of three days in a suit which named Clara Bow as the other woman), Boris was a quiet and bookish man, friendly and unassuming. Everyone who knew him considered him a true gentleman. He was quite fond of children, and children seemed to like him. There was concern that Marilyn Harris, who played the little girl Karloff would, as the monster, throw into the lake in Frankenstein, would be frightened by Karloff in full make-up. But she was delighted with it and, ready to drive to the location, ran up to him, took his hand and said "May I drive with you?" He responded as a gentleman: "Would you, darling?"
Contrary to popular belief, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff got along amiably. They first met in 1932 on the set of Night World, which Karloff was appearing in. They were very cordial and gamely posed for photos. Universal announced that Boris would re-team with James Whale for The Invisible Man, and that Lugosi and Karloff would finally share the screen together (with horror great Lionel Atwill) in The Suicide Club. But Claude Raines played the would-be Emperor Invisible I and Universal never made The Suicide Club. The two didn't appear together until 1934 in The Black Cat, directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. It was Universal's top grossing film of the year, despite the fact that critics found it incomprehensible. At first, Bela was suspicious that Boris would try scene-stealing tricks; but Boris didn't "go in for such nonsense," he said, and they became very friendly. They appeared in another Universal picture together called Gift of Gab.
Bela and Boris were both deluged with offers. Bela Lugosi went on to star in The Return of Chandu, The Mysterious Mr. Wong, and Mark of the Vampire, Tod Browning's remake of his own London After Midnight. Boris Karloff starred in The Mask of Fu Manchu and The Black Room, then returned to the role of the Monster in The Bride of Frankenstein, the even-better sequel to the film which made him famous. In that film, Ernest Thesiger starred as Dr. Pretorius--a role that had originally been intended for Bela. Instead, the two would appear together again in The Raven. Bela was billed second and paid only half as much as Karloff, but he dominates the film.
Universal continued to put the two together in horror films and rake in tons of cash from their success. They were teamed in 1936 for Bluebeard, a film which was sadly not made until 1944 (with John Carradine in the lead). Bela went to Britain to star in Hammer's first production, The Mystery of the Mary Celeste, before returning to America to star in The Invisible Ray alongside Boris for Universal, a sort-of-sequel to The Invisible Man directed by Lambert Hillyer, who had directed the sort-of-sequel to Dracula, Dracula's Daughter. Again, a planned film for the two was scrapped: The Electric Monster, which later became The Mad Monster in 1940 (starring instead Lon Chaney Jr and Lionel Atwill).
As the popularity of horror films began to wane in the late thirties, Boris began to take non-horror roles. Bela, who had appeared in less makeup in his iconic horror role, found it harder to get away from his image as Dracula. He would later say: "Every producer in Hollywood had set me down as a type. I was both amused and disappointed." He also pined: "I'd like to quit the supernatural roles and play just an interesting, down-to-earth person." Instead, responding to a surge in popularity of Dracula and Frankenstein in Europe (both films had been re-released there), Universal cast both men in 1939's Son of Frankenstein.
The film was given a generous budget and elaborate sets; Rowland V. Lee, who also directed Universal's stylish Tower of London (which Karloff appeared in), cast that film's star Basil Rathbone (who was also making a splash in 1939 as Sherlock Holmes) in the title role. Peter Lorre had refused the part. Karloff played the monster again, and Bela appeared in one of his best roles as Ygor. Lugosi was underpaid; his salary was cut in half and his scenes were scheduled to be shot in just one week. Worse yet, Universal knew Lugosi was in a dire financial straits at the time and desperately needed money. Rowland V. Lee was incensed and reportedly vowed to keep Bela on the picture "from the first day of shooting right up to the last." The role of Ygor suddenly became a pivotal one; Lugosi's role is much bigger even than Karloff's or Rathbone's, and Lugosi had much freedom to develop the character. At last, Bela Lugosi was the star of a presitigous (and highly successful) horror production. His son, Bela Jr, had been born in 1938. He was on top of the world. And he would never be in this position again.
Universal would cast Boris and Bela together in just one more movie: Black Friday. The film did poorly at the box office; Bela and Boris did not appear in a scene together. The two of them left Universal Studios soon after. They appeared in another film together that year, an RKO mystery called You'll Find Out. Horror was on its way out, and most horror films in the 1940s were farces.
Universal's 1941 film The Wolf Man, starring Lon Chaney Jr in the title role, featured a reluctant appearance by Bela as a gypsy, though he had actually hoped for the role of the Wolf Man himself. In 1942, Bela played Ygor again in The Ghost of Frankenstein, this time opposite Chaney as the monster; a year later, he finally played the monster (opposite Chaney again) in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. Universal was ambitious enough for one more Frankenstein film, and announced that they would bring together all of their monsters for The Chamber of Horrors. When the film finally appeared in 1944, it was called House of Frankenstein. The role of Kharis the Mummy (which Karloff had played) was written out for budget reasons; Karloff played a mad scientist who attempting to gather all of the monsters he can. Glenn Strange played Frankenstein's monster; Lon Chaney Jr revived the role of the Wolf Man. All that was missing was Bela; Universal had been unhappy enough with his performance in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man to cut all of his dialogue from that film and pass him over for the role of Dracula in this movie. John Carradine played the Count instead.
Afterwards, Karloff hit Broadway in Arsenic and Old Lace, which Lugosi hoped would mean more opportunities for himself to star in Universal's horror films. Instead, Universal turned their attention to Lon Chaney Jr and not to Bela. The two would appear together in one more film for producer Val Lewton: 1945's excellent The Body Snatcher, featuring Karloff in one of his best roles, and Bela in a fairly small role. The role Lugosi played was written for him specifically to put him in the film. Bela would go on to reprise the role of Dracula (along with Chaney as the Wolf Man and Strange as the Frankenstein monster) in 1948's Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein; Karloff turned down the film because he didn't want to do a spoof. But the next year he ended up appearing in Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff.
Bela, addicted to drugs and with something of a reputation for being an egomaniac--although he once quipped, after working on Island of Lost Souls in 1932, "I thought I had a terrible ego until I met Charles Laughton"--couldn't get anymore work until he met Edward D. Wood Jr in the 1950s. He died on 16 August 1956, apparently so in debt that, oddly, Frank Sinatra quietly paid for his funeral. Famously, he was buried in his cape.
Boris Karloff never stopped working, appearing in film and on TV and radio. He died at the age of 81 on 2 February 1969 from emphysema. His obituary in the New York Times featured a picture of Frankenstein's monster; unfortunately, the monster in question was Glenn Strange and not Karloff.
Looking back on their work now, it's easy to see why both are still horror icons today. And it's a shame that they appeared together on film only a few times. But thank goodness every Halloween their work is still around to warm the soul.