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Karloff, Lugosi or Chaney (Jr.)?

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cinemalover
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Karloff, Lugosi or Chaney (Jr.)?

Postby cinemalover » November 7th, 2007, 11:04 am

Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. had major portions of their careers associated with horror films. Each has strengths, some have severe weaknesses, but everyone has their own taste. Which of the three do you prefer watching and why? I would guess that Karloff is the most popular, but both Lugosi and Chaney were capable of giving very entertaining performances. Lugosi reached his apex early with Dracula and then was forced into mostly supporting roles or starring in poverty row features and serials (such as the immortal The Phantom Creeps). Chaney was the biggest mystery to me, he could seem to sleepwalk through roles, but then he'd pull a Of Mice and Men 1939 out of his hat. Towards the end of the '50s and into the early '60s he became a regular guest on dozens of TV shows and was great at displaying pathos. Karloff was seemingly always working. He worked right up until his death and had films released after his death. IMDb lists him with 200 credits as an actor.
Chris

The only bad movie is no movie at all.

jdb1

Postby jdb1 » November 7th, 2007, 11:14 am

I'd say that Karloff and Chaney were far better actors than Lugosi, but Lugosi occasionally did drop the ham style and gave a credible performance.

On the whole, I think Karloff was the most consistent, and could be exceptional, depending on the part. I thought Chaney was excellent in The Wolf Man, but at other times - I think your choice of the word "sleepwalk" is very apt.

I frankly think that Karloff's performance in Targets is one of, if not the strongest. At the climax of the film, as he approaches the fearful and confused sniper - the look of hate and determination on Karloff's face is by far one of most frightening things I ever saw on film.

feaito

Postby feaito » November 7th, 2007, 12:34 pm

In my case it's definitely Boris Karloff, his excellent performances in "Frankenstein", "The Bride of Frankenstein", "The Old Dark House", "The Mask of Fu Manchu", "The Mummy" and "The Invisible Ray", which are among my favorite Horror flicks, are unforgettable.

In my opinion he was absolutely credible in the roles he played. He had talent and charisma and I sense that he was also a very nice human being.

I'd like to see him in "The Ghoul".

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Postby Dewey1960 » November 7th, 2007, 1:41 pm

Much as I enjoy Karloff and have tremendous respect for his work, particularly the earlier films like FRANKENSTEIN and THE MUMMY, my own personal favorite of that group (by far) is Lugosi. Bela brought a peculiar exotic danger to his performances, most notably in DRACULA, THE BLACK CAT (although, in fairness, Karloff is fantastic in this film, too!) and MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. Even his later effortrs, poverty row shockers like THE DEVIL BAT and THE INVISIBLE GHOST, seem to possess an eerie, otherworldly quality that defy any kind of rational expanation, while at the same time managing to seep deeper into the subconscious level. These are the Lugosi films that really appeal to me: the ludicrous, no-budget oddities that truly resemble the so-called "dream state." Nothing in Karloff's canon can quite compare with such Monogram mayhem as BLACK DRAGONS and BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT or even cinematic dementia like Edward D. Wood's BRIDE OF THE MONSTER. Many, I'm afraid to say, would say this is a good thing.
Coming in second would be Lon Chaney, Jr. Often unfairly criticized for being nothing more than a second-rate "B" actor, this is simply not the case--at least for me. His performances in THE WOLF MAN, FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN and SON OF DRACULA are really exceptional. In the first two he manages to elicit strong human emotions quite uncommon for Hollywood horror films of that time. Even his work in the "Inner Sanctum" series is worthy of mention, especially CALLING DR. DEATH and WEIRD WOMAN. As a kid watching these films on television, Chaney was always the one I related to most on a human level.
I realize that I'm in a real minority here with this ranking of 1) Lugosi, 2) Chaney, Jr and 3) Karloff, but that's always how I've felt about these guys. I should add that while Karloff may come in third, I still love the guy! Just not as much as the other two.

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Postby cinemalover » November 7th, 2007, 2:14 pm

Dewey,
I think it's great that Karrloff is not your favorite. Lugosi has a unique charm that is unobtainable by either of the other two. And I enjoy the entire Inner Sanctum set (I think we may have broached this subject before). The release of sets like that can really help to open up my eyes to "lost" films in an actors filmography that I had never seen. Chaney is absolutely perfect in The Wolfman as a lost soul fighting forces beyond his abilities.
Chris



The only bad movie is no movie at all.

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horror

Postby melwalton » November 7th, 2007, 7:59 pm

Chris, I'll vote for Karloff. I thought he gave an award deserving performance in 'The Lost Patrol'. He was, also, very competent in other different types of parts, as in the movie where Danny Kaye played Walter Mitty.,,,,mel

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Postby cinemalover » November 8th, 2007, 2:07 pm

Karloff gets my vote for most likely to be made into an Avatar in this forum!

P.S. Could someone in Admin please correct my insipid misspelling of Karloff in the thread title (or is there a way I can edit it?). I didn't even notice it until now. Thanks for your kind assistance.
Chris



The only bad movie is no movie at all.

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Postby Mr. Arkadin » November 8th, 2007, 6:27 pm

I like Karloff, but Lugosi was a very capable actor. One thing you have to realize is his interesting dialect hampered him as well as helped him. He was obviously typecast very quickly even within the Horror genre to certain roles. Karloff received much better parts throughout his career and as a result, he had much more to work with.

As for Lon Chaney Jr., I don’t dislike him. He could be good in certain things, but I never really gravitated towards him as an actor.

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Postby MikeBSG » November 10th, 2007, 9:55 am

Of the three, I prefer Karloff. He was so good in so much stuff.

I like Lugosi in certain things. His Ygor in "Son of Frankenstein" is superb and rightly became part of pop culture mythology. However, in some films, such as "The Raven" and "Return of the Vampire," he just misses the mark for me.

Chaney comes in third for me. I think he is very good in "The Wolf Man" and in "Man-Made Monster" and "Ghost of Frankenstein." He was easily the best non-Karloff to use the Universal Frankenstein makeup. However, I often find that while I enjoy Chaney's films, I find myself more interested in the female characters, particularly in "Weird Woman" and "Son of Dracula," although even in "The Wolf Man," Maria Ouspenskaya comes close to stealing the film. I am not sure why this is. Certainly it couldn't be said of Karloff or Lugosi that they were overshadowed by their female co-stars. I wonder if it is because Chaney had a more "romantic" or "conventionally attractive" appearance which let the studio give him plots that gave actresses more screen time.

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Postby cinemalover » November 10th, 2007, 6:53 pm

Thank you to whomever corrected my guffaw in the thread title.
Chris



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Postby MikeBSG » December 7th, 2007, 10:01 am

My favorite Karloff performances:

Galloway in "The Criminal Code": he is stuck with one of the worst haircuts in all of cinema, and still you can't take your eyes off him and how he commands the screen.

The Monster in "Frankenstein," "Bride of Frankenstein," and "Son of Frankenstein."

The brothers in "The Black Room."

The archeologist in "The Ghoul." Karloff gives a very physical performance here, and the scene in which he has been rejected by the gods of Egypt is heartbreaking.

The doomed pianist in "The Walking Dead."

The scientist in "The Devil Commands."

Cabman Gray in "The Body Snatcher." I like the way Karloff's mouth smiles while his eyes are murderous.

Sims in "Bedlam." This is a guy who enjoys pinpointing and exploiting people's weaknesses.

The dressmaker in "Lured." Only a cameo, but Karloff shifts from being comic to chilling in seconds.

The father in "Black Sabbath." karloff has rarely sounded so evil.

Narrator/Grinch in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." This is sort of like the "Black Room" in that you get the nice and the nasty side of karloff's persona in one film.

Byron Orlock in "Targets." All stars should be lucky enough to have such a part at the end of their careers.

These are what I consider his best. I like him in "The Mummy," "The Old Dark House," "The Black Cat" and "The Man They Could Not Hang," among others, but these are what I consider his best.

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Postby Dewey1960 » December 7th, 2007, 10:28 am

Nice recapping on Boris, Mike. Below is one of my favorite LUGOSI performances. It's from Edward D. Wood's BRIDE OF THE MONSTER.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cE1fzfOogo[/youtube]

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Postby MichiganJ » May 28th, 2008, 7:15 am

Since all three gave such terrific performances as their ‘monsters’, I find it difficult to pick just one. It’s interesting that Chaney was the only one to play all three monsters (four, if you include the Mummy, and why wouldn’t you?), but it’s unfair to compare his Frankenstein monster to that of Karloff’s because by the time he took over the role, the Monster was reduced to a prop. (Lugosi’s turn, in Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, is also unfair to judge because of the decision to eliminate the Monster’s dialog after shooting had finished, rending Lugosi’ “mute” performance almost comical.)

Both Lugosi and Karloff gave some of their best performances when paired together, especially in The Black Cat and The Raven (I can’t get over Karloff’s hair in The Invisible Ray so it’s hard for me to judge), and especially The Bodysnatcher (one of Karloff’s greatest performances).

Lugosi and Chaney were both excellent in (and I’m serious here), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. That film works so well because all of the “horror” is played straight. Lugosi is particularly creepy in his second, on-screen performance as the Count, and both he and Chaney play perfect straightmen to Bud and Lou’s shenanigans.

With my background in radio drama, I would be remiss in not adding that Karloff is simply brilliant as the narrator for How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Just try and imagine Lugosi’s version. (It would be great, no doubt, but Cindy Lou Who would be never be the same again...)

jdb1

Postby jdb1 » May 28th, 2008, 8:57 am

No question, Karloff was a great speaker, and he sang nicely, too. When she was little, my daughter had a tape of English nursery rhymes and songs as performed by Karloff, Cyril Ritchard and Celeste Holm (on Caedmon). It was wonderful, and we played that tape until it collapsed. Karloff and Ritchard sang/spoke "Froggie Would A-Wooing Go" to perfection, and hearing Karloff sing "Over The Hills and a Great Way Off" was a real treat.

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Postby raftfan » May 28th, 2008, 9:35 pm

When I was a kid, it was Chaney, Jr., hands down. Primarily because The Wofman had to be the coolest monster for a young boy (along with The Gillman), a much more frightening and exciting character than Count Dracula or Frankenstein's creation.

Today, though, with (ahem) more maturity (do Monster Kids ever really grow up?), it's a definite draw between Karloff and Lugosi. Karloff's voice and manner continue to hypnotize me and Lugosi still radiates a truly sinister presence. I suppose, all things considered, Karloff was the more versatile performer, but when the chips were down for both actors: Karloff in those final Mexican movies and Lugosi working for Ed Wood, it was Lugosi who overall was the most watchable. Karloff's underplaying did nothing to heighten those feeble efforts, while Lugosi's broad, bombastic style certainly raised those Wood-en efforts at least by a notch.


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