10 Things You May Not Know About ‘Dracula’, ‘Frankenstein’, and ‘The Wolf Man’
When it comes to horror movies, I feel like the classic Universal monster movies don’t get their due respect. Yes, by modern standards they are tame, but they are still the movies that laid the ground work for those modern horror films. The way we celebrate Halloween today was shaped by the Universal monster movies, especially Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man. We’ve all heard the trivia like Bela Lugosi was buried in his Dracula cape and he didn’t speak English and had to learn his lines phonetically, both of which have been disputed. But for this list, I tried to pick 10 things that you may have never heard about this Unholy Trinity.
1. Bela Lugosi, though the original and most iconic person to play the role of Dracula on film, only played Dracula twice, Dracula and Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, 17 years apart. However, he regularly appeared in other Universal monster films, having roles in The Wolf Man and three Frankenstein films.
2. A Spanish version of Dracula was filmed after hours on the same set with Spanish-speaking actors and with a final running time nearly 30 minutes longer than its English-speaking counterpart. While the original is widely considered superior, the Spanish version was met with acclaim and praised for the use of different angles and filming techniques.
3. Bela Lugosi is the most commonly imitated Dracula, but also a commonly imitated Frankenstein’s Monster. While Boris Karloff is synonymous with the role of the Monster and played it in three films, Bela Lugosi was the original choice for the role but turned it down. Lugosi would later play the role of the hunchback lab assistant Ygor in Son of Frankenstein and The Ghost of Frankenstein. In The Ghost of Frankenstein, Ygor’s brain is put into the Monster’s body, played by The Wolf Man star Lon Chaney Jr. A complication with the brain transplant resulted in the Monster going blind. Lugosi would then finally play the Monster in the fifth film, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, with Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man again. Though dialogue referencing the Monster’s blindness was cut, Lugosi played the role with outstretched arms, as someone would if they were feeling their way around, the way most people imitate the character today.
4. Dracula and other vampires in the original Universal films are never shown with the iconic vampire fangs. Elongated fangs were reportedly not used in vampire makeup until 1957, with the Hammer version of Dracula starring Christopher Lee popularizing the look the following year.
5. Dr. Frankenstein’s line “Now I know what it’s like to BE God,” was removed by the censor board in later releases because it was considered blasphemy, replaced by a thunder sound effect. It wasn’t until years later that the original dialogue was discovered on an archive disc and reinserted into the audio of the film seamlessly.
6. The method of bringing the Monster to life was never revealed in the original Mary Shelley novel. In the novel, Dr. Frankenstein as the narrator refuses to divulge his technique in the hopes that no one follows in his footsteps. To flush out the story, Universal came up with the laboratory in the castle and the use of lightning to reanimate the corpse, which is now regularly accepted as the back-story to the character.
7. The Monster’s appearance changed for The Bride of Frankenstein to account for the character being burned at the end of the original film, but also due to Boris Karloff needing to speak. Karloff removed his partial bridge dental work for the original film to give the Monster a sunken cheek appearance, but had to keep the bridge in for the sequel as the Monster finally had lines.
8. Lon Chaney Jr. appeared in a starring role in more Universal monster films than anyone else, playing Larry Talbot/The Wolf Man in The Wolf Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Dracula in Son of Dracula, the Monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein, and the Mummy in The Mummy’s Tomb, The Mummy’s Ghost, and The Mummy’s Curse. And while Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff both played two of the classic Universal monsters (Dracula & the Monster and the Monster & the Mummy, respectively), Chaney in the only man to play four of the monsters.
9. The full moon aspect to the Wolf Man lore was not in the original film. In The Wolf Man, the time and cause for the transformation is “when the wolf-bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” The full moon reason isn’t introduced until the sequel.
10. Larry Talbot was actually cured of being a werewolf in House of Dracula, only to return as a full werewolf with no explanation in Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, making this film an official Universal monster movie, but outside the recognized continuity of the story and characters.