Monday, March 18, 2013

Karloff's Makeup Design Differences

The creation of Boris Karloff's mask, which has become the ultimate image of the Frankenstein Monster, is mainly the work of Universal's chief makeup artist Jack Pierce. Whale, who was also an artist, had drawn sketches of Karloff, which were closely followed by Pierce. Sketches provided by other make-up artists depicted the Monster as an alien, a wild man or a robot, but Pierce and Whale wanted him to have a "pitiful humanity". In 1939 Pierce revealed how he designed the mask:

"I did not depend on imagination. In 1931, before I did a bit of designing, I spent three months of research in anatomy, surgery, medicine, criminal history, criminology, ancient and modern burial customs, and electrodynamics. My anatomical studies taught me that there are six ways a surgeon can cut the skull in order to take out or put in a brain. I figured that Frankenstein, who was a scientist but no practising surgeon, would take the simplest surgical way. He would cut the top of the skull off straight across like a potlid, hinge it, pop the brain in , and then clamp it on tight. That is the reason I decided to make the Monster's head square and flat like a shoe box and dig that big scar across his forehead with the metal clamps holding it together." 

Jack Pierce built an artificial square-shaped skull, like that of "a man whose brain had been taken from the head of another man" . He fixed wire clamps over Karloff's lips, painted his face blue-green, which photographed a corpse-like gray, and glued two electrodes to Karloff's neck. The wax on his eyelids was Karloff's idea. "We found the eyes were too bright, seemed too understanding, where dumb bewilderment was so essential. So I waxed my eyes to make them heavy, half-seeing", Karloff explained.
Pierce's reputation was as bad-tempered, or at least extremely stern, but his relationship with Karloff was a good one. They both cooperated on the design of the now iconic make-up, with Karloff removing a dental plate to create an indentation on one side of the Monster's face. He also endured four hours of make-up under Pierce's hand each day, during which time his head was built up with cotton, collodion and gum, and green greasepaint (designed to look pale on black and white film) was applied to his face and hands. The finished product was universally acclaimed, and has since become the commonly accepted visual representation of Mary Shelley's creation

Universal makeup artist Jack Pierce paid special attention to the Monster's appearance in "Bride Of Frankenstein". He altered his 1931 design to display the after-effects of the mill fire, adding scars and shortening the Monster's hair. Also, the fact that the Monster spoke in this movie meant that Karloff could remove his dental plate, so now his cheeks did not have the sunken look of the original film. The darkened eyeshadows disappeared as well


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