Monster of the Day #613

Ygor seems more like a villain than a monster at first, using Frankenstein’s creation to wreak his revenge; the hunchbacked assistant somehow turned malign master. However, he remains…oddly difficult to kill, a trait that suggests he’s more than a simple maniac.

Dracula is clearly, patently, unarguably Lugosi’s most iconic role. On stage alone he played it over 10,000 times. However, onscreen he played the Count the same number of times he played Ygor. And Ygor, I think, might represent his finest screen acting. There’s a slyness and black humor to Ygor–“Er…they said…”–that conveys a subtlety that Lugosi sadly seldom proffered. Of course, it must be said that only with a (magnificent) ham like Lugosi could a crazy larger-than-life character like Ygor be considered subtle. But there it is.

Son of Frankenstein, I believe, is the only film where Lugosi gets the better of his rival Karloff (although Boris was clearly disenchanted with the direction the Monster was taking at this point, and it’s still a great performance).

  • One of Bela’s best.

  • Flangepart

    1st Pic: “What hump?”

    2nd Pic: “You take da blond, I’ll take da one in da towban.”

  • Cullen Waters

    I think Bela’s role as Ygor is more important than that. It changed the Frankenstein myth in a lasting way. Everyone knows that Frankenstein had an assistant named Ygor, even though he originally appears in the Universal movies. Not bad for what was originally intended as a bit role.

  • Ericb

    And that they remember Frankenstein’s assistant as Ygor rather than as Fritz as he was named in the first film.

  • bgbear_rogerh

    I assumed that it was his deformity that made it difficult for the authorities to hang him. The choking parts were in the wrong place.

  • Ken_Begg

    A reasonable theory, until he also gets shot to death and recovers from that, as well.

  • bgbear_rogerh

    mostly dead. . .

  • Didn’t one of the Poe Lugosi/Karloff pictures (THE BLACK CAT maybe?) end with Lugosi torturing a captive Karloff, in retaliation for his stealing/murdering Lugosi’s wife or something like that?

  • Come to think of it, wasn’t he also the hero to Karloff’s baddie in THE INVISIBLE RAY?

  • Ken_Begg

    Yes, but I think this is the movie where Lugosi has the better *part* than Karloff, even if, obviously, the Monster is the point of the venture. Black Cat is probably the closest the two came to being true co-stars, although again, Karloff’s role is far flashier.

  • Which was the one where Karloff was on the run and Lugosi surgically monstered his face to make him a slave? THE RAVEN? If memory serves, they both had good parts in that one.

    But yeah, I see what you mean. That’s probably what fuelled the rumors of the two having a bit of a feud over the years. From reports of people close to the stars, though, their rivalry (other than perhaps a professional one) was hogwash.

  • Ah, good old Ygor. One of the best villains to come from Universal Horror. And if I remember right, his was the brain that stayed inside the Monster’s noggin until the very end in ‘Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein’.

  • Although at some point, Igor’s brain seems to’ve atrophied to a point where it was capable of little more than basic motor functions. The Monster quickly became subservient, in a way a fitting finish for Igor’s fiendish plotting!

  • zombiewhacker

    Especially since Karloff had a reputation for being such a gentleman on the set. Even the (reportedly) most difficult, eccentric performers (e.g., Zeda Johnson) loved working with Karloff.
    B.K. underwent sometimes torturous makeup transformations for hours at a time and never complained. And actors who knew them both, even those who favored Lugosi (like Angelo Rossito) attested to the fact Boris was a swell guy.

  • Indeed; it was a well-deserved end for someone who planned to rule the world. Heck, it was made only worse by the fact that Ygor honestly LIKED the Monster, but still sacrificed him for his own selfish greed.

  • Rodford Smith

    Lugosi is very under appreciated today.

    One of my all-time favorite chilling moments in movies is during _Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman_. The Monster (with Ygor’s brain) and Talbot are sedated and strapped to the tables. The doctor yields to temptation, reverses the leads and starts powering them up. Closeup on the Monster: He slowly opens his eyes, turns his head to look at the doctor and _smiles_. *Brrr…*