Bela Lugosi's performance in Frankenstein movie (lost test reel footage; 1931)


Frankenstein (Bela Lugosi test footage)
Poster featuring Lugosi as the Monster.
Poster featuring Lugosi as the Monster.
Status Lost

Universal's Frankenstein is one the most popular, iconic, and beloved horror films of all time. One of the biggest draws to the film is Boris Karloff's sympathetic performance as the Monster, which has become one of the most recognizable portrayals of the Monster. However, prolific horror actor Bela Lugosi was originally going to play the monster instead. While filming Dracula, Universal decided to start their next project which became Frankenstein. Lugosi was the first actor to be cast as the Monster, and he was quite interested in the role, going as far as creating his own makeup. However, his design was rejected.

Several test reels with Edward Van Sloan (Dr. Waldman) and another which clocked in at 20-minutes were filmed on Dracula sets and directed by Robert Florey. After these tests, Lugosi rejected the non-speaking and heavily made-up role, stating that he was a star in his country and wouldn't "be a scarecrow here". After the film was released, Lugosi regretted his decision.

Lugosi's test reels were not released in any form and eventually faded into obscurity. The reels have likely either been destroyed or thrown away, but other copies may still exist in an archive.

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