Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi Square Off in a Monstrous Game of Chess (1934)

Long before the release of the cult film Drac­u­la vs. Franken­stein (Rot­ten Toma­toes calls the 1971 movie “a slap­dash epic of bad film­mak­ing”), the orig­i­nal stars of Drac­u­la and Franken­stein met face to face–for a game of chess.

The scene is from an ear­ly 1934 episode of Colum­bia Pic­tures’ Screen Snap­shots, a series of short films fea­tur­ing the off-screen lives of Hol­ly­wood stars. Carl Laemm­le at Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures had recent­ly come up with the idea of cast­ing Boris Karloff, who played the mon­ster in the 1931 film Franken­stein, and Bela Lugosi, star of the same year’s Drac­u­la, togeth­er in one movie. The Black Cat, based very loose­ly on the short sto­ry by Edgar Allan Poe, pre­miered in May of 1934 with Karloff and Lugosi at the top of the bill.

The appear­ance by Karloff and Lugosi on Screen Snap­shots #11 was essen­tial­ly a covert pro­mo­tion for The Black Cat, but because Colum­bia and Uni­ver­sal were rivals the film isn’t men­tioned. Instead, the two hor­ror stars talk about the “Film Stars Frol­ic,” a fundrais­ing event for the Screen Actors Guild that coin­cid­ed with the open­ing of Gilmore Sta­di­um in Los Angeles–and, as it hap­pened, with the pre­miere of The Black Cat. The Screen Snap­shots vignette begins with an atmos­phere of men­ace as the two men frown at one anoth­er.

“Are you ready for the test, Drac­u­la?” says Karloff.

“I’m ready, Franken­stein,” says Lugosi.

“Then–let us begin.”

At which point the two men break out laugh­ing as the cam­era pulls back to reveal a chess board. For some rea­son Drac­u­la has the white pieces.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Bela Lugosi Dis­cuss­es his Drug Habit as He Leaves the Hos­pi­tal in 1955

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.