Jack Pierce

Jack Pierce with Bela Lugosi for Son of Frankenstein

Jack Pierce is hardly an unsung hero of thirties horror, but he’s certainly not as well known as someone like Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff. He is, however, perhaps as responsible as anyone else for the genre’s success in the thirties. The imagery of movies like Frankenstein and Dracula is so enduring as to be representative of the novel’s characters and Pierce’s touch can be found all over those movies.

He is probably best known for his work designing the make up for Frankenstein – the iconic, square headed, scarred, electrode-bolted monster is so iconic as to become the look for Frankenstein’s creation. Even today, whether the illustrators are  representing Karloff, Lugosi, or Strange,  it is Pierce’s makeup that has remained the iconic image of the Monster.

Although both Karloff and director James Whale apparently contributed somewhat to Pierce’s design, the credit has always rested largely with Jack Pierce.

Pierce also designed the Dracula costume both for Lugosi and the later design of Son of Dracula and all of the John Carradine Dracula films. Another notable collaboration with Lugosi is the tropical gothic White Zombie. Murder Legendre’s iconic look is certainly a very important part of that film.

bela lugosi as murder legendre

Although Pierce continued to work on Universal pictures throughout the forties, notably designing the Wolfman makeup and feuding with that picture’s star, Lon Chaney Jr, he was gradually edged out of the business due to the changing nature of makeup application.

He is regarded with reverence by the generation of makeup artists that emerged later, names like Rick Baker and Tom Savini acknowledge a supreme debt to the mastery of Jack Pierce.

It is important not to forget those like Pierce who made huge contributions to the field of thirties horror, even though they did not command the crowds like the on screen stars.

Amazon has a variety of books and movies about Jack Pierce

Episode 9: The Mummy

This week, Andrew and Matt talk about the Boris Karloff 1932 horror classic The Mummy. Also starring Zita Johann, along with mainstays Edward Van Sloan and David Manners, The Mummy was directed by German director Karl Freund, he of Mad Love, Metropolis, and I Love Lucy fame.

Mummy guitar
Continue reading “Episode 9: The Mummy”

Episode 5: The Black Cat

This movie is so good! I could watch The Black Cat every night.

Notice for iTunes/RSS readers: visit www.goldenagehorror.com for show notes (they’re mostly pictures)

lugosi karloff the black cat golden age horror we belong dead

My earlier essay on the Black Cat

Lugosi vs Karloff

Edgar Allan Poe’s Original Story

Edginess of the Black Cat

The Concept of Dracula’s Daughter


Karloff plays the organ at the beginning of the film

Swan Lake is not in the Black Cat, what are we talking about?

The Black Cat - Gino

A lovely review of the Black Cat on pre-code.com

366 Weird Movies talks about the Black Cat

The Black Cat on TCM

Theme music: DuBoLoGy – Swan Lake Dub

Next week: The Raven