In The Shadows: GLENN STRANGE
By Michael Arruda
With a name like Glenn Strange, how could you not appear in horror movies?
Glenn Strange amassed a whopping 314 screen credits over his long career which spanned five decades, from 1930 to 1973.
Granted, most of these were in westerns, including the long running television series GUNSMOKE (1961-1973), but horror fans will forever remember Strange for his portrayal of the Frankenstein Monster in three of the Universal Frankenstein movies, the final three to be exact: HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944), HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945) and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948). In fact, you can make the argument that it is the image of Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein Monster, not Boris Karloff who originated the role that is the most iconic image of the classic Universal Frankenstein Monster. It’s Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein Monster we see in so many of the movie stills and posters.
Karloff may be the definitive Frankenstein monster (he is, without doubt), but Glenn Strange just might be the most recognizable.
Welcome everybody to another edition of In The Shadows, the column where we honor character actors from the movies, especially horror movies. Today we look at the career of Glenn Strange, the actor whose image as the Frankenstein Monster may be the most iconic.
The majority of Glenn Strange’s 314 screen credits were in westerns, in a career that began in 1930. He finished his career on the TV show GUNSMOKE, where he enjoyed a recurring role as Sam the bartender which lasted for the full run of the series.
In addition to his three stints as the Frankenstein Monster, Strange also appeared in several other genre films. Here’s a look at Strange’s horror/science fiction credits:
FLASH GORDON (1936) – Robot/Soldier/Gocko – the famous Buster Crabbe serial.
THE MAD MONSTER (1942) – Petro – Gets turned into a werewolf by mad scientist George Zucco in this Grade Z thriller.
THE MUMMY’S TOMB (1942) – Man Riding Buckboard (uncredited) – bit part in this classic Lon Chaney Jr. Mummy movie from Universal.
THE BLACK RAVEN (1943) – Andy – mystery and murder in an old dark house, again with George Zucco.
THE MONSTER MAKER (1944) – Giant/Steve – another mad scientist movie. This time it’s J. Carrol Naish as Dr. Igor Markoff busy turning people into monsters. Why? Because he can!
HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944) – the Frankenstein Monster – Glenn Strange was a natural choice to play the Monster, as he stood at nearly 6’7”. HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, the sixth film in the Universal Frankenstein series, is memorable because it’s the first film which included all three of the major Universal monsters, Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man, John Carradine as Dracula, and Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein Monster. Also notable because Boris Karloff returned to the series after a two film hiatus, not as the Monster, but as the demented Doctor Gustav Neimann. Decent Universal monster movie, and Strange isn’t bad as the Frankenstein Monster, although he really isn’t in the movie all that much and doesn’t get to do much of anything until the film’s final reel. But he was good enough to return as the Monster in the next two Universal Frankenstein movies.
HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945) – the Frankenstein Monster – Strange’s second stint as the Frankenstein Monster, again teaming up with Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolf Man and John Carradine’s Dracula. Once more, has little to do until the film’s final reel where he comes back to life just in time to be destroyed yet again.
ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948) – the Frankenstein Monster- The third time Strange would play the Frankenstein Monster would be the best time. Ironically, his screen time as the Monster is greatly increased in this movie, and the character probably has the most to do since the early days of the series. Once again teamed with Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man, but this time Bela Lugosi made his triumphant return as Dracula, reprising the role for the first time since the original 1931 classic! All in all, in spite of it being a comedy, this is one of the better Universal Monster movies. A classic in its own right.
MASTER MINDS (1949) – Atlas, the Monster – plays a monster in this Bowery Boys horror comedy featuring yet another mad scientist who turns people into monsters, this time played by Alan Napier, famous for playing Alfred on the Adam West BATMAN TV series.
SPACE PATROL (1950-1955) – Captain Jonas – guest spot in this early 1950s space television show.
THE COLGATE COMEDY HOUR (1954) – the Frankenstein Monster – appeared as the Frankenstein Monster in an episode featuring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.
Glenn Strange passed away on September 20, 1973 succumbing to lung cancer at the age of 74.
Glenn Strange: August 16, 1899 – September 20, 1973.
Thanks for reading everybody!