Silent Horrors: All Made Up

That picture post I made recently of young horror masters left me thinking about Lon Chaney. For those of us who know horror, and even films, he’s the ‘Man of 1000 Faces’. Think of the flexibility Gary Oldman has on the screen, and you’re pretty much starting to gain an idea of this man. Each role he played was distinctly different from the last, and he was a magnificent character actor. I could devote an entire segment to him and still not even come close to describing how influential Lon ultimately was and is still for horror today, but this isn’t going to be about Chaney sr, though I suppose in the future I’ll devote something to him (he died 4 days before my birthday, after all. Not the literal day I was born, because I’m 23, but you get the idea.) Anyway, the whole point of this illustration is to talk about the make-up. He’s great to start with, because he’s the most recognizable. Here’s a few great examples of Lon Chaney’s monsters…

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Phantom of the Opera
London After Midnight

Silent cinema in particular was very heavy on the atmosphere. That’s why body language was infinitely more important, and even moreso when there was proper costuming. Make-up techniques have advanced a lot since then, yet…god they were creepier. Take this older version of Frankenstein, for instance. Inhuman to an extreme degree, and indescribably…disturbing.

Frankenstein

The full feature is available, by the way, on youtube. Generally one picture can never do true justice to a monster. Sadly the same can not be said for the sinister grinning man just above this one. Lon Chaney’s ‘London After Midnight’ is a lost film, and will very likely never be recovered.

Now let’s jump onto a few pictures of one of my personal favorites, Conrad Veidt. Even as a monster, he was a beautiful man.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
The Man Who Laughs

The extremes it took for the effect on his lips were incredibly painful. In fact, a lot of the monster make-up in these films was pretty excruciating, when it went beyond pancake and mascara.

Here are a few other monsters worth showing off, just for good measure.

Metropolis (with mask)
Metropolis (without mask)
The Golem
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Nosferatu

Ultimately, there is something terrifying about the human form when tiny features are pulled out of proportion, namely fingers, eyes, and teeth. Honestly, half of these people I’m completely willing to believe really were monsters whenever the silver screen brings them back to life.

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