April 12, 2012

The Art of Frankenstein : Fred Kulz

An in-house artist for Universal in the Thirties, Fred Kulz painted the first Frankenstein poster in early 1931, back when Bela Lugosi was still attached and well before its Monster was designed. Kulz improvised a wild-eyed giant striding across a modern metropolis. The process repeated in June 1934 when Kulz created the first color art for the upcoming Bride of Frankenstein, basically with nothing to go on, save a title.

Published in the June 2-June 9, 1934, double issue of the Universal Weekly trade magazine, the two-page spread shows The Monster, framed in smoke, throwing a massive protective arm over The Bride, here depicted as a waif-like, kohl-eyed goth girl in a delicate wedding dress. The background shows a blasted landscape and, in the distance, the iconic burning windmill.

Information about Fred Kulz is slowly coming to light. Kulz, we learn, was active in the early 1890s and prolific into the Twenties as a designer and artist, equally at ease with photo paste-ups or elegant pen and ink drawings, for sheet music covers. He produced a number of color covers for magazine and newspaper supplements, many of them for Boston-based papers, in a very elegant and highly detailed Art Nouveau style. By the late Twenties, as a movie poster artist, he had switched to a robust, pulp magazine style packed with action, often painted in bold colors.

The Bride pre-production art has James Whale firmly in charge but no actors are named, not even Karloff. Elsa Lanchester would be cast much later. The ad copy is meant to pump up exhibitors: “Can you imagine the advertising you can do on this one?

Fred Kulz would produce more art for Bride of Frankenstein, this time with Elsa in ghostly profile, in March of 1935.

Images from the collection of Rick Payne.


Anonymous said...

thanks for the great info on Fred Kulz. I have a rare paper-backed trade ad he did for the RKO 1939 "Hunchback of Notre Dame" with Charles Laughton. Laughton must not yet have been cast as Kulz instead uses Lon Chaney, Sr.'s likeness from the 1923 Universal version. It's another beautiful example Kulz's distinct style and a great piece of history for two classic versions of the same story.

Anonymous said...

...if memory serves, the Hunchback project for which the Kulz art exists, was originally planned to be an early talkie at Universal (before Kulz left the art department in the mid-thirties). That would explain why Chaney's makeup was used to advertise it. Again, this was years before the project finally got off the ground at RKO with Laughton in the titular role.

Unknown said...

I've heard hundreds of covers of songs, but the Shawn Mendes's cover is the best I've ever heard!