Kurt Siodmak
Curtis Siodmak

Born August 10, 1902 in Dresden, Germany. Curt experienced the destruction and deprivation of WW I in his native Germany. Following the war, adversity continued with the economy in a shambles, inflation rampant, and general malaise in the economy. Curt was schooled at the University of Dresden and the University of Stuttgart, as well as the University of Zurich, Switzerland, where he earned a degree in mathematics. After university, Siodmak worked as a freelance writer, reporter, and railway engineer. His studies inspired him to become a writer, his favored genre SF. He foresaw the laser, radar, and the major role of the aircraft carrier in his works.

Germany struggled to overcome it's troubles, and along with its rise, so rose the fortunes of young Curt. He had a period of success during which he worked compulsively as an author and screenwriter. His first experience as a screenwriter came in 1922, when he was hired to write script cards for the German version of Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops comedy films.

Curt, along with future wife Henrietta Ema de Perrot, signed as extras in the silent SF classic Metropolis in 1926. They did this to gain access to the closed set and director Fritz Lang, planning to write an article about the film and it's director. Curt and Ms. de Perrot were to wed in 1931, and stayed married until his death. They were the parents of one child, a son named Geoffrey Curt.

During the period of 1929-1933 he saw the publication of 14 novels as well as seven screenplays. Along with this output Curt also directed films, but was always overshadowed by his famous brother Robert Siodmak. Robert had directed several of Curt's works while still in Germany. Ironically, when they had emigrated to America, Robert promptly fired Curt from Son of Dracula in 1943, and also had Curt's script rewritten by Eric Taylor, leaving Curt with only story credit.

With the rise of National Socialism, it became increasingly difficult for Jewish artists to earn a living. Curt, along with multitudes of fellow Jews, fled before the rising Nazi tide. Curt first went to France, then to England, where he found work (1934-37) with the British International Picture Company. Following the collapse of the British film industry in 1937, Curtand finally made the move to America. He became a naturalized citizen and was a member of the OSS, utilizing his writing skills against Nazi Germany.

Siodmak credits the Nazis with forcing him to move, forcing him to learn a foreign language to continue his craft. In an interview he is quoted as saying "Every night I say Heil Hitler, because without the son of a bitch I wouldn't be in Three Rivers, California, I'd still be in Berlin!"

Siodmak's fame came with his arrival in Hollywood. He is credited with over 50 films as scriptwriter/ director/ producer. His legacy is in the stable of classic horror films, beginning in the 1940s with The Invisible Man Returns, Black Friday, and The Ape. His work is credited with powering the wave of horror films in the 40s and influencing many others. He is regarded as being not a great writer, but making up for it with an amazingly prolific output. He reinvigorated Universal Studios' monster managerie (The Invisible Man and Dracula) while creating the Wolf Man concept. Most of the popular werewolf lore which became ingrained in a generation of moviegoers was borne of Siodmak's pen. Siodmak is the creator of the concept of multiple monsters in the same film, such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf man. A whole subclass of these features followed.

Siodmac turned from horror in the 40s to a more SF direction in the 50s. Along the way he met Ivan Tors with whom he formed a production company. Siodmak worked on Riders To the Stars, a 1954 Tors production. Following that came a slew of other SF film screenplays, using themes common to the era. Siodmak is sometimes reviled as producing schlock. As true as the charge may be, it has to be tempered when considering the flood of schlock that rolled from Hollywood SF film producers, and it wasn't all Siodma's work. Perhaps he was reviled because at least he produced memorable schlock.

After the 50s the movies had to make room for the growing medium of TV. True to form, Siodmak turned his hand to the new field, but found it exceedingly hard to plow. He worked on several projects, most of which were shelved and never saw the light of day. One of the projects, 13 Demon Street, actually filmed 13 episodes and was shown in Sweden with subtitles, but never found an American buyer. Another TV project was The Face in the Tombstone Mirror, a pilot for an intended horror series. The project was scripted by Catherine Moore and Henry Kuttner.

Siodmak is best known in SF circles for his 1942 Donovan's Brain, a novel written between film assignments. The novel explores the consequences when a disembodied brain is kept alive. This is a popular theme with Siodmak and one he used in several variants during his career.

Though he earned fame as a screenwriter, Siodmak says he viewed screenwriting as 'just a way to make a living'. He never gave the devotion to screenwriting he gave to his novels.

Curt Siodmak died at the age of 98 from natural causes on September 2, 2000 at his adopted hometown of Three Rivers, California.

Body of work

Films as Writer:

Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday)

Der Mann, der seinen Mörder sucht (Looking for His Murderer)

F.P.1 antwortet nicht (F.P.1; F.P.1 Does Not Answer; F.P.1 Does Not Reply)

La Crise est finie (The Slump Is Over)
Girls Will Be Boys

Transatlantic Tunnel (The Tunnel)
It's a Bet

I Give My Heart (The Loves of Madame Du Barry)

Non-Stop New York

Her Jungle Love

The Invisible Man Returns
Black Friday
The Ape

( 1941
Pacific Blackout
The Invisible Woman
Aloma of the South Seas
Midnight Angel

Invisible Agent
London Black-Out Murders (secret motive)
The Wolf Man

Son of Dracula
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
I Walked with a Zombie
The Purple V
The Mantrap
False Faces

House of Frankenstein
The Climax

Shady Lady
Frisco Sal

The Return of Monte Cristo

The Beast with Five Fingers

Berlin Express

Tarzan's Magic Fountain
Four Days' Leave (Swiss Tour)

Riders to the Stars

Creature with the Atom Brain

Earth vs. Flying Saucers

Sherlock Holmes und das Halsband des Todes (Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace)

Hauser's Memory

Films as Writer and Director:

Bride of the Gorilla

The Magnetic Monster

Curucu, Beast of the Amazon

Love Slaves of the Amazon

The Devil's Messenger

Liebespiele im Schnee (Ski Fever)

Custer of the West


Schlüss in Tonfilmatelier, Berlin, 1930.

F.P.1 antwortet nicht, Berlin, 1931, as F.P.1 Does Not Reply, Boston, Massachusetts, 1933, as F.P.1 Fails to Reply, London, 1933.

Stadt hinter Nebeln, Salzburg, 1931.

Die Madonna aus der Markusstrasse, Leipzig, 1932.

Rache im Ather, Leipzig, 1932.

Bis ans Ende der Welt, Leipzig, 1933.

Die Macht im Dunkeln, Zurich, 1937.

Donovan's Brain, New York, 1943.

Whomsoever I Shall Kiss, New York, 1952.

Skyport, 1959.

For Kings Only, New York, 1961.

Hauser's Memory, New York, 1968.

The Third Ear, New York, 1971.

City in the Sky, New York, 1974.


SciFiQuest 2107

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