It’s been awhile since I had a chance to wander around Ye Olde Horror Haven, and plunging into the bowels, I found myself deep within Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. Cobwebs covered the equipment now, but it got me thinking about all the different incarnations of the monster there have been. And I’m not talking about a teenage Frankenstein or some other version. I’m referring to the monster proper. The one so many call Frankenstein. In the Hammer film series, we learned that Dr. Frankenstein himself was the real monster. Now, let’s take a look at the good Doctor’s finest creation as he appeared over the years.
Mary Shelly’s novel first appeared in 1818, after a dream about a scientist who created life. The story grew from there, andit really is a great novel. I highly recommend for the horror fan who has not read it yet. The first version to appear on the screen was Thomas Edison Film’s version in 1910. I’ve yet to see this version, and I hope to some day. The images show a creature with stringy mop of hair, and a vaguely Herman Munster face. I love the awesome weathered, claw-like hands. I can only imagine this monster stalking across the screen.
To this day, the most famous incarnation of the Monster appeared in 1931 in the Universal Classic. Boris Karloff played the monster, with make-up by Jack Pierce. The square head, bolts, too small suit – this became the look that still stands up today. Eight movies featured the monster and Karloff would turn the role over to Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr, and Glenn Strange. Strange would adopt the lumbering walk with the arms outstretched. I love “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” from this time period, along with “House of Dracula” and “House of Frankenstein”. Always fun to get the monsters all together!
It would be almost ten years after the last universal film before the original monster terrorized the screen again. In 1957, the world was being introduced to the world of Hammer Horror. Hammer Films was out of England and made some of the greatest horror films ever! Their gothic 1800s setting made for some great films. Phil Leakey designed the make-up worn by Christopher Lee in the film. It was so different from what we had seen before and it was in color! Mismatched eyes, scars all over the face…it just looked like someone threw the face together from pieces. It was a shocking look, and Hammer has a long line of Frankenstein films that featured Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein continuing his experiments to create life.
A side note should be mentioned of Toho’s “Frankenstein Conquers the World”. It is not the original monster except for it’s heart. It regenerates a new body due to atomic radiation and wrecks havoc. It resembles the square head look, but more caveman-like.
The actual monster is revived in 1971’s Dracula vs. Frankenstein. The monster holds onto the square head but the years have not been kind to his face. Mangled is a good look, and he’s traded the greenish skin for a more cream colored look. Not one of my favorite looks but an interesting film.
One of my more favorite ones appeared in 1973. Frankenstein: The True Story was a three hour movie event over two nights. It took pieces from the novel, and the various movies, and stitched everything together to make a new creature. What is unique about this film is the creature, played by Michael Sarrazin. The monster started out looking normal, and slowly turned into a hideous creature by the end of the film. I always searched the TV Guide for this one. There’s a scene where he interrupts a ball or some rich event and just strides into the room. Great scary stuff!!
These are just some of the greatest and most interesting portrayals of the Frankenstein Monster. There have been more since then, and I am sure we haven’t seen the last adaption of the novel. I hope you enjoyed looking around the lab with me. Who knows what else lurks in the halls of The Horror Haven?
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