The Gentleman of Horror, Boris Karloff is the focus of this episode of This Is Your Life from 1957.
Few actors have such long and successful careers as had “Karloff the Uncanny”; or have thrilled so many different and disparate people across the world with his performances as “The Monster” from Frankenstein, Imhotep in The Mummy, Professor Morlant in The Ghoul, all the way up to TV series, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Michael Reeves’ The Sorcereors and Peter Bogdanovich‘s Targets.
At night, during the making of the Frankenstein films, Boris Karloff sometimes slept with his monster make-up on, as it took so long to apply. He would sleep between 2 books to protect his neck from any harm, which could be caused by those famous glued-on bolts. Karloff spent up to 4 hours in make-up, as the legendary Jack Pierce applied his iconic design.
Over the years, I have seen quite a few hand-tinted photographs of Karloff as the Monster, but rarely any color footage. So, this brief home-movie clip from 1939, of Karloff in full make-up on the set of Son of Frankenstein, is quite delightful.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein first came to life on celluloid over a hundred years ago, with the monster’s appearance in what has become known as “Edison’s Frankenstein.” Although the great inventor had no direct involvement in the making of the silent short, it was made by the studio that bore his name and using his film process, the Edison Kinetogram. Made in 1910, it was the first horror film in cinema history.
It’s interesting to note that Boris Karloff was actually the fourth actor to play Frankenstin’s monster.
A behind-the-scenes report on the making of The Horror of Frankenstein, Hammer Film’s seventh Frankenstein movie, and their first without Peter Cushing playing the eponymous Baron. This time the role was taken-up by Ralph Bates, who added a certain amount of loucheness to Victor. The film also marked, what has lately been described (see The Ultimate Hammer Collection) as a “bold departure into comedy horror”, which it is, and therefore slightly misfires, undermining the films more horrific elements. But still, there is much to enjoy in The Horror of Frankenstein - Bates’ performance, the always watchable Dennis Price, and great supporting roles portrayed by Kate O’Mara, Jon Finch (soon to be Polanski’s MacBeth), Veronica Carlson, and Dave (Darth Vader) Prowse, who looks as if his make-up as the monster inspired the Kirgan’s in Highlander. Even Cushing makes a cameo on the doctor’s slab.
I am great fan of Cushing, who could be both polite and menacing, a rare talent, and he was never less than convincing in any role he played. Here in an interview Cushing discusses his thoughts about Baron Victor Frankenstein, while Bates discusses his approach to the role. First broadcast on the BBC April 28th, 1970.
Tonight’s feature presentation, ladles and gentlespoons, is Frankenstein, Edison Studios’ 1910 production of Mary Shelley’s novel The Modern Prometheus. Directed by J. Searle Dawley and starring Augustus Phillips, Mary Fuller and Charles Ogle as the monster.
This was the first ever movie production of Frankenstein, filmed over 3 days at the Edison Studios in the Bronx, New York. For many years it was thought this film was lost, only a few lobby cards, stills and posters were thought to exist, that was until the early 1950’s, when a print of the film was purchased by Alois F. Dettlaff, a movie collector from Wisconsin. However, Dettllaff didn’t realize the rarity or value of his latest possession until the 1970s, when he had it preserved on 35mm. Though the film had deteriorated, it was still viewable, and had its original caption cards and beautifully hand-tinted sequences.
This version of Frankenstein differs from Shelley’s novel but does touch on some of the themes implicit in her novel. The one thing that has always struck me about Shelley’s tale is the absence of love. It is pointed to throughout the narrative by negatives, from the very creation of the monster, to its lack of a name, to Frankenstein addressing it as “hideous”, “loathsome”, “deformed”. Though the doctor may feel pity for his handiwork, he cannot look at it without seeing “the filthy mass that walked and talked,” which fills him with “horror and disgust.” Talk about absentee fathers.
The creature having failed to win the love of his creator, seeks it in the outside world, when this fails, he realizes he must he have Frankenstein make him a partner. The doctor reluctantly agrees, and starts his preparations on the isle of Orkney. Unfortunately, for the monster, Frankenstein has a change of heart, fearing a world populated by monstrous off-spring, and destroys his second creation. When this happens, you know it’s going to end in tears, as the monster claims vengeance on his maker.
In this film version, the snaggle-toothed monster with the Russell Brand hair is similarly desperate for love, and behaves as a jealous lover for Frankenstein’s affection. But what is more intriguing is the suggestion the monster is not so much real but an element within Frankenstein’s nature, an idea Mary Shelley may have agreed with, for who is Victor Frankenstein? other than a portrait of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the monster? But a metaphor for their love?
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