I watched “Frankenstein” (1931) last night, as it was one of those immeasurably frustrating nights when I couldn’t sleep. No, this movie obviously can’t be considered frightening by modern standards — but I still had fun finally seeing a Universal Pictures monster movie I’ve heard about all my life.
Here are a few fun Frankenfacts, courtesy of Wikipedia:
- If the story here feels static and dialogue heavy, there’s a reason for that. Like “Dracula” (which Universal Pictures released the same year), “Frankenstein” was adapted from a stage play, which itself had been adapted from its classic novel source material.
- The makeup effects for Boris Karloff’s monster might seem simple by today’s standards, but people went nuts for them in 1931. I can’t imagine what a Depression-era filmgoer might think of a modern tv show like “The Walking Dead.”
- If you think Hollywood relies too heavily on cheesy sequels today, take a look at the B-list stuff that followed this classic movie: “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935), “Son of Frankenstein” (1939), “The Ghost of Frankenstein” (1942), “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” in 1943 (which was also a sequel to 1941’s “The Wolf Man”), “House of Frankenstein” (1944), and “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948). Dr. Frankenstein’s monster also showed up in “House of Dracula” (1945).
- “Frankenstein” has something else in common with “Dracula” — the talented, hyperactive character actor, Dwight Frye. Here he is the scene-stealing assistant to the doctor — he is Dracula’s minion, Renfield, in the other film.
- Frye’s character is not named “Igor,” as countless homages and references to this movie might lead you to believe. His name is “Fritz.” There is a deformed, graverobbing henchman named “Ygor” in the later “Son of Frankenstein,” and I am guessing the two movies are just easily conflated in popular memory. Also … the mob of townspeople never storm Frankenstein’s castle with torches and pitchforks. They instead chase the monster to an abandoned windmill at the top of a mountain, and destroy him there. (I am guessing that the denouement I thought I’d see also comes from a sequel.)
- I … might have noticed a major plot hole for the movie. (Yes, I realize that it is almost certainly absent from Mary Shelley’s 1918 novel, which I have not read). The townspeople want to hunt down the monster for his accidental drowning of little girl. But … how did they know the monster was even involved? We are shown nobody witnessing the tragedy. In fact, how do the townspeople even know that the monster exists — and that it was loose from the laboratory if its birth? Granted, I might have missed something — it was a sleepless night for me, after all.
Let me close with two observations:
- The castle housing Frankenstein’s laboratory would be a wicked cool place to live if it were properly renovated. Think about it. You’d need to wire it everywhere with reliable heat and electricity, and then somehow keep it dry — no small feat for an abandoned castle. But could you imagine how amazing it would be to have a home office there? A library? A home theater? A dining room? You could have a whole Victor von Doom thing going on.
- I really want to see “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” I think that will be next for a sleepless night.