Tag Archives: 1945

Nolan’s Insomnia Theater Presents: “Frankenstein” (1931)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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).
  4. “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.
  5. 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.)
  6. 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:

  1.  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.
  2. I really want to see “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.”  I think that will be next for a sleepless night.


Frankenstein_(1931_teaser_poster_-_Style_B)

“If the Bill of Rights were to be broken down, all groups, even the most conservative, would be in danger …”

“[T]here are some people who wish us to enact laws which would seriously damage the right of free speech and which could be used not only against subversive groups but against other groups engaged in political or other activities which were not generally popular. Such measures would not only infringe on the Bill of Rights and the basic liberties of our people; they would also undermine the very internal security they seek to protect.

Laws forbidding dissent do not prevent subversive activities; they merely drive them into more secret and more dangerous channels. Police states are not secure; their history is marked by successive purges, and growing concentration camps, as their governments strike out blindly in fear of violent revolt. Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.

We must, therefore, be on our guard against extremists who urge us to adopt police state measures. Such persons advocate breaking down the guarantees of the Bill of Rights in order to get at the communists. They forget that if the Bill of Rights were to be broken down, all groups, even the most conservative, would be in danger from the arbitrary power of government.”

— Harry S. Truman, Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States, August 8, 1950

 

HarryTruman

Presidential portrait of Harry Truman, by Greta Kempton, 1945