“I think it will thrill you, it may shock you, it might even horrify you.”
Mostaficionados are familiar with the Universal Monster films, and maybe the James Whale-directed Frankenstein more than others. The 1931 classic is responsible for the iconic Jack P. Pierce-created image of the Frankenstein monster we all love and adore: flat-top head, sunken cheeks, droopy eyes, and, of course, the neck bolts. It’s the image that’s endured more than 80 years, the one we think of when we want to be the Monster for , the likeness that’s still copyrighted despite the Frankenstein story entering the public domain. And to think, we almost didn’t have Boris Karloff in this iconic role.
Lugosi as Frankenstein?
The Monster role was originally offered to Bela Lugosi and test footage of him in the role was shot on the set of Dracula. Actually, Lugosi was first offered the role of Dr. Frankenstein, but was then “downgraded” to play the Monster. He apparently didn’t like the fact that there were no lines and left the production.
A promotional poster was made, billing Lugosi as the Monster and without the famous flat-top head. This is clearly what inspired the 1958 film, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.
The worst part about Karloff’s involvement was such that he was such a relatively unknown actor at the time that he wasn’t even invited to the film’s premiere.
The only continuous “reel” of the 1931 Frankenstein I could find is in German. You can watch that at www.veoh.com if you wish. What I’ve embedded above is in parts, but they’re all there, and the clips include the controversial and deleted scenes. The 1930s public were so sensitive.
These deleted scenes include the famous Dr. Frankenstein line, “In the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!” I guess that’s rather blasphemous, but fairly pedestrian by today’s standards. The other notable deleted scene shows the Monster throwing little Maria into the lake, and her ultimate demise.
Frankenstein received critical and public praise at the time, and it’s gone on to be included in a number of lists, such as being the 87th greatest film of all time, having the 49th greatest movie quote in American cinema, and being the 14th scariest movie of all time, among other accolades.
While liberties were taken that deviated the film from Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, a must-read, it spawned several sequels and even more remakes, none of which compare to this cinema classic.
The Cast of Frankenstein:
Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein
Mae Clarke as Elizabeth
John Boles as Victor Moritz
Boris Karloff (billed as “?” in the opening credits only) as Frankenstein’s monster
Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Waldman
Frederick Kerr as Baron Frankenstein
Dwight Frye as Fritz
Lionel Belmore as Herr Vogel, the Burgomaster
Marilyn Harris as Little Maria