The Many Faces of Monsters – Part 2
If Vampires don’t sink your stake then perhaps you’d prefer a monster with its roots based in early science fiction? Frankenstein’s monster has captivated audiences for years, not only does it have a physical monster in its tale but it also asks you to question the conventions of what truly makes a monster. Is it the creature stitched up from different corpses and then brought to life through experiments? Is it the doctor that was cruel enough to create such a man? Or is it the people that refuse to accept him and want him destroyed? Perhaps it’s all of them and perhaps it’s none of them, this story is intricately laced with moral questions whilst also containing enough horror elements to leave you spooked.
Perhaps the most enduring adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic is the 1931 film also titled Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff as the monster. This film, like Dracula was produced by Carl Laemmle Jr. After the success of Dracula he made immediate plans for more monster movies at Universal Studios, the first of which would be Frankenstein. Initially Bela Lugosi was set to play the role of the monster here as well, plans changed however after a series of makeup tests failed to impress him and he decided to leave the picture. This move has since been regarded as one of the biggest mistakes in his career due to the film’s success. It is however worth remembering that the part offered to him was miles apart from the one that ended up in the completed film. Robert Florey had initially been onboard as the film’s director; in his version the monster would have been a simple creature intent only on killing, more like a zombie.
A recent deal however caused huge changes for the film, Universal had signed on a director named James Whale who had recent success within the new ‘talkie’ film scene. As part of the deal he had been given his pick of any of the projects in the company’s line up and apparently was immediately attracted to Frankenstein. The move would turn out to be an inspired one; Whale heavily reworked the script and brought back to it the humanity that is present in the novel. Whales influence on the horror scene cannot be understated, not only did he bring real sensibility and clout to this film but he also went on to create other such films as The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man and of course The Bride of Frankenstein.
The Bride of Frankenstein was released in 1935 and was the first of many sequels to the original 1931 film. Whale didn’t want to make the film at first, he believed he’d already done all he could with the character, however after his work on The Invisible Man Laemmie Jr. knew he had to have Whale at the helm of this sequel. He was sure the film couldn’t be as good as the first, though today it is considered by many as one of the few sequels in history that is better than the original film in its franchise.