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Old 02-27-2010, 12:53 AM
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100 Years of Frankenstein in Cinema!

Although may be we all HDC Horror Classic lovers here already know about it but still I open this thread is for a little way to tribute & share the joy of Frankenstein's undisputed giant legacy in history of world cinema.

Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, and the famous character of Frankenstein's monster have influencing the popular culture for more than a century. The work has inspired numerous films, television programs, video games and derivative works.
Though in popular culture, people have tended incorrectly to refer to the monster as "Frankenstein", but the character of the monster remains one of the most recognized icons in horror fiction. Frankenstein is infused with some elements of the Gothic novel and the Romantic movement. It was also a warning against the expansion of modern man in the Industrial Revolution, alluded to in the novel's subtitle, The Modern Prometheus. The story has had an enormous influence across literature and popular culture and spawned a complete genre of horror stories and films.

Now, it has been almost exactly 100 years ago when our beloved Monster first made its appearance in celluloid arena. The story of Frankenstein was first brought to the screen in 1910, about 15 years after the invention of the new medium film. On January 17, 1910 J. Searle Dawley and his crew of actors began work on a new film in the Edison studios at Decatur Avenue and Oliver Place in the Bronx, New York City. It was to be the first motion picture adaptation of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein". Written by Dawley and included and uncredited cast of Augustus Phillips as Dr. Frankenstein, Charles Ogle as the Monster, and Mary Fuller as the doctor's fiancée.



The film, which ran 12 minutes, was shot in just three days and was released a little over 2 months later on March 18, 1910. "Frankenstein" got moderate success. But this is one of the only Frankenstein films where the monster is truly created. All Frankenstein films that followed assembled body parts from various corpses to make the monster. In this film, Frankenstein uses chemicals and "potions" to create the monster. The "creation" scene was made by filming a monster-dummy burning, and then playing the footage backwards.
Although some sources credit Thomas Edison as the producer, he in fact played no direct part in the activities of the motion picture company that bore his name.
For many years, this film was believed to be a lost film. In 1963, a plot description and stills were discovered published in the March 15, 1910 issue of an old Edison film catalog, The Edison Kinetogram. In the 1950s, a print of this film was purchased by a Wisconsin film collector, Alois F. Dettlaff, who did not realize its rarity until many years later. Its existence was first revealed in the mid-1970s. Although somewhat deteriorated, the film was in viewable condition, complete with titles and tints as seen in 1910. Dettlaff had a 35 mm preservation copy made by the George Eastman House in the late 1970s, at which point it was reintroduced to film audiences.

For the ones who haven't seen the film yet:




The second adaptation entitled Life Without Soul was made in 1915 by director Joseph Smiley. Starring William A. Cohill as Dr. William Frawley - a modern-day Frankenstein who creates a soulless man, played to much critical praise by Percy Standing, who wore little make-up in the role. In this version the name Frankenstein was not used. The Monster kills his sister. He chases it across Europe and shoots it shortly before he dies of exhaustion.
The film was shot at various locations around the United States, and reputedly featured much spectacle. In the end, it turns out that a young man has dreamed the events of the film after falling asleep reading Mary Shelley's novel. This film is now considered a lost film.
There was also at least one European film version, the Italian Il Mostro di Frankenstein ("The Monster of Frankenstein") in 1920. The film's producer Luciano Albertini essayed the role of Frankenstein, with the creature being played by Umberto Guarracino, and Eugenio Testa directing from a screenplay by Giovanni Drivetti. his version includes a confrontation between Frankenstein and his creation, a scene apparently taken from the novel. Unfortunately no copies of this film exist anymore making it impossible to reconstruct the full plot of Testa's movie.

Source: Wikipedia, Newyorkcity100yearsago.blogspot.com, FrankensteinFilms.com.
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Old 02-27-2010, 01:00 AM
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The Golden Age of Universal & Hammer

[Frankenstein in 30's & 40's: Universal's Frankenstein Series]



And the later part of the history is very well known...Universal's revolutionary take on this monster is the longest-lasting and most memorable image of Frankenstein and his Monster that created in 1931, now often praised as the definitive horror film: Frankenstein. Its sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), was also directed by Whale and is probably the most critically-acclaimed of all the Universal horror films. The image of Boris Karloff in the flat-head monster mask with bolts in his neck and in undersized clothes has become part of popular culture; even the people of all ages across the globe are so familiar with it that Mary Shelley's this classic novel in translation at different parts of the world has already published with Franken-Karloff's image on the cover art. So by today it's not a bit exaggerating to saying that Boris Karloff's iconic impersonation of the Monster has become synonymous with the word "Frankenstein".



Hammer's take on late 50's to early 70's

Almost a decade after Universal Studios' last Frankenstein movie and after several years without any significant Frankenstein films, new life was injected into Mary Shelley's story and the Frankenstein myth was re-animated again when in 1957 British production company Hammer started their own series of adaptations with The Curse of Frankenstein. But this time everything was different: While the continuing element in Universal's series was the Monster, Hammer chose the person of Victor Frankenstein as their focal point and continuing element throughout the series.



This drastic deviation from the concept established earlier by Universal Studios probably resulted from concerns by producers Hinds and Carreras. Although their Frankenstein film was supposed to be based on Shelley's novel, which in 1957 was already in the public domain, they feared that Universal Studios might sue them for copyright infringement, when early drafts of the screenplay by Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky contained too many similarities to the Karloff films. Consequently, they commissioned several rewrites and finally hired Jimmy Sangster for the final draft. When The Curse of Frankenstein was released in 1957 it was an instant box office hit. The film had a strong effect on subsequent horror movies and changed the genre forever. Not only was it the first Frankenstein film in color, it was also the first horror film to show all the frightening details. Audiences could see eyeballs, brains in glass jars, the Monster's awfully disfigured face, and Peter Cushing unwrapping a pair of disembodied hands. This was a complete contradiction to the traditional American horror films of the 1930s and 1940s, where no horrific and gory details were shown and the real horror always happened off-screen. Curse of Frankenstein and its sequels created a new sensibility for the horror film, one far more open in dealing with sexuality and graphic violence. In regard to that Hammer's Curse of Frankenstein can be seen as the first predecessor of a horror film genre that became most popular in the late 70s, the so-called splatter film.
Stylistically, The Curse of Frankenstein is Gothic horror at its finest, with gloomy castles, eerie graveyards, and dark vaults galore. Director Terence Fisher masterfully uses costumes and stage props that recreate the period of the second half of the 19th century. The film is colorful and atmospheric, but never looks unreal or fantastic. The result is a very materialistic and realistic setting. Fisher's directing style is free of complicated camera movements, relying on precise and balanced compositions.
After the success of The Curse of Frankenstein Peter Cushing instantly became a star. From that moment on in the public opinion he was Baron Frankenstein. He played this role several times in almost all of Hammer's Frankenstein sequels. But Christopher Lee, who had played the Monster, had to wait one more year until stardom. Although he never again returned to the role of Mary Shelley's monster, he became famous as another monster from literature: Lee played Count Dracula in 1958's Horror of Dracula (along with Cushing as Van Helsing) and in its numerous sequels.

Source: FrankensteinFilms.com.

Last edited by roshiq; 02-27-2010 at 11:52 AM.
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Old 02-27-2010, 01:02 AM
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Frankenstein Conquers the World!

As a side effect, the unsuspected success of Hammer's first Frankenstein movie triggered the return of the great Boris Karloff to the Frankenstein franchise. In 1958's Frankenstein - 1970 Karloff plays Victor Von Frankenstein, a descendant of the original Frankenstein. The movie, directed by Howard Koch, is set in the 1970s and combines classic Frankenstein Gothic horror with typical 1950s atomic age scares.

Another Frankenstein adaptation from the 1950s worth mentioning is director Herbert Strock's low-budget I Was A Teenage Frankenstein. Produced by AIP in 1957 as a follow-up to I Was A Teenage Werewolf. The movie was moderately successful, but by today's standards it only qualifies as a schlock cult classic.


Other films & later decades of Frankenstein


The 1960s and 1970s were not particularly successful decades for Victor Frankenstein and his Monster. After the end of Hammer's own Frankenstein series with the final entry Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, cinemas were flooded with mostly Italian and Spanish low-budget productions that tried to exploit Mary Shelley's story and the popular Frankenstein "brand". Most of these titles hardly contributed anything new to the Frankenstein myth and ended up as being crude mixtures of sex, violence and bad screenwriting. However, despite their lack of any serious cinematic merit, many of these movies have since become "cult classics". They are still favorites at midnight screenings and cult film festivals, mostly due to their low-budget origins and ridiculous plots and dialogue.

Frankenstein across the globe:




Building on their successful Gojira monster series, Japanese studio Toho released two movies with references to Frankenstein in the 1960s, directed by Ishiro Honda: In 1965s Furankenshutain tai chitei kaijû Baragon (Frankenstein Conquers the World) the immortal heart of Frankenstein's monster is brought to Japan, where it is revived by nuclear radiation during the bombing of Hiroshima. The heart mutates into a boy who then grows and finally develops into a giant monster, which battles Baragon, a dinosaur released during an earthquake. The sequel Furankenshutain no kaiju: Sanda tai Gaira (1966) has only loose connections to the Frankenstein story, which were completely edited out in the US-distributed version entitled War of the Gargantuas. Basically, the plot revolves around two hairy giant monsters spawned from cells of the Frankenstein monster, which end up battling each other. Both movies are notable for the fact that the name Frankenstein refers to the monsters rather than the creator.

Il mostro di Frankenstein aka The Monster of Frankenstein (1921) [Italy]
Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965) [Japan]
Lady Frankenstein (1971)
[Italy]
The Rites of Frankenstein (1972) [Spain]
Drácula contra Frankenstein (1972) [Spain]
O Frankenstein de Moisés Neto - Versão Muda (1989) [Brazil]
La sangre de Frankenstein (2002) [Argentina]


Just as Mary Shelley's novel influenced many other writers or inspired them to write continuations and adaptations, the huge number of Frankenstein movies spawned an even greater number of films about mad scientists and their human creations. Most of them are forgettable and can easily be dismissed as trash. Still, there are a few films worth mentioning that adapt aspects of Victor Frankenstein's story in a very intelligent way, yet without naming their source or making direct references to Frankenstein.
In fact most cinematic variations of the Frankenstein/mad scientist theme, including many Hammer and Universal Frankenstein films, can be reduced to the simple formula: "Scientist creates monster - monster runs berserk - justice is done to the scientist by the hands of his own creation". Many film producers and screenwriters have adapted this formula with varying degrees of success and those have at least added interesting original ideas to the simple basic plot.
However, at all times, more "traditional" adaptations of the Frankenstein plot featuring re-animated corpses and body parts, mostly B movies and direct-to-video fare, still today managed to attract the horror audience.

Source: Wikipedia, FrankensteinFilms.com.

Last edited by roshiq; 02-27-2010 at 11:54 AM.
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Old 02-27-2010, 01:05 AM
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Well done, Roshiq, that was a good summary.

It is a shame that some of those early films are lost. It would be wonderful to see these films that we can only read about today.
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Old 02-27-2010, 01:13 AM
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Originally Posted by ManchestrMorgue View Post
Well done, Roshiq, that was a good summary.

It is a shame that some of those early films are lost. It would be wonderful to see these films that we can only read about today.
Ditto.

Actually lately I came to know about that first 1910 Frankenstein film and then knowing that it's been just 100 years for Frankenstein in movie screen..I thought we can at least share some love, joy or may be more info that we can gather here for our beloved favorite character of all time.

Thank you.:)
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Old 02-27-2010, 02:23 AM
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A very wonderful essay, Roshiq. I enjoyed reading it very much. (BTW- The graphic for Curse of Frankenstein is not showing)

A couple of other adaptations that are notable, IMO are the TV mini-series billed as "Frankenstein, The True Story." It manages to pretty much make a straight adaptation of the book, without leaving any major parts out. It had a wonderful cast, too- Michael Sarazin, James Mason and David McCallum, included.

Also, just a couple of years ago I rented a movie on demand that was a super low-budget affair with a cast of four that was a modern day rumination on the Frankenstein motif. It involved a doctor who lives with his wife in the country who is experimenting on animals and reviving them after dead. There were some pretty disturbing elements to it. I wish I could remember the name!

Anyway, excellent work.
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Old 02-27-2010, 02:45 AM
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Originally Posted by neverending View Post
A very wonderful essay, Roshiq. I enjoyed reading it very much. (BTW- The graphic for Curse of Frankenstein is not showing)

A couple of other adaptations that are notable, IMO are the TV mini-series billed as "Frankenstein, The True Story." It manages to pretty much make a straight adaptation of the book, without leaving any major parts out. It had a wonderful cast, too- Michael Sarazin, James Mason and David McCallum, included.

Also, just a couple of years ago I rented a movie on demand that was a super low-budget affair with a cast of four that was a modern day rumination on the Frankenstein motif. It involved a doctor who lives with his wife in the country who is experimenting on animals and reviving them after dead. There were some pretty disturbing elements to it. I wish I could remember the name!

Anyway, excellent work.
Though I haven't done actually nothing special...just tried to gather all the necessary info in one thread but anyway, it's an honor for me & I'm really glad that you liked it. :)

Btw, anyone is welcome to figure the title of the film that NE just mentioned here...I'm eager to check that out.
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Old 02-27-2010, 06:01 AM
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Really enjoyed reading that, thanks for taking the time to put it together, Roshiq. The concepts behind Frankenstein have always been so easy to appreciate and enjoy that its easy to see why it remains a staple of horror.
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Old 02-27-2010, 06:31 AM
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That Edison had his paws in everything.
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Old 02-27-2010, 10:15 AM
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Excellent article, Rosh. Well written and very informative.

Everyone's beloved monster turned 100 on the silver screen. A momentous occasion for sure!
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