The movies were still very much in their infancy when FRANKENSTEIN was brought to the screen for the first time. Edison produced a one-reel, 975ft, version in 1910. A film lost to the ravages of time. Two reviews in the Moving Picture World of the time gave this information: ". . . a liberal adaptation of Mrs. Shelly's famous story . . . it shows Frankenstein, a young student leaving his father and sweetheart to pursue his studies at college. In the course of his research he discovers the awful mystery of life and death and immediately determines to realize his one consuming ambition to create the most perfect human. being that the world has ever seen.

The actually repulsive situations in the original version have been carefully eliminated . . . no film has ever been released that can surpass it in power to fascinate an audience. The scene in the laboratory in which the monster seemed gradually to assume human semblance is probably the most remarkable ever committed to a film." --MPW March 19th, 1910-

"The formation of the monster in the cauldron of blazing chemicals is a piece of photo graphic work which will rank with the best of its kind. The entire film is one that will create a new impression that the possibilities of the motion picture in reproducing these stories are scarcely realized. . ." MPW April 2nd, 1910.

The review in the March 15th, 1910 Edison Cinetogram gives the impression of a Jekyll-Hyde or Dorian Gray treatment of a story- that the monster is somehow connected with the lower part of Frankenstein's nature, and that when the young scientist loses all morbid, unnatural thoughts and ambitions, and thinks only of his love for Elizabeth, the monster dissolves into thin air. This same issue has two rare stills of the monster, looking something like the dwarf, Mime, in Fritz Lang's SIEGFRIED. Of course, credits were rarely if ever given in films or their reviews at that time, so it's not known who worked in or on the film.

The powerful image of the Frankenstein monster from Mary Shelly's memorable novel has been a source of movie inspiration almost from the beginning of the medium, and continues to be a large box-office attraction even in this day of epic spectacles.

It was well over a century since this classical story had first been told. Mary W. Shelley's strange novel was published in 1818. The authoress was the wife of Percy Shelley, the famed poet. She had written and researched the story on a dare! when she was only eighteen. The novel achieved worldwide fame. It is still solidly in print -recently having sold over quarter of a million copies in  a paperback edition-. But the movie became known to people who had never heard of the book.

The word "Frankenstein" has become part of the language. -It has also, by mistake, become attached not to the famous doctor but to his gruesome creation. An extensive search has been under way for many years to locate some print or even a scene from the first film version of the novel, filmed by Thomas Edison about 60 years ago! Many film collectors are still confidentof eventual success, although others are afraid that this rare classic has been lost forever.

The first surviving version Golem was made in Germany in 1914. The part of the clay giant, brought to life through magical means, was played by Paul Wegener, who himself produced and again starred in the second version. Homunculus, made in 1916 is about a powerful artificial man who brings death and destruction upon mankind until killed by a bolt of lightning.

The first FRANKENSTEIN was directed by the great late James Whale; we owe all later versions to him. He was the genius behind it all. John P. Fulton's electrical and photographic wizardry was responsible for the fabulous apparatus that brought the monster to fearful life. Jack Pierce's make up, which took hours to apply, was the foundation of the grand illusion.

An expert cast also assisted. Mae Clarke was Elizabeth, the first of many heroines to scream and faint after catching sight of the undying Monster for the first time. Edward Van Sloan portrayed Dr. Waldman and Dwight Frye was the famous hunchback servant with the sadistic streak giggling and laughing as he tormented The Monster with the waving of a flaming torch.

The Boris Karloff Frankenstein was very commercial in concept. The Golem had been highly succesful, and Lugosi's Dracula had proved the financial advantages of the eerie sound motion picture. And of course Lon Chaney's silent masterpieces had more than proven themselves. But the idea of Frankenstein was also highly risky. It would be the first picture actually concerned with revival of a dead being. And not just one being, but a number of corpses, desecrated from their holy burial and sewn to gether into one being.

Could such a presentation survive the criticism and objections that were bound to be deluged upon it? In a way it was  an extremely risky gamble. No commercially motivated backer would have dared stick his money into such a gamble.

Yet, within its budget, Frankenstein remained fairly close to the original book with the notable exception that Shelly's  monster despite his hideous form is superior to man in every respect including intellectually -and morally?-  Shelly's  monster is not a lumbering oaf to be pitied, rather an ubermensch to be feared.

A primary defect of the Boris Karloff Frankenstein, although the best to date,was the limited boundaries of the monster's travels. The original novel screams for color and vast backgrounds of ice and snow. The book was not widely read, and the cast was not even headed by a name star -Lugosi had refused the roll of the creature.- But sincerity of production triumphed, and, as is often the case with truely original approaches, the final product realized a fortune.

Bride of Frankenstein took another careful look at the book and drew forth much that had been bypassed the first time around. In a special prologue, Miss Lanchester is shown as the authoress of the story, Mary Shelley. She continues the story of Frankenstein from where it had left off at the end of the first film. We see Dr. Pretorius, coming to see Dr. Frankenstein and persuading him to continue his experiments. They decide to create a bride for the monster, who still lives. Dr. Pretoriusis a strange individual indeed. He keeps tiny people in bottles and he tries to teach the monster to speak .... with some success.

In the third film the monster is as dumb as at the start. The monster is captured, and imprisoned in the village jail. But it escapes.It also meets an old, blind hermit who treats it like an equal, not being able to see its ugly form. Frankenstein refuses to go on with his experiments, and the monster then steals the Doctor's wife, Elizabeth. Forced to continue, he creates a mate who screams and shrieks and shrinks away from the "bridegroom." In rage, the monster throws the inevitable switch, and the laboratory blows sky-high.

Bride of Frankenstein, although an imitation, was artistically successful through sheer inertia from the first production. Son of Frankenstein, by all rights, should have been commercial garbage. Son of Kong sold itself totally on a good reputation in the name, made a fast buck, and retreated to count its spurious gains. Son of Frankenstein could very well have done the same. Yet the producers didn't. They gave their theme a fresh approach, a name cast, and more than adequate funds to produce another classic. Son of Frankenstein, the last of the Boris Karloff trilogy, was in many ways equal, if not superior to "Bride".

The fourth film, although shoddy in many respects -make-up defects were not properly attended to before close-up shots, unlike the minute care taken in the first film- came forth with a good deal of dramatic power all its own. Few people seeing Ghost of Frankenstein could forget the sequence of the monster surviving even deriving energy from the very lightning which killed Nomunculus.

Then, in 1943, screenplay scripter Curt Siodmak penned the fast-paced FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN. Universal Jumped on it hoping to suck the last drops of life out of two over exposed brand names. Bela Lugosi, who had originally been screen tested for the role of theFrankenstein monster in 1931, at last a dozen years later, doffing his cape of Dracula, became the creature created by Boris Karloff.

Lon Chaney repeated his role of Larry Talbot, victim of Iycanthropy. Four years after the tragic death of Larry Talbot, killed by his own father, two sinister figures enter the graveyard where the Talbot crypt is located, planning to rob the body of Larry Talbot of its valuables. When they open the coffin, they are frightened to find the corpse in a perfect state of preservation except for a large scar on its forehead where Larry was beaten to death in his werewolf form.

The full moon shines through the window and falls on the exposed body. A moment later, one of the grave robbers is seized by the hand of the corpse itself and dragged screaming toward the coffin. The other villain scrambles outof the crypt, a babbling oaf. The over hammy portrayal of the creature by Bela Lugosi in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man makes one give thanks that he passed the offered role to Boris Karloff originally. In 1956 at the time of Hammer's Curse of Frankenstein, -the features of the Frankenstein monster were familiar in everyone's mind. The Boris Karloff version no longer held intrinsic terror. It had long since been lost to the parade of silly cartoons, bad remakes and endless merchandising aimed at small childern. The price of success.

Unfortunately, a heavy price paid by Boris Karloff in later years, since his original brilliant performance was so closely tied to his fortune. Hollywood systematically reduced Frankenstein from monster to baffon as it drained every dime it could from the brand.  The Frankenstein name now became a mixed blessing for Boris Karloff.

Then came Hammer Productions. The Frankenstein name, by this time, was not an assured box office success. Color could lend the subliminal suggestion of "quality". But to be on the safe side, plenty of sex and blood would always attract a crowd. In UK post war it became necessary to look deeper into the original story and make the good Victor an out-and-out sex-fiend if not a out right Joseph Mengela. Curse of Frankenstein,  relied upon the horror of gore and brutality to take audiences to a  neo-realist level of "terror." Not an easy task in post war England.

Boris Karloff had said, "There is a vast difference between the meanings of terror and horror. The difference? Terror is a psychological fear. Horror is that which is repulsive to the intellect." The major impact inherent within the true "terror" movie does not lie within an effort to "jolt" the audience nor does it lay in a sleepy atmospheric melodrama or silly slap stick.

Hammer's Curse of Frankenstein was a blockbuster and propelled the tiny studio into the international spotlight. Frankenstein's creation was shot, burned, frozen, electrocuted and blown up a score or more times in America, Mexico and France and still Frankenstein's creation lives on, terrorizing maiming killing again and again. Almost as indestructible as the monster himself was his creator, this time actor Peter Cushing, seen for the third time in the role of diabolical Baron Frankenstein.

In THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, starring Christopher Lee, in '56, Cushing cheated guillotine at the end when a friend in disguise took his place. In REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN 2 years later, an enraged mob attacked him and beat his body to a bloody pulp, but a loyal assistant transferredhis still living undamaged brain to the fleshly frame of a man created by Cushing for an experiment he had not yet completed. The body & brain were brought to life and a new Dr. Frankenstein, -Cushing- -surgeon extraordinary, appeared in London under an assumed name.

Hammer's Frankenstein distinguishes itself from the cheap blood sex products of the grade-C line successors . Blood faithful adaptation, and cinema artistry are often  sacrificed for the sake of fast sales and low mentality appeal but not by Hammer during it's golden zeit.

However, grade-C line successors have their own very special appeal and are sometimes more entertaining than the o' so&n serious master pieces. yawn. Which is the kookier of the two MAGOO MEETS FRANKENSTEIN or FRANKENSTEIN 1887? As the near sighted MR. MAGOO on his annual tour to Europe drives a summer storm hits.  He takes shelter in the castle of Profossor Frankenstein, who is amid his secret experiment of creating a mechanical man. Mistaking the castle for a hotel MAGOO parks his car, walks over the drawbridge and is eagerly welcomed by the Professor. Next stop, chuckles the professor, is to endow the monster with thebrains of a man. Enter MAGOO mistaking the lab for a hotel bar.  Just in time, he steps out of the electric chair to swim in the hotel's Olympic size pool -the moat- and to frolic with the rubber alligators which  "appear so realistic "and you get the idea.

Close to 80 years ago there was another version of FRANKENSTEIN, a Melodramatic Burlesque in 3 acts by Richard Henry," presented at the Gaiety Theatrein London, England. It appears to have been an absolute riot. It featured not only the Monster but a vampire! Time was when tourists found this a free pass but Frankenstein has changed all time. Tourists no longer turn up. Vampires vex the village.

Bandits have banned its inhabitants. Nothing is made there now but bad debts.  Enter Mary Ann, the Maid of Mystery.The Witch! Which brings on Frankenstein to rescue lovely woman in distress. The Vampire Viscount gets into the act, and either his hair or Frankenstein's -it is not clear from the account-  keeps falling off. Frankenstein reveals his Invention: a Patent Mechanical Man, the resultof mechanical manual labor. Says Frankenstein: "A nameless dread doth in my bosom lurk. My scheme is good but what if it won't work? Sudden appearance of the Monster! The Creature learns to speak. Supernaturalism rears its ugly head as Dr. Frankenstein becomes a temporary victim oft he Vampire Viscount. Somewhere in Spain. Frankenstein the fugitive in chains. The Monster's Dawn of Love. The Monster orders a Bride. The Vampire Ballet. The Vampire's Violence. The Monster's Marriage comes to a conclusion with Honeymoonshine! and so on.

Is there any life left in the brand? Only time will tell, but it would be nice to see a verbatim version of Mary Shelly's book. One in which, we, not our creation are the monsters. Cover Page Index