Frankenstein (Cultographies) by Robert Horton

By Robert Horton

James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) spawned a phenomenon that has been rooted in international tradition for many years. This cinematic Prometheus has generated numerous sequels, remakes, rip-offs, and parodies in each media, and this granddaddy of cult video clips continually renews its fans in every one iteration. in addition to an in-depth severe interpreting of the unique 1931 movie, this booklet tracks Frankenstein the monster's heavy cultural tread from Mary Shelley's resource novel to today's net chat rooms.

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THE MONSTER RALLIES According to a merry New York Times writer in October 1938, as far as Universal had been concerned, the original Dracula and Frankenstein ‘were reverently coiled up in their tin cans like a pair of anchovies and interred in dead storage to sleep the sleep of the just’ (1938: 160). Then, sometime in the boxoffice doldrums of late summer, desperate exhibitors in Los Angeles and Seattle decided to disinter the two films and play them as a double bill. The key was the advertising: instead of playing down the terror, the promoters actively dared the audience to show up.

Whale had pronounced himself not interested in The Return of Frankenstein, as the sequel was initially called, claiming to have ‘squeezed the idea dry’ (Hitchcock, 2007: 172) with the first film. Karloff was game, but now feeling protective of the Monster – he was sceptical about having the Monster speak in the sequel, and when Universal came up with a lighter, cork-filled pair of boots to stomp around in, Karloff stuck with the heavy originals, to keep that Monster feel. Universal, naturally, stirred the publicity fires, including the announcement that Karloff would wear a veil over his head while moving between dressing room and soundstage.

I WAS A TEENAGE PHENOMENON Given the many horror movie characters that flourished in this era, Frankenstein was obviously not alone in creating cult status; indeed, the entire ‘golden era’ of movie horror became something of a cult by the mid-1950s, and continues so today. But Frankenstein’s Monster was the big one, somehow – the Clark Gable of movie monsters, the King of the unholy crew, the monster with the largest footprint, in every sense. W. Murnau’s unauthorised – and sublime – Bram Stoker rip-off from 1922, Nosferatu), but Dracula suffered from a scattered sequel history.

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