Thursday, September 23, 2010

100 Years of Frankenstein in Film

Since reading yesterday that Guillermo del Toro was making a new adaptation of Frankenstein, I've been thinking about all of the other Frankenstein movies, and how many different actors have played the famous monster. Here are some of the more well-known ones.

1. Charles Ogle (Edison Studio's Frankenstein, 1910)
Its been 100 years since the very first film adaption of Mary Shelley's story. This film features Charles Ogle as the monster, and is a really short movie. Its interesting because the monster gets made by putting a bunch of powder in the giant tub, and is sort of put together by magic. In my opinion, the monster looks sort of ridiculous in this film, with his big ratty hair and his clown shoes, but I'll give him a break because this was a century ago.

2. Boris Karloff (Frankenstein 1931, Bride of Frankenstein 1935, Son of Frankenstein 1939)
Boris Karloff is definitely the most well-known off all the actors who've played Frankenstein's monster, and with good reason. Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein are arguably two of the greatest films of all time, and not just in the horror genre and that is mostly due to an excellent performance by Mr. Karloff. These movies also have the more well known way of creating the monster, with the use of lightning. In the book, Mary Shelley never says how the monster is made, so using lightning is just a Hollywood invention.. Boris Karloff is my favorite classic horror actor, and here is one of the best scenes in Frankenstein. This scene is really sad, and not just because of what happened to the little girl, but because the monster has no idea what he has done.

3. Lon Cheney Jr. (Ghost of Frankenstein, 1942)
Lon Cheney Jr. is more well-known for playing Lawrence Talbot (aka The Wolf Man), but he also played my favorite Universal monster.

4. Bela Lugosi (Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, 1943)

Remember that scene in Tim Burton's movie Ed Wood where Bela Lugosi (played by Martin Landau) was talking crap about Karloff playing the monster? "Its all grunting and make-up..." I always laugh during that scene because Mr. Lugosi has been in several Frankenstein movies. He's played Ygor (my favorite Lugosi character, better than Dracula in my opinion), and, of course, the monster. I read somewhere that they cut all of his lines in this movie because people didn't want to hear the moster speak with a Hungarian accent.

5. Glenn Strange (House of Frankenstein 1944, House of Dracula 1945, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein 1948)
Glenn Strange was the last person to play Frankenstein's monster in the old Universal Frankenstein series of films. I saw on this documentary once that in Boris Karloff's obituary, they actually put in a picture of Glenn Strange by mistake.

6. Christopher Lee (The Curse of Frankenstein, 1957)
In the late 50s and 60s, Hammer Films made a bunch of really great horror films, the best of them being The Curse of Frankenstein starring Peter Cushing (known to nerds like me as Grand Moff Tarkin) as the scientist Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as his creation. I like this film because it makes out the scienctist out to be more of a monster than the creature, which in my opinion is definitely the case. I mean, he works like hell to make a man, and then when he does he completely disowns him and doesn't even give him a name. Here's the scene from the movie where the creature comes to life.

7. Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, 1974)
Young Frankenstein is one of the funniest movies ever made, and is, in my opinion, the best Mel Brooks film. it is a parody of all of the old Universal horror films, and features Gene Wilders best performance as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (or Fronkensteen), as well as hilarious performaces by Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, and Peter Boyle as the creature. I've seen this movie a million or so times since I was a kid, and it keeps getting funnier every single time I see it. Here is what is probably the most well known scene.

8. Robert De Niro (Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, 1994)
Although it didn't get very good reviews, I actually really like this movie. I think that Robert De Niro does a fantastic job as the monster, and it really showcases how amazing he is as an actor. I also like this movie because even there there are a lot of differences, this movie is the closest to the novel that I have seen.

9. Shuler Hensley (Van Helsing, 2004)

This movie is a nice little tribute to classic Universal monsters. In Van Helsing, the creature is portrayed as all victim and is not at all a villian. The majority of the story is about keeping the creature away from Dracula because Dracula wants to use him to give life to his little mutant bat children since he is the "key" to his father's machine.

Future: Doug Jones in Guillermo del Toro's Frankenstein, 201-

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