December 18, 2016

Frankie's Holiday

The Monster is a reliable TV pitchman, a Halloween favorite, here making a rare Christmastime appearance. Beautifully done, genuinely touching, this one just might be an instant classic.

Frankie’s Holiday was created by TBWA for Apple, with a judiciously cast Brad Garrett — all of 6’8” and deep-voiced — as The Monster. Garrett is perhaps best remembered for his supporting role in the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond.

The Christmas electrodes are a nice touch.

Happy Holidays!

November 1, 2016

"Good Night, Whatever You Are"

John Zacherle died, having just turned 98, on Thursday, October 27, a few days short of Halloween, a holiday he essentially personified.

First as Roland out of Philadelphia, and more famously as Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul, in New York, he was a pioneering TV Horror Host. He was among those who introduced the Universal Classics to the first generation of Monster Kids. He was a revelator and, through the years, he remained a touchstone, a direct link back to one’s own adolescence and our love of monsters. For those of us who never had the privilege of seeing him as a TV Host, we learned about him from Famous Monsters magazine and his horror-themed novelty records. Right to the end, he was proud of his accomplishments and still wore his long undertaker’s coat to convention appearances.

Zacherle had not seen the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN until he introduced the film on his show. He would go on to present most of the Universal Frankensteins over the years, and he would go on to a cameo as a TV weatherman in a Frankenstein film, Frank Henenlotter’ FRANKENHOOKER (1990).

To understand Zacherley’s impact and enduring importance, I urge you to read David Colton’s touching tribute on the Classic Horror Film Board.

See Zacherley in action on YouTube

Here is an obituary from The New York Times.

October 2, 2016

The Art of Frankenstein : Nat Jones

A splendid illustration by Nat Jones adorns the cover of Rue Morgue magazine, out this week, celebrating Halloween and the 200th Anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Jones is a renowned for his work in comic books, video games and film.

Note: Posting here on Frankensteinia will resume shortly after an unexpected hiatus, due to a very busy year of professional obligations. Research has been ongoing and I have lots of fun things to share. 

Nat Jones website. 

June 16, 2016

The Villa Diodati

"A menagerie, with eight enormous dogs, three monkeys, five cats, an eagle, a crow, and a falcon: and all these, except the horses, walk about the house, which every now and then resounds with their unarbitrated quarrels, as if they were masters of it."

— Percy Bysshe Shelley

In 1816, Lord Byron rented the manor known as the Villa Diodati, near Cologny, on Lake Geneva. The house already had solid literary credentials. Its original owner, Giovanni Diodati, had translated the Bible into Italian and French, and the poet John Milton (whom Mary would quote in Frankenstein) is said to have vacationed there in 1639.

Byron was joined that fateful summer by his personal physician, John Polidori, and his guests: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin (soon to be Shelley), and Claire Claremont. It was here that ghosts stories were read aloud, and at the nearby guesthouse where she resided that Mary conceived of Frankenstein and first wrote these words that, slightly edited, would open chapter five of the book: “It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld my man completed…

The villa still stands. It is the square building, right of center, in the GoogleEarth image below.

Mary Shelley, a Tell-Tale Moon, and the creation of Frankenstein

An article in the November 2011 issue of Sky & Telescope reveals the precise moment, down to date and hour, when Mary Shelley conceived of Frankenstein.

In her introduction to the 1831 edition of the novel, Mary described a dream in which she saw “the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together”, and how “the hideous phantasm of a man” came alive “on the working of some powerful engine”. Brought awake by the startling vision, Mary wrote, “I see them still; the very room, the dark parquet, the closed shutters, with the moonlight struggling through, and the sense I had that the glassy lake and white high Alps were beyond.

Now, the moment of revelation has been pinpointed.

Dr. Don Olson, an astrophysicist at Texas State University-San Marcos, practices the unconventional science of “forensic astronomy”. Working with fellow scientists and students, matching the tantalizing clues found in text, archives and maps with the irrefutable logic of star charts, tide schedules and field expeditions, Dr. Olson has solved historical puzzles, revealing new information, new layers of meaning and a new appreciation for famous moments in history and art.

Among other discoveries, Olson and his team have re-dated Caesar’s invasion of Britain in 55 BC; explained how a rare low tide doomed the Marines at Tarawa Beach in 1943, and how a rising moon led to the tragic sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945. In significant contributions to art history, Olson has pinpointed the exact locations and the precise moments captured in paintings by such artists as William Blake, Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch, notably identifying the tortured sky in Munch’s The Scream as the planet-spanning effect of the Krakatoa eruption. Olson can even tell the exact instant when Ansel Adams clicked the shutter on his most famous photograph.

In literature, Olson has studied Chaucer, Whitman and identified Hamlet’s star as a supernova. Now, turning to Mary Shelley, Olsen and his collaborators have settled the issue of when, exactly, Frankenstein was conceived.

The clue lay in Mary’s description of moonlight “struggling” through closed shutters. Based on lunar cycles and confirming results on a field trip to Villa Diodati at Cologny, Switzerland, Olson was able to determine which of two recorded dates for Mary’s inspiration was the correct one. On June 22, 1816, a waning moon rode too low to illuminate Mary’s room, but the other documented date, June 16, proved just right as a gibbous moon rose high and bright enough to be noticed by the awakened Mary. Working out the angles, Olson is also able to attest that the moon shone into Mary’s bedroom at 2 AM.

As morning came, Mary writes, “I announced that I had thought of a story. I began that day with the words, ‘It was on a dreary night of November,’ making only a transcript of the grim terrors of my waking dream.”

Thus confirmed, Mary Shelley began Frankenstein on June 16, 1816. The moon tells us so.

Sky & Telescope magazine, and a digital preview of the November 2011 issue.

Don Olson’s website at Texas State University.

April 8, 2016

The Fiancée de Frankenstein

French actress Audrey Tautou, perhaps best know as the shy and gently eccentric heroine of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s AMÉLIE (2001) posed for the May 2006 issue of Elle magazine as a goth Bride of Frankenstein in a red satin cocktail dress.

The same month, a New York Times article entitled “Sans Makeup, S’il Vous Plaît” discussed the French “Le No Makeup Look”, directly referencing the Elle issue as the cover featured Tautou, “the anti-star”, sporting what they called the “Le Bare Face Look” in direct contrast with her powdered face and dark-eyed, frizzy-haired appearance within, suggesting, perhaps, that overdone makeup is only suitable for Frankenstein’s Fiancée.

 If you ask me, both versions of Ms Tatou look great.

December 24, 2015

Red Frankenstein by Darryl Cunningham

The movies’ flattop and bolts Frankenstein Monster rocks his Che Guevara t-shirt and pulp culture icons of the twentieth century are monster-mashed into this wonderful sketch by cartoonist Darryl Cunningham — previously profiled here as the author of Uncle Bob and the Frankenstein Monster.

Darryl posted this recently, with a shout-out to Frankensteinia, on his Facebook page. I just had to share it on the blog. 

Best of the Holidays, everyone, and here’s to a great New Year!

November 21, 2015

80th Anniversary BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN series
The Bride is Released!

Back in 2011, here on this blog, we determined that Universal’s original FRANKENSTEIN (1931) had actually been released on November 20, a day earlier than most sources claim. Dial up Google, check the IMDB, they still say November 21, but we have proven otherwise. Now, supported by the ads posted here, we can demonstrate that BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) actually started playing three days earlier than the “official” release date generally quoted in books and online.

The actual “release” date is, by definition, the day when a film begins playing on a regular schedule. There may be prior screenings, as “Premieres” or “Preview Showings”, but these do not count towards the actual release date. The classic, Hollywood-style Premiere is a stand-alone promotional event with fanfare, klieg lights and attending movie stars. The “Preview Showing” describes when a new film is sneaked into a movie house for the purpose of gauging the moviegoers’ reactions. For instance, the original FRANKENSTEIN (1931) was shown in a Santa Barbara theatre about three weeks prior to its actual release. This particular screening, by the way, created the stubborn myth that Boris Karloff was not invited to the film’s premiere. Nice story, but false. Point is, there was no official premiere for FRANKENSTEIN.

If you Google “Bride Frankenstein Release”, your first hit, in large characters, claims “April 22, 1935”. Go to the IMDB, and the USA release date is stated, again, as April 22. A possible explanation is that the date was quoted by Universal as the planned release date, even though films rarely if ever launched on Mondays.

Did some digging and, to settle the issue, here are two contemporary ads from the pages of the Chicago Tribune. At top, dated April 18, 1935, an ad for the RKO Palace announces, “Tomorrow.. The World Premiere!” And what a show it was, with The Bride supported by a “Huge Stage Review”. The next day ad, also shown here, from Good Friday, April 19, proclaims, “The World Premiere… Today — 10:45 A.M.” featuring “Twice the Terrific Thrills of Frankenstein”.

And there you have it. BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN was actually released on April 19, 1935. Not April 22.

It must be noted that Stephen Jacobs, in his superb biography Boris Karloff, More Than a Monster, points to San Francisco as the premiere city, also on April 19. Who knows, maybe Chicago’s RKO Palace scored the “World’s Premiere” claim by virtue of its early first show, 10:45 AM, while it was still 7:45 on the West Coast!

And so we wrap up our BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN 80th Anniversary series. No worries, as we return to our regular posting, I’ve lots of BRIDE material on hand and ongoing research to be posted in the weeks and months to come.

I hope you enjoyed our visit with the Bride of Frankenstein!