It’s that time of year again…the leaves are changing color, the nights are getting colder, and everything is magically pumpkin flavored. Yes, it’s October, and time to watch 31 horror movies in 31 days. I didn’t make it last year, I think because I overthought things. This year, not so much. I didn’t even know what movie I was going to watch until I sat down at the computer.
I went with a classic, the 1931 Universal version of Frankenstein. In the 82 years since this movie was filmed, the image of Boris Karloff as the monster has become ingrained in the consciousness of movie audiences everywhere. He’s a joke now, almost, with Young Frankenstein (which I now have a crazy craving to watch), Herman Munster, and Frankenberry Cereal, to name a few. I’d read Mary Shelly’s novel in college, and pictured Karloff’s monster then, despite the fact that Shelly’s monster is erudite and well read. I tried to imagine, as the monster’s face was first revealed in the Universal movie, what audiences in 1931 must have thought of the sunken cheeks and hooded eyes, the shabby suit and zombie-like moans.
The movie caused quite a stir when it came out. Audiences weren’t permitted to see Maria’s body thrown in the lake—it was too violent. Henry (whose name in the book was Victor, but the studio worried that American audiences couldn’t empathize with a character named Victor Frankenstein) died in the original version of the screenplay, after the monster threw him from the windmill. Studios changed this to give him a happy ending, showing him convalescing with his fiancée. From IMDB’s trivia page:
“After bringing the monster to life, Dr. Frankenstein uttered the famous line, “Now I know what it’s like to BE God!” The movie was originally released with this line of dialogue, but when it was re-released in the late ’30s, censors demanded it be removed on the grounds that it was blasphemy. A loud clap of thunder was substituted on the soundtrack. The dialogue was partially restored on the video release, but since no decent recording of the dialogue could be found, it still appears garbled and indistinct. The censored dialog was partially returned to the soundtrack in the initial “restored version” releases. Further restoration has now completely brought back this line of missing dialog. A clean recording of the missing dialog was reportedly found on a Vitaphone disc (similar to a large phonograph record). Modern audio technology had to be used to insert the dialog back into the film without any detectable change in the audio quality.”
I enjoyed the film, even though I was surprised to learn that the hunchbacked assistant’s name was Fritz, not Igor. It’s always fun to watch movies that spawned so much culture. I leave you with the following musical number: