Appreciating all that makes America special

Film: Frankenstein

Boris Karloff endured hours in the makeup chair in order to become...the monster. Uploaded by

“It’s alive! It’s alive!” One of my all-time favorite movie quotes. So useful.

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As you probably know, Mary Shelley wrote the novel Frankenstein. But she would have had a difficult time recognizing this Boris Karloff classic
from 1931. Based on a play by Peggy Webling, it featured significant differences from Shelley’s book. Just one example: In the book, the monster taught himself to read by studying Milton’s Paradise Lost, and spoke quite clearly. Think how that would have ruined Phil Hartman characterization of Frankenstein on Saturday Night Live! No, far better that he just grunted.

Also, the assistant in the movie wasn’t named Igor. That name didn’t come about until Son of Frankenstein, the third (and last) to star Karloff, and the first to feature Lon Cheney as Ygor. In this movie, Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant was named “Fritz.” Doesn’t have the same cachet, does it?

While it doesn’t really scare us anymore, and Young Frankenstein has colored our perception of this predecessor, this Frankenstein and Boris Karloff’s visual is still our corporate understanding of the story. The American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Movies ranked Frankenstein at number 87.

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