Boris Karloff. Now there’s a name, in more ways than one. While not the first to play the role, he is in many ways the definitive Frankenstein’s Monster. The one every other Monster actor gets compared to and found lacking (and yeah, I’m including Curse of Frankenstein‘s Christopher Lee in this).
He made three movies portraying the role before moving on (the original, Bride of, and Son of, respectively), but by that time he was already type cast as “Monster”. The type of monster, though, tended to change from film to film. As the forties rolled in, when he wasn’t playing mad killers he was playing mad scientists.
Which, now that I think about it, are almost the same thing. Except with more technobabble.
A perfect example of the mad scientist typecasting appears when one glances at his output in 1940. Karloff made eight films that year, and half of them had him playing scientists of dubious methods, if not intent. In Black Friday he was a surgeon performing the world’s first brain transplant, resulting in a man who was part average Joe, part gangster. In The Man with Nine Lives he was a research scientist who discovers the secrets of cryogenics and had no qualms murdering to continue his work. In Before I Hang he plays a scientist who, through a poorly timed pardon, becomes the next Jekyll-and-Hyde. Then in The Ape, he…
Wait a moment. Why don’t we turn the page and find out ourselves? It is today’s feature, after all.