Francis Edward Faragoh
First posted in a
different form on
March 3, 2012
The film that made Boris Karloff and destroyed Bela Lugosi. Or at least that’s the way the Horror film historians would have it. Whether this is the case might not be as clear-cut as they might think.
Intended to be his follow-up to Dracula (1930), Lugosi was less than thrilled with the idea of playing the monstrous creature. “I was a star in my country” he reportedly said, “and I will not be a scarecrow over here!” And a heart-throb at that. Had he had his druthers, the character certainly would have had a different portrayal to it than Karloff’s, and not necessarily as successful a one at that.
Whatever he thought or intended with the role, others factors might have kept him off the project in any case. Before camera rolled, Universal Pictures fired intended director, Robert Florey, and gave the reigns to James Whale. Let me underscore that a little. Whale had the option of doing any picture he wanted, and he chose Frankenstein. He had full control of casting, too. Odds are good, I think, that Lugosi’s number would have been up even if he loved the role.
All that said, even if things had run smoothly, there’s no real indication this film would have been much of a career highlight. According to the Wikipedia article on the movie (where I lifted the above quote), Florey had a different interpretation of the story, to say the least. In it, the monster “was simply a killing machine without a touch of human interest or pathos.” As far a cry from source author Mary Shelly‘s literate creation as… well, as any movie based on her novel, including this one.
Would that have connected with audiences the same way this film did and does? Any thoughts on the matter only amount to so much guess-work. It’s hard to imagine, though that the peculiar alchemy of film making present in this Frankenstein could have been bested. Mainly because it really hasn’t been equaled in any production that come since.
But come. Leave the modern-day behind and let us drift back nearly a hundred years. There are funerals to attend, graves to rob, the dead to rise and a wedding to curtail. A word of warning before we begin. Classic or not, I will have my fun with the film as this review goes on. I just can’t go after the “bad” movies without having a go at the “good” ones.
Besides, I try to entertain as best I can, and dry reads simply don’t do it.