The Set-Up: It's October, of course, and that's Hallowe'en month. I've got nothing special planned so much, as do a couple of oddball horror films this week and next, and we've been doing, if not necessarily monster movie scenes or horror movie scenes, so much as scenes of horror. Next week is not a traditional monster movie, but it is a tad scary, and funny, and odd, and from a director who loves Hallowe'en.
This one's from James Whale's adaptation of Frankenstein—not the first one, certainly—there were silent versions—but the most famous one, the "Karloff" version. Now, I'll bet everyone's seen it. But, do you remember the introduction?
Introductions are fun in movies. They take the movie-screen and turn it back in technological times to a stage—a dimension once removed, but a stage nonetheless—where the theater curtains are pulled back to reveal...more curtains. And immediately the "fourth wall" between players and audience is shattered. No telling what could happen next.
Such intro's can be the heighth of pompous showmanship—check out Cecil B. DeMille's for The Ten Commandments, which was nicely lampooned by Frank Tashlin (former Looney Tunes director) in The Girl Can't Help It*—but, here, it's a little bit of a joke, a needling tease to get the audience's nerves a bit on edge before the movie began. Nice trick. No, really, folks, we can't tell you about all the... well... that would be telling. But, be on your guard. We're just saying...
Woo-OO-ooo. "Very scary, kids..."
The Story: It's before the beginning. No story yet. But...you know where the exits are.
EDWARD VAN SLOAN: How do you do?
VAN SLOAN: Mr. Carl Laemmle feels it would be a little unkind to present this picture without just a word of friendly warning.
VAN SLOAN: We are about to unfold the story of Frankenstein. A man of science who sought to create a man after of his own image...without reckoning upon God.
VAN SLOAN: It is one of the stangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of Creation: Life and Death.
VAN SLOAN: I think it will thrill you.
VAN SLOAN: It may shock you.
VAN SLOAN: It might even horrify you.
VAN SLOAN: So, if any of you feel that you don't care to subject your nerves to such strain, now is your chance to...uh...
VAN SLOAN: ...well, we've warned you.
Words by Garrett Fort Francis Edward Faragoh and Robert Florey
Pictures by Arthur Edeson Paul Ivano and James Whale
Frankenstein is available on Universal Home Video.
* I'm only suspecting this. DeMille's religious opus came out October 5th, 1956, just two weeks after the rock n' roll movie, The Girl Can't Help It, began production, and released in December of that year...Whew, that's fast movie-making.