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38 Essential facts about Frankenstein (Fact #37: He's on a postage stamp?!)

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Halloween is upon us... and there's no better time to take a look at one of the most famous horror stories in literary history: Frankenstein!

In this two-part article, we'll discover some truths (and dispel some myths) about Dr. Frankenstein and The Monster. Tomorrow, in Part II, we'll focus on Mary Shelley's novel. Today, everything else!

ON FILM:

Q: When was the Frankenstein story first made into a film?

A: Way back in 1910, when the Thomas Edison Company produced a one-reel film simply titled Frankenstein. The original negative was apparently destroyed in a fire in 1914, and the movie was thought to be forever lost. More than 60 years later, Wisconsin film collector Al Dettlaff discovered that his archives included a nitrate print of the rare movie.

And here it is.

Frankenstein

Honestly, this film has it all. Suspense, special effects, overacting... and this was 1910! Nearly a century later, how far has Hollywood really come?

Q: Did Thomas Edison himself produce, direct, or have other involvement in the film?

A: No, other than being owner of the company that made it. Frankenstein was filmed at Edison Studios in the Bronx, New York.

The Three Faces of FrankensteinQ: Which horror movie legend played The Monster: Lon Chaney Jr., Boris Karloff, or Bela Lugosi?


A: The answer is "yes." Karloff played the character in the famous 1931 film Frankenstein, while Chaney took the role for The Ghost of Frankenstein and Lugosi played it in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.


Q: Who played Victor Frankenstein and Igor in the classic 1931 film?


A: Nobody. Those characters didn't exist in that film. The doctor's name was Henry Frankenstein (although he's never referred to as "doctor"), and his assistant was Fritz. Victor Moritz was the name of the doctor's friend (who seemed much more interested in Elizabeth than Henry).


Q: So when did Igor come about?

A: Ygor, as he's properly known, first appeared in the 1939 sequel Son of Frankenstein.

Beatles references, Blackenstein, Playgirl magazine and why everyone was scared of Franken Berry cereal, all after the jump...

Q: What are the official sequels to the 1931 Frankenstein film?

A: The "Universal Studios series," as it's known, runs as follows:

Frankenstein (1931)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
House of Frankenstein (1944)

And because they're Universal films from the same era that also feature The Monster, some lists also include:

House of Dracula (1945)
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

crosses.jpgQ: Is there any imagery to watch out for in the 1931 film?

A: Absolutely. Check out the crosses in the graveyard at the beginning of the story; compare them to the windmill at the end (and notice how Henry falls on one of them). The "dancing skeleton" in the surgical theater seems to shadow what's to come. When Henry finally leaves his laboratory to spend time with Elizabeth, he tells her, "it's like heaven being with you again" - perhaps the afterlife that he's denied the bodies he's culled for his experiments. And speaking of those bodies: while Henry's not hesitant to disturb the dead, he's not willing to kill. When it's suggested that he destory his monster, he calls it "murder."

Q: Who brought The Monster "to life" in 3D?

A: Well, there are two answers to this question. View-Master did in 1976 with a series of three reels. More famously, Andy Warhol did in his three-dimensional feature film, Flesh for Frankenstein. [Author's Note: A friend and I saw this film in a theater in downtown Athens, Georgia, in the early 1980s. We were the only two in the place, and the only thing I remember about it is some guy's liver at the end of a long pole, sticking in your face. Ew.]

Q: How is The Monster related to another towering menace, Darth Vader?

A: David Prowse, the British weightlifter who was the man inside the Darth Vader suit in the original Star Wars film trilogy, also portrayed The Monster in three films, including 1967's Casino Royale.

Q: In what year was the feature film Frankenstein 1970 released?

A: 1958, of course.

Q: And in what year was the feature film Frankenstein '80 released?

A: 1972, naturally.

Q: Finally, in what year was the feature film Frankenstein '90 released?

A: 1984. Duh.

Q: Who portrayed The Monster on film, and went on to pose nude for Playgirl?

A: Gary Conway. His first film role was as The Monster in 1957's I Was a Teenage Frankenstein. (He lied, he was 21.) He became a well-known TV star, appearing on Burke's Law and Land of the Giants in the 1960s, and then went nude before the camera as the centerfold in a 1973 issue of Playgirl.

BlackensteinQ: There was Blacula... why wasn't there Blackenstein?

A: Actually, there was. The 1973 film told an updated version of the tale, featuring a paraplegic Vietnam vet who was reconstructed into The Monster.

Q: What 1966 movie was offered to theaters as a double-feature with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter?

A: Billy the Kid vs. Dracula. Yes, really.

Q: What late vocalist appeared in 1990's Frankenstein Unbound?

A: INXS's Michael Hutchence, in the role of Percy Shelley.

Q: What twist on the Frankenstein story has earned more than $150 million at the box office, almost all of it in the years following its 1975 release?

A: The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In the film, a quirky doctor named Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry) brings his creature (Rocky) to life. Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick and Richard O'Brien (who wrote the story and played Riff-Raff) join up to sing "Over at the Frankenstein Place."

Q: What is the Kevin Bacon Number of the most famous Monster, Boris Karloff?

A: Two. Karloff appeared in The Venetian Affair (1967) with Ed Asner, who appeared in JFK (1991) with Kevin Bacon. (Asner is best known for his role as Lou Grant on TV's The Mary Tyler Moore Show.)

MariaQ: What famous scene was initially cut from the 1931 Frankenstein film because it was deemed too gruesome?

A: The one where a confused Monster hurls little Maria into the water. At the beginning of the segment, The Monster joins the young girl in throwing flowers into a pond, but after running out of flowers, the baffled creature hurls Maria into the water, and then runs away when he sees that she doesn't float like the flowers did. Boris Karloff asked that the scene be removed.

Q: What's the most humorous takeoff on the Frankenstein story?

A: Without question, it would be Mel Brooks' 1974 film Young Frankenstein. Enjoy some interviews and outtakes here and here.

TV/ANIMATION:

Q: Franklin 'Frank' Frankenstein was a member of what short-lived cartoon band of the 1970s?

A: The Groovie Goolies. The fictional music group joined Sabrina, the Teenage Witch on an animated series before eventually getting their own show. An album was also released in an attempt to cash in on the show's success.

Q: What actor portrayed both a "serious" Monster in Frankenstein 1970 and a darned goofy one on the sitcom Monster Squad?

A: Mike Lane. The six-foot, eight-inch actor was a natural to portray Frank N. Stein in the (mercifully) short-lived 1976 TV series Monster Squad, about three wax museum horror figures that came to life. In case you ever wondered what Fred Grandy did before The Love Boat came along, now you know.

Q: In Yellow Submarine, which member of The Beatles drank a potion and transformed from The Monster into his "normal" self?

A: John Lennon.

Frankenlennon

~ ...and that's how Frankie baby was born ~Q: How did the 1960s sitcom The Munsters escape the legal wrath of Universal Studios over the use of a Frankenstein's Monster-like character (Herman Munster)?

A: Because the TV show was a Universal production. Convenient, eh? It's a wonder Fred Gwynne lasted as long as he did (two seasons) in his role as Fred Munster. Not only did the makeup take three hours to apply every morning, but the costume weighed 40 pounds and caused him a considerable amount of back pain.

Q: What type of creature was Hanna-Barbera's Frankenstein Junior?

A: Oddly, a crime-fighting robot. Ted Cassidy (The Addams Family's Lurch) voiced the character, with Dick Beals (Davey of Davey & Goliath) as his young inventor, Buzz Conroy. The characters appeared in a short-lived mid-1960s cartoon series titled Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles.

Here's a quick clip.

Franken BerryQ: Who voiced Franken Berry in the cereal's original animated commercials?

A: Bob McFadden, the late performer who lent his pipes to dozens of cartoon and commercial characters over the years. The elderly-sounding voice that, for many years, provided the tagline "Pepperidge Farm remembers"? It was his. He also talked for the parrot who cried "Ring around the collar!" in the long-running commercial for Wisk laundry detergent.

Here's a trio of 1970s TV commercials, beginning with the introduction of Franken Berry. (If you're a cereal hound, you might enjoy our recent cereal quiz, Spoon Candy.)

Q: What other TV commercials have featured The Monster?

A: There have been dozens. Here are a few of our favorites:

Twix
Shasta
Teddy Ruxpin
Volkswagen
Pepsi
Radio Shack
and, yes, even Osteo Bi-Flex

IN SONG:

Back Off BoogalooQ: Frankenstein appeared in the promotional video (and on the picture sleeve) of what Ringo Starr single?

A: "Back Off Boogaloo." Enjoy the video here (or at least pretend you did).

Q: How did Edgar Winter's instrumental hit "Frankenstein" earn its name?

A: Because it was spliced together from many, many bits of tape that Winter had recorded himself, playing various instruments.

While this video shows The Edgar Winter Group performing the song live, Ed played all the instruments himself for the studio cut.

Q: What rocker called his signature red patchwork guitar "Frankenstein"?

A: Eddie Van Halen. (See if you can spot it "“ and other signature rock instruments "“ in our A Few Strings Attached quiz.)

Q: What classic rock hit was inspired by a scene in the Mel Brooks film Young Frankenstein?

A: Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." Steven Tyler revealed that the band saw the film late one evening after a recording session for the Toys in the Attic album. He was inspired by a gag scene where Igor prompts Dr. Frankenstein to "walk this way" and then shuffles along (which the doctor mimics). Tyler liked the phrase, and he and Joe Perry used it as the title of what became one of the band's best-known songs.

Q: What Halloween song was made into a Frankenstein movie in 1995?

A: "Monster Mash." And let me tell you, this movie has everything. Bobby 'Boris' Pickett (who sang the hit tune "Monster Mash") as Dr. Frankenstein. John "˜The Cryptkeeper' Kassir as Igor. Candace Cameron dressed up like Shakespeare's Juliet. A Count-and-Countess Dracula. Choreographed dancing. Jimmie "˜J.J.' Walker. And, yes, Elvis. Why this movie is not out on DVD is indeed a mystery.

Q: What vocalist sometimes returned to stage for an encore on the shoulders of a roadie dressed as Frankenstein's Monster?

A: Freddie Mercury of Queen. His song "Bicycle Race" from the 1978 Jazz album included references to many pop culture characters (including Superman and Star Wars) and characters from these films were also used as fodder for the role.
Other musical acts have made reference to the character, include Alice Cooper (with "Feed My Frankenstein") and Parliament, who recorded the album The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein.

POP CULTURE:

Q: What 1985 Nintendo arcade video game challenged the player to a match of strength against a purple Monster clone named Frank Junior?

A: Arm Wrestling. The young Frank was the fifth and most difficult of the game's opponents, and can distract a player by spitting flames into his face. The game was a spin-off from Nintendo's popular Punch-Out!! game. And, thanks to a joystick, it was less violent than this arm wrestling game.

Q: Why did Franken Berry cereal caused some real fear when introduced in late 1971?

A: The artificial coloring resulted in red stools, which alarmed parents and doctors who thought it was blood.

Q: Where can you visit an attraction called The House of Frankenstein?

A: Actually, there are (at least) two such places. One is in Lake George in the Adirondacks in New York state, and the other is just north of there, on Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

Q: Has The Monster ever appeared on a U.S. postage stamp?

A: Not once, but twice! In 1997 and again in 2002.

postage stamps

Q: After more than a decade away from the Legitimate Theatre, what actress returns to Broadway next month as Elizabeth in the Mel Brooks stage musical Young Frankenstein?

A: Megan Mullally, perhaps best known for her role as Karen Walker on TV's Will and Grace.

Q: In Part 1 of this UnFAQ, we learn that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was spurred on by a natural disaster. Dean Koontz updated the story in a series that began in 2004; what natural disaster served to stall his Frankenstein series at Book Two?

A: Hurricane Katrina. In the book, Dr. Frankenstein is a present-day New Orleans resident. Koontz had to start over on Book Three after the flood, and has apparently struggled in his attempts to incorporate the real-life tragedy into the story. The third book was initially due in 2006, and fans are hopeful that the revised publication date of this third book "“ Summer 2008 "“ will hold true.

Part II tomorrow!

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15 Inconceivable Facts About The Princess Bride
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It's no wonder The Princess Bride is such a beloved film: It's action-packed but still lighthearted, sweet but not saccharine, silly but still smart—and, of course, endlessly quotable. Fortunately, in 2012, the movie's leading man, Cary Elwes, was inspired to write a behind-the-scenes book about the making of the movie in honor of its 25th anniversary, for which he interviewed nearly all of the key cast and crew (sadly, André the Giant, who played Fezzik, passed away in 1993).

Pulling from the impressively detailed text of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride and various interviews Elwes and others have given over the years, we rounded up a series of fun facts and anecdotes sure to delight any fan of the film, which was released 30 years ago today.

1. IT WAS WRITTEN FOR THE AUTHOR'S DAUGHTERS.

William Goldman, who wrote the novel The Princess Bride in 1973 and penned the screenplay, told Entertainment Weekly that, "I had two little daughters, I think they were 7 and 4 at the time, and I said, 'I’ll write you a story. What do you want it to be about?' One of them said 'a princess' and the other one said 'a bride.' I said, 'That’ll be the title.'"

2. BOTH THE DIRECTOR AND THE LEADING MAN ALREADY KNEW AND LOVED THE STORY BEFORE FILMING EVEN BEGAN.

Cary Elwes's stepfather had given him Goldman's book in 1975, when the future actor was just 13 years old. Rob Reiner, who directed the movie, first read the book in his 20s when Goldman gave it to his father. It quickly became Reiner's favorite book of all time, and he had long wanted to turn it into a movie—but he had no idea that many before him had tried and failed.

3. FOR A LONG TIME, NO ONE WAS ABLE TO MAKE THE MOVIE.

At one point or another, Robert Redford, Norman Jewison, John Boorman, and François Truffaut all tried to get the book made into a movie, but due to a series of unrelated incidents—"green-lighters" getting fired, production houses closing—it languished for years. (In one of these proto-Princess Brides, a then-unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to play Fezzik.) 

After several false starts, Goldman bought back the rights to the book. The movie only got made because Reiner had built up so much good will with movies like This is Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing that the studio, 20th Century Foxoffered to make any project of his choice.

4. MANDY PATINKIN FELT A PERSONAL CONNECTION TO THE CHARACTER OF INIGO MONTOYA.

Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn in The Princess Bride (1987).
MGM

"The moment I read the script, I loved the part of Inigo Montoya," Patinkin told Entertainment Weekly. "That character just spoke to me profoundly. I had lost my own father—he died at 53 years old from pancreatic cancer in 1972. I didn’t think about it consciously, but I think that there was a part of me that thought, If I get that man in black, my father will come back. I talked to my dad all the time during filming, and it was very healing for me."

5. ANDRÉ THE GIANT COULD REALLY, REALLY DRINK.

Three bottles of cognac and 12 bottles of wine reportedly made him just a little tipsy. When the cast would go out for dinner, André—who, according to Robin Wright, ordered four appetizers and five entrees—would drink out of a 40-ounce beer pitcher filled with a mix of liquors, a concoction he called "The American."

6. ANDRÉ HAD AN UNCONVENTIONAL METHOD FOR LEARNING HIS LINES.

Reiner and Goldman met André, then a famous wrestler, at a bar in Paris. "I brought him up to the hotel room to audition him. He read this three-page scene, and I couldn’t understand one word he said," Reiner recalled. "I go, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do? He’s perfect physically for the part, but I can’t understand him!’ So I recorded his entire part on tape, exactly how I wanted him to do it, and he studied the tape. He got pretty good!"

7. WILLIAM GOLDMAN WAS INCREDIBLY NERVOUS ON THE SET.

Of all the projects he’d written and worked on—which included the Academy Award-winning Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—Goldman loved The Princess Bride best of all. This manifested itself as extreme nervousness about the project. Reiner invited Goldman to be on set for the duration of the filming—which Goldman did not want to do, saying, “I don’t like being on set. If you’re a screenwriter, it’s boring”—but on the first day, he proved to be a slight nuisance. The first couple takes were plagued by a barely-audible chanting, which turned out to be Goldman praying things would go well. And when Wright's character's dress caught on fire, he panicked, yelling, "Oh my god! Her dress is on fire!"—even though Goldman himself had written that into the script.

8. WALLACE SHAWN WAS BRILLIANT, BUT ALWAYS ON EDGE.

Wallace Shawn and Robin Wright in The Princess Bride (1987)
MGM

Shawn, who played Vizzini the Sicilian, really is, like his character, a man of "dizzying intellect." He has a history degree from Harvard and studied philosophy and economics at Oxford. In fact, on a day off from filming The Princess Bride, Shawn went to Oxford to give a guest lecture on British and American literature. But Shawn was inconsolably nervous for the entirety of filming.

After learning from his agent that Reiner had originally wanted Danny DeVito for the part, Shawn was wracked with insecurity, perpetually convinced that he was going to be fired after every bad take. "Danny is inimitable," Shawn said. "Each scene we did, I pictured how he would have done it and I knew I could never possibly have done it the way he could have done it."

9. THE DUEL BETWEEN WESTLEY AND INIGO WAS EXCRUCIATINGLY RESEARCHED AND REHEARSED.

Goldman spent months researching 17th-century swordfighting manuals to craft Westley and Inigo's duel; all the references the characters make to specific moves and styles are completely accurate. Then Elwes and Patinkin, neither of whom had much (if any) fencing experience, spent more months training to perfect it—right- and left-handed.

"I knew that my job was to become the world’s greatest sword fighter," Patinkin recalled in Elwes's book. "I trained for about two months in New York and then we went to London and Cary and I trained every day that we weren’t shooting for four months. There were no stuntmen involved in any of the sword fights, except for one flip in the air.” Even after months of pre-shooting training, the fencing instructors came to set and, when there were a few free minutes, would pull Elwes and Patinkin aside to work on the choreography for the scene, which was intentionally one of the last to be shot.

10. IT WAS ELWES'S IDEA TO DIVE HEADFIRST INTO THE "QUICKSAND."

That particular Fire Swamp stunt was accomplished by having a trap door underneath a layer of sand, below which there was foam padding for the actors to fall onto. Originally, the direction called for Westley to jump in feet-first after Buttercup, but Elwes argued this wasn't particularly heroic. Switching up the direction was a risky move—if the trap door wasn't opened at exactly the right instant, Elwes risked banging his head—or even breaking his neck. After the stunt double successfully executed the dive, Elwes himself tried it, and nailed it perfectly on the first take.

11. MIRACLE MAX REALLY WAS THAT FUNNY—AND YOU'RE NOT EVEN SEEING HIS BEST STUFF.

Billy Crystal brought two photos for his makeup artist, Peter Montagna, to draw inspiration from when creating Miracle Max: Crystal’s grandmother and Casey Stengel. As for the acting, Elwes wrote in his book, "For three days straight and 10 hours a day, Billy improvised 13th-century period jokes, never saying the same thing or the same line twice." Unfortunately for viewers, many of the improvised jokes were not fit for a family-friendly film. Only the cast and crew knows how funny his more crude Miracle Max takes were, but judging from the fact that Patinkin bruised a rib trying to stifle his laughter, as he recounts in the book, they were probably pretty good.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND CAROL KANE, WHO PLAYED HIS WIFE, INVENTED AN ENTIRE BACKSTORY.

Carol Kane and Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride (1987)
MGM

"Billy came over to my apartment in Los Angeles and we took the book and underlined things and made up a little more backstory for ourselves," Kane said. "We added our own twists and turns and stuff that would amuse us, because there’s supposed to be a long history—who knows how many hundreds of years Max and Valerie have been together?" How has that pair not gotten a spin-off film yet? 

13. ELWES FILMED MANY OF HIS SCENES WITH A BROKEN TOE.

Six weeks into production, André convinced Elwes to go for a spin on the ATV that was used to transport the larger man to and from filming locations because he didn’t fit in the van. Almost immediately, the vehicle hit a rocky patch and Elwes got his foot stuck between two mechanisms in the vehicle, breaking his big toe. The young actor tried to hide the injury from his director, but, of course, Reiner quickly found out. He didn't find a new Westley, as Elwes feared he might, but they did have to work some movie magic to allow Elwes to limp around in many of the scenes undetected.

14. ONE PARTICULAR ON-SCREEN INJURY WASN'T FAKED.

As soon as Westley recognizes Count Rugen as the six-fingered man, the script calls for the Count to knock our hero unconscious with the butt of his sword. In filming, Christopher Guest, who played Rugen, was naturally reluctant to really hit Elwes for fear of hurting him. Unfortunately, this reticence was reading on screen and take after take failed to look convincing. Finally, Elwes suggested Guest just go for it, at least tapping him on the head to get the reaction timing right. The tap came a little too hard, however, and Elwes was knocked legitimately unconscious; he later awoke in the hospital emergency room. It's that take, with Elwes actually passing out, that appears in the film.

15. ONE OF THE FINAL SCENES NEVER MADE IT INTO THE FINAL FILM.

In an alternate ending that was eventually cut, Fred Savage—who plays the initially reluctant audience to Peter Falk's reading of The Princess Bride—goes to his window after his grandfather has left and sees Fezzik, Inigo, Westley, and Buttercup all on their white horses.

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Attention Aspiring Filmmakers: Martin Scorsese Is Teaching an Online Class
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MasterClass

Since launching his career 50 years ago, Martin Scorsese has inspired countless fans to get into the moviemaking business. Now aspiring directors looking for a place to start can receive guidance from the legendary director himself. Beginning early next year, Martin Scorsese will lead his own filmmaking course through the online education platform MasterClass.

MasterClass is best known for offering classes taught by instructors who have already risen to the top of their respective fields. An architecture course from Frank Gehry, a music composition course from Hans Zimmer, and a tennis course from Serena Williams are just a few of the listings in the catalog. The company has also recruited several famous filmmakers in the past, including Aaron Sorkin and Werner Herzog, but Scorsese—the iconic director behind such classics as Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and Goodfellas (1990) is in a league of his own.

Scorsese’s MasterClass includes more than 20 video lessons that pupils will be able to watch at their desired pace. They will also have the chance to upload their own videos and receive feedback from classmates, with Scorsese answering select questions.

"I was excited by this project because it gave me a chance to pass down my own inspirations and experiences and practices and evolutions,” the Oscar-winning director said in a release. “It was so important for me to have people that passed down their own knowledge when I was young, and MasterClass has given me an opportunity to try it myself.”

Prospective students can pre-enroll for $90 today to receive unlimited access to the course when it goes live in 2018.

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