38 Facts on Frankenstein (Including the Aerosmith song it inspired and the reason the Munsters never got sued)

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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!

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.

Here is part one, and here is part two.

click the links above to see the movie

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 Herman 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 an early 1970s TV commercial for 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 as a band, 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 returned to Broadway in November 2007 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: 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 "“ sometime in 2009 "“ will hold true.

Part II tomorrow!

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October 31, 2008 - 9:49am
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