Halloween Picture of the Week: 50 Frankenstein Movie Posters

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In the run up to Halloween, here’s the first of a series of scary treats for you to enjoy while you scoop the guts out of a pumpkin or a neighbour. The story of Frankenstein is one of those that has been endlessly reiterated in movies and literature, from Edison’s 1910 adaptation to Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, via James Whale’s matchless Bride of Frankenstein and Frank Henenlotter’s Frankenhooker. There seems to be an enduring fascination with the reanimated corpse and its path towards self-definition, and the deceptively simple premise lends itself to many reconfigurations. Thankfully, this also gives ample excuse for some wonderful, often lurid poster art to tease us with sightings of the jerry-built creature. You should also pay a visit to the excellent, comprehensive Frankensteinia blog for more about the monster and his maker.

Picture of the Week #34: Twenty Monster Movie Posters

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This week, your pictorial reward is a bunch of monster-themed posters from my collection of poster JPEGs. Next week, you can look forward to sexy-themed (to use the scientific term) posters for your delectation, followed by comic and heroic posters. The week after that, I’m open to suggestions for a theme – I have quite a lot of posters to display, and not enough picture-of-the-week spaces to put them in. I hope you enjoy the scenery of these garish, trashy marvels. Check on the slideshow above, or browse below for larger views of any of the pics.

Picture of the Week #14: Famous Monsters of Filmland

[Issue #57 features The Green Slime on its cover: an MGM production shot at Toei studios in Japan, it was directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who would later become better known as the director of Battle Royale.]

This Friday’s fotographic fiesta is a fabulous full-fat feast of freakish filmic fings from Forrest’s Famous Monsters of Filmland. Gorgeously garish covers from Forrest J. Ackerman‘s (1916 – 2008) legendary magazine (1958 – 1983), they show a side of cinema that is a gallery of great characters, a toytown of rubbery make-up, miniature models and marauding aliens. Siphoning off the scares to show these hoardes of monsters as almost near-friendly creatures happy to pose for a portrait or crack a half smile for the artist, the mag captures Ackerman’s affection for the films and the ephemera they left behind. His collections of memorabilia were peerless. Click below for many more covers, and take a YouTube tour of his mansion if you don’t believe me:

Click here to read on…

Picture of the Week #2: Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster

Boris Karloff on the set of Son of Frankenstein

It’s been  a bit of a monster-fest around here lately. I promise to write something about Bela Tarr, and a piece on Shinoda’s Double Suicide will follow shortly. In the meantime, let’s all enjoy the spectacle of Boris Karloff hanging out with a family (does anybody know who they are?) on the set of 1939’s Son of Frankenstein. I love these backstage portraits, especially when they show such an iconic figure with his guard down. So complete is Karloff’s physical performance, and so distinctive the make-up that completes the character, that it is strange to see him acting loose and cool. These shots (there’s another one I’ve seen of him taking a cup of tea and cigarette break with Colin Clive) demonstrate the totality of his onscreen presence – all it takes is a bit of slouching or an incongruous prop and all of a sudden he’s just some guy again, albeit one with some apparent cranium issues.

[Picture sourced from Dr Macro’s incomparable gallery of high quality movie scans.]

Frankenstein Randomised


For those who enjoyed the Jaws Randomised post, or those who hated it so much they’d love to see me crash and burn again, I’m taking another stab at formal analysis of three randomly selected frames from a movie, as instigated by Nick Rombes at Digital Poetics. Nick seems to be getting a lot of fascinating mileage out of it (look at how interesting he makes a forgettable film like About a Boy seem), and I’m quite taken with the technique, too. Today’s film, to keep it orthodox, is James Whale’s Frankenstein. The three frames must be chosen by computer. I use a random number generator to choose me three minute-marks from a DVD of the film, then discuss only the information I can glean from those images. So, let’s get started. Frankenstein is 67 minutes long according to my DVD edition, so I enter 1-67 into the generator, and I get: 36, 48 and 58. That sounds like the scenes will be bunched together, but I don’t know until I fire up the disc and start grabbing those frames, beginning with…

Frankenstein 36th minute

… this. I hope my luck stays this good; a wonderful shot encapsulating so well the conflict between the scientist and his unruly creation. It also affords us a good gawp at the stolid chunk of  one of Universal’s massive, magnificent studio sets. This shot lasts for 40 seconds, with Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive, left) and Dr Waldman (Edward van Sloan, right) trapping the monster by luring him through the door: one of them will distract him while the other injects him with a heavy sedative. At this stage in the struggle, though, all three of them are poised, shoulders hunched, ready for the eruption of physical violence that is about to come. The monster’s cowering is odd: he’s easily more powerful, and has no real incentive to enter the room. His body is driven by a series of conflicting impulses, zapped into uncomprehending life by a bolt of lightning, twitching from attack to retreat, fear to fury, with lurching rapidity.

Frankenstein 48th minute

After making his escape, the monster has a brief idyllic interlude by a sparkling lake with Little Maria. He is imitating her, tossing flowers into the water and watching delightedly as they float on the surface. So far, he has only been seen in shadows, growling and pummeling stuff in the brick fortress of Frankenstein’s lab. To see him in broad daylight, outdoors and playing with flowers with a baby’s gurning grin on his face is quite a shock. It will be short-lived. Not until the sequel will he find a friend and manage to hang out in the open air without killing stuff.

On its release in 1931 in the US, the film was passed uncut by the federal censor, but several state censors could and frequently did cut out objectionable moments. For the 1937 re-release, Universal were forced to cut the conclusion of this scene, which was not restored until a 1985 restoration for TV broadcast: Karloff tosses Maria into the lake to see if she too can float like a flower (she can’t – she drowns), a simpleton’s mistake connecting objects and environments due to their basic similarities (Maria doesn’t look like a flower, but maybe the monster sees her like one, as delicate and pretty as the petals he holds in his hands) rather than distinguishing between animate and inanimate objects: he himself is trapped between life and death, so it makes sense that his actions should articulate that confused duality, that mortal category error.

Frankenstein 58th minute

No telling of the Frankenstein story would be complete without an angry mob thirsty for monster blood (except, of course, Mary Shelley’s original book…). That fierce and inexorable lateral movement across the frame depicts the unstoppable march of the crowd. Their torches are reflected in the water to double up the force of the flames that Karloff’s monster fears so much. Fire had been used to control him with fear. Now it will be used to burn him up. This proliferation of flames is a nice metaphor for mob mentality – each flame marks out one member of the crowd, but once fueled, it can spread independently without control, taking on a mad, ravenous life of its own. I’m not sure why the guys in the boat think they’re going to get there any quicker, but it does suggest that everyone is eager to get there by any available means and start torching someone.

[See also The Bride of Frankenstein Randomised, Jaws Randomised, This is Spinal Tap Randomised With Two Brains]

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