The Frankenstein Monster, one of the most recognizable black-and-white characters in movie history, celebrates its 60th birthday this year.
The "Frankenstein" movie is revived at horror festivals and on late shows, according to an article in the current issue of Connoisseur, and makes the top 100 video rentals year after year.The Monster has appeared in features about his brides, sons and colleagues, including the Wolf Man, Dracula and the Mummy. He has met Abbott and Costello, been garishly parodied in "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein" and affectionately lampooned by Mel Brooks in "Young Frankenstein." Most recently, in "Frankenstein Unbound," he has traveled through time in search of a mate.
"Frankenstein" was conceived in 1816 by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who wrote a novel representing a recoil from science and technology. For generations, playwrights provided their views of the Monster, from "Presumption, or the Fate of Frankenstein" in 1823 to "Frankenstein," a 1927 London production that came to the attention of Hollywood's Universal Studios four years later.
Originally, Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi, a hit in "Dracula," was to play the monster - until he realized it had no lines.
"I was a star in my country and will not be a scarecrow over here," he told the studio.
British director James Whale cast the role when he spotted a tall, 43-year-old English actor at the studio commissary.
"Suddenly he caught my eye and beckoned me over," the actor said of Whale. "I leapt - he was the most important director around - and he said, `I'd like you to test for the Monster in "Frankenstein."'
"It was shattering - for the first time in my life I had been gainfully employed long enough to buy myself some new clothes and spruce up a bit - actually, I rather fancied myself. Now, to hide all this newfound beauty under monster makeup? I said I'd be delighted."
The actor, of course, was Boris Karloff.
Makeup artist Jack Pierce considered the plot and Karloff's bone structure. There were half a dozen ways to open a cranium.
"The two metal studs that stick out of the sides of his neck," Pierce said, "are inlets for electricity - plugs. The Monster is an electrical gadget."