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Thursday, January 30, 2020

When Theatres Everywhere Were "Cursed"


How Long Would The Curse Of Frankenstein Scare Yell Out Of Us?

1957's New and Streamlined Frankenstein was meant in part to supplant a tired older model. Karloff's visage from the Universal group had defined the character for over quarter of a century. Those that saw him first were parents now. The face had become so familiar as to not seem monstrous anymore. Any fresh Frankenstein must nauseate anew, and to degree not dared by genteel purveyors of suggested terror. Hammer's creature would dominate theatres just as oldies arrived to fill time for TV programmers who couldn't serve so explicit a plate, even in late hours. The Curse Of Frankenstein was digital to television's analog, a truer test of courage for new generations than Universal's stuff ever was. The Family Drive-In had their one hour stage show seal the transition, but who'll bet their visiting "7 1/2 Feet Tall" Frankenstein was just another Karloff dummy repeating an act done at least since the 40's. Glenn Strange had lurched well into the 50's with his Frankenstein act for spook shows. Would these impersonators and more retire neck bolts and go out henceforth in Christopher Lee guise? The Karloff image, I'd propose, was too entrenched for that. It remained the brand for what time was left of stage shows. Lee's monster would be gone after The Curse Of Frankenstein, and imagine a personal appearance of a Michael Gwynn-inspired creation from The Revenge Of Frankenstein. Would the character revived on stage today be anything other than Karloff? The Curse Of Frankenstein at least had theatrical screening field to itself, plopped down ad nauseum at kiddie shows and drive-ins as second or third support for newer features, as here in 1959 with Edge Of Eternity and The Hanging Tree. Hammer's show was run into ground from 1957 until running aground with Horror Of Dracula for a 1965 reissue that did disappointing business, both pics by then overexposed to paying customers.

More Curse Of Frankenstein at Greenbriar Archive, HERE and HERE.

6 Comments:

Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I have a terrific stand up of Christopher Lee as the monster from THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. It can be seen here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkNNcHLpLM4&t=78s

and here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McI40ybCZKE&t=52s

I have to raise funds to cover some heavy costs and as I approach 74 I have to think about finding good homes for the unique treasures here. I'm looking for a minimum donation of $10,000.00 for this fellow who is a God send to everyone who loves the lost art of ballyhoo,

I guarantee he will scare the bejeezjus out of everyone who stumbles across him.

It would be best that you come to Toronto to pick him up as I don't trust any delivery service to handle him right.

Happy Horrors.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

By destroying the monster completely in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN Hammer was forced to go in an entirely new direction. The doctor himself became the monster.

As far as the Karloff monster goes from my experience it retains in full the power to capture our attention and, more importantly, our sympathy.

Karloff reported that throughout his career he got an avalanche of mail from kids who identified with the monster (certainly I did and that was from reading the book).

Karloff's monster did and continues to do what no other such monster has ever done.

Of course all that ended when Ygor's brain was transplanted into the creature. The Karloff monster died at the end of GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN. The brain was surgical waste.

Universal more through chance than design explored interesting ideas in all of its horror films. The Hammer films good though they are never explored ideas nor did the achieve the box office power of the Universals. Yes, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE HORROR OF DRACULA were huge hits (and sleepers at that) but the bulk of Hammer's product were not that great box office wise.

I read that THE MUMMY'S GHOST with Lon Chaney was one of the top box office films of its year. That I found astonishing as it is far from the best in the series but as one who has been running films for the public for over fifty years I have learned no one knows what audiences will respond to.

This is not to say I personally do not like Hammer's films. I do. But like and dislike has nothing to do with the public's reaction to anyone's work.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was the first British film to knock the ball out of the park with audiences worlds wide. That success proved that films made in Britain could capture the world market. That success opened the door for everything that followed.

Of course the film was denounced for being in bad taste. We could do with more movies being denounced as in bad taste.

10:27 AM  
Blogger DBenson said...

Was there a point before Hammer that Karloff's monster and other old reliables were effectively defanged? It seems that well before The Munsters the old horrors were objects of fun and fandom rather than fear. One could argue that it was already happening before Bud and Lou got into the act.

Yes, the originals can still spook a receptive audience on the big screen, and there were the double-feature revivals Greenbriar has chronicled. But did audiences flock to those revivals for genuine terror, or something else? In the cold war era, a menace that could be dispatched with a stake or a torch might have been reassuring.

2:57 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

The Realart reissues had a lot of playdates right through the 50's. I found FRANKENSTEIN used as a second feature at one of our local drive-ins in 1959. Several of the Realart prints remained in service at independent Charlotte exchanges well into the 60's. A friend in fifth grade swore to me that he saw FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN at a theatre in Hickory, NC ... in 1965.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I ordered many of the masks offered for sale in FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND in the 1960s. For Halloween myself and my friends went out wearing themk. I wore the Glenjn Strange Frankenstein monster mask. I also had one of the Christopher Lee monster. We did the wolfman, the mummy, the skull, the melting man.

It being Halloween I thought people would get a laugh. Wrong big. We scared the small town I lived in (Chipman, New Brunswick) spitless. I'm not talking one or two people. I'm talking the whole town.

People actually wet themselves from fright.

As can be seen from the video link I have a host of great masks today.

Do those monsters still pack a fright? Yep.

6:15 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Chris Lee's 'creature' in CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN may have had a different look than the Karloff model but I note that poster art for the original release and the later reissue always found a way to flatten off the top of the monster's head, making it appear much more rectangular than it is in the actual film. And, of course when Hammer was in bed with Universal in the sixties, a one off monster popped up in EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN with a shoebox forehead that paid tribute to you know who. When we say 'Frankenstein' we all know what image is in everybody's head.

11:18 AM  

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