August 23, 2015

Frankenstein's Creature

A radical new retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein comes to the London stage this week — and very reasonably priced tickets might still be had if you are in the vicinity.

Running August 25 to 29, Frankenstein’s Creature is a one-man play written and performed by James Swanton who has garnered consistently high praise for his work, notably his recent West End success in Sykes and Nancy. Mr. Swanton is no stranger to extraordinary characters of genre fiction having played the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Marley’s Ghost.

Frankenstein’s Creature promises to be an intense experience as the story is told entirely from The Creature’s perspective. “With no name and no past,” reads the press release, “he must forge a place in a world that does not want him. He must find his voice.  

The image of Swanton as The Creature shows him biting into an apple, the new Adam cast out of paradise.

Frankenstein’s Creature is directed by Jack Gamble with designs by Zoe Koperski. It is produced by Jack Gamble and Quentin Beroud for Dippermouth and mounted at Theater503 on Battersea Park Road, London.

We’ll be on the lookout for reviews and future productions.

Frankenstein’s Creature on Theatre503 page.
Frankenstein’s Creature on Facebook.

August 20, 2015

Have some cake!

I want to take a moment before this day runs out and note that this blog was launched on August 20, all of eight years ago. Eight years! I don’t know how that happened! I was just fooling around, honest, and I never thought I’d make it past eight days, maybe 8 weeks tops and, well, look at us now. I just checked my stats counter, and we’ve clocked a bit over two million visits in eight years. Two million! How did that happen?

Posting has been sparse over some time now, due mostly to real life butting in. Lots of things keeping me busy, and I won’t even mention my recent Hard Drive meltdown and the loss of research material I had failed to backup properly. Otherwise, it’s been a very good time, being busy with my graphic novels for the French market, and busy with TV, movie and web series writing, all good news for a freelancer. I also was the subject of a TV documentary, how about that! On the side, I never stopped researching Frankenstein in all its aspects and I’ve amassed tons of great new material.

Now I’m on top of things again and I’m undertaking a much busier posting schedule. Very shortly, I’ll be running a series celebrating the 80th anniversary of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) and, after three years of research, I’ll be posting about the Forgotten Frankensteins of the Thirties! Earlier this year, I made a pilgrimage to Malibou Lake just outside LA, where they shot the Little Maria scene for FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and I’ll be sharing that, and lots more finds and surprises over the days, weeks and months to come.

I made a lot of real friends here over the years, and I got to visit with some of you as I traveled to New York, Louisville, London, Paris and Los Angeles. I hope to see you all again, and meet new friends along the way. You all are the reason I keep doing this.

So join me, and do have a slice of birthday cake, won’t you?  

August 19, 2015


Directed by Paul McGuinan, VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN, the “biggest” new Frankenstein picture in years awaits release, come late November. James McAvoy plays the title role, but the film’s point of view is that of perennial assistant Igor, played by Daniel Radcliffe.

At top here is the American trailer, released this week. The next one here is the UK trailer. It’s worth watching both, offering very different views of the same film. The American trailer plays up the humor and the chaotic thrills on tap, with McAvoy delivering a number of quips. The UK trailer, with opening narration by Radcliffe, is more straightforward, rock score aside, notably with a hint of Igor’s past as a hunchback, and a good look at a horrific monkey-monster.

We note the now inevitable “It’s alive!” line, first introduced as “It Lives!” by Richard Brinsley Peake in 1823 for the first Frankenstein play, Presumption, or The Fate of Frankenstein. Peake also introduced the assistant, named Fritz. Ygor with a “y” was introduced by Bela Lugosi in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939).

Note also a quick shot of free-floating eyeballs following a light source, first manipulated by Peter Cushing in Terence Fisher’s THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1956).

If you care to google, there’s a lot of buzz about the film, including video of Radcliffe and McAvoy discussing the picture at this summer’s San Diego Comicon.

Looking forward to this one.  

August 17, 2015

Strange As it Seems!

Mary Shelley’s own story of having first imagined Frankenstein as a waking dream became a pop culture anecdote, endlessly repeated. Here, in a cartoon panel from March 1950, a generic Mary tosses around in a Forties hairdo and negligee, dreaming up the plot “for the amusement of friends”.

Created by writer and artist John Hix, the Strange as It Seems newspaper feature launched in 1928 to immediate success and a syndicated career that would span 42 years. The strip’s popularity triggered a series of movie shorts from Universal and Columbia, eventually packaged for television, and a long-running radio series with episodes reissued on records. The features were recycled in book collections and comic books.  

Obviously inspired by Robert Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Hix quickly staked out his own territory, favoring mild curiosities and oddball facts while Ripley’s strip skewed sensationalistic and downright weird. The difference in tone would serve Hix when, in 1935, the Pacific International Exposition in San Diego invited him to replace Ripley’s exhibit of '34, judged “too gruesome”. Again, in ’39, the New York World’s Fair picked Hix over Ripley for its exhibition of curiosities. Ripley countered by setting up his Odditorium on land just outside the Fair’s jurisdiction.

John Hix succumbed to a heart attack on D-Day — dare I say "strange as it seems" —, June 6, 1944, a few days short of his 37th birthday. Through the coming years, the strip would be passed on to a long line of family members. John’s brother, Ernest, picked up as researcher and writer, relying on artists Dick Kirby and Doug Heyes, and ran the feature until his own sudden demise, in a 1948 plane crash. Ernest’s wife, Elsie Huber Hix, continued on with artist George Jahns until she retired in 1963. Her son, Ernest Jr. and his wife Phyllis ran the strip with art by Jahns until the feature folded in 1972. John Hix’s grandnephew, Jeff, is currently curator of the Hix archives.

The Mary Shelley panel was from Elsie’s tenure, with perfunctory art by Jahns. The ‘waking dream’ anecdote had first been used by John Hix back in 1936, on radio episode #195, as “How ‘Frankenstein’ was inspired by a nightmare”.

A detailed history of Hix’s Strange as It Seems, on Digital Deli.
A 1937 Strange as It Seems short from Columbia about Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette.
A video history of John Hix on the Strange as It Seems YouTube channel, run by Jeff Hix. 

August 11, 2015

The Brisbane Frankenstein

Delighted to visit again with Brisbane’s Frankenstein impersonator of 1932. Rarely were ballyhoo men ever identified, but this one we know as Lance Robartson, reputedly the tallest man in Australia, standing six feet and eleven inches sans monster boots.

In our previous encounter, a photograph of Mr. Robartson was a poor one, as is often the case with microfilm sources. Here, finally, we get a good look at our Monster. No elaborate makeup was necessary. Size, costume, a deadpan stare and a matted wig did the job.

This photo from The Telegraph of June 10, 1932 chronicles Robartson’s arrival at the train station on Thursday the 9th, greeted by the press and a brave young man. That same evening, Robartson was the special guest at a dance cabaret soirĂ©e, all of it promoting Universal’s FRANKENSTEIN, opening that weekend at the city’s storied Tivoli theatre.

For more details about the event, read our original post: The Monster, In Person!

Source: The Brisbane Telegraph archives on Trove.

July 27, 2015

Sherlock/Frankenstein Crowdsourced

Long time coming, Gautier Cazenave’s ambitious SHERLOCK HOLMES VS FRANKENSTEIN film has taken a big step forward after a very successful Indiegogo crowdsourcing operation. In June, the project scored an auspicious 117% of its initial 20,000 Euro goal, making an extended funding campaign possible. The new target is 40,000 Euros by August 31.

SHERLOCK HOLMES VS FRANKENSTEIN is a classic, old school gothic thriller. The Indiegogo site has a test teaser trailer, info on locations and props, and introductions to cast members, led by Shane Briant, reprising his role as Simon Helder, last seen assisting Peter Cushing In Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FORM HELL (1974). The Monster will be played by seven foot three actor John Lebar, recently the super-sized Ghost Engineer in Ridley Scott’s PROMETHEUS (2012).

Indiegogo page.
Project Blog.


May 30, 2015

Monster Mischief

Poor Mrs. Fradence Frankenstein of London, inconvenienced by pranksters and inconsiderate twits playing upon her fine name. 

At 90, how long had the widow suffered the crank calls before finally seeking respite? And did she ever expect her name and her reasonable request for some measure of privacy to be sent out around the world as amusing newspaper filler material — here from The Straits Times of Singapore, 5 september 1964 — courtesy of United Press International? Surely that was the unkindest prank of all.