October 4, 2014

Mike Mignola's Frankenstein Underground

The big Countdown to Halloween celebrations are underway and I’m just catching up now. My contribution this year will be mostly art — and I have some eye-popping treats coming up for you! — so it’s very appropriate to kick off with this sumptuous illustration by the great Mike Mignola.

The news hit earlier this week and you can read all the details in the MTV interview with Mignola about the Frankenstein Underground miniseries coming next Spring wherein our favorite Monster becomes part of Mike Mignola’s superlative comics universe.

Mignola’s very personal version of The Monster was first introduced in The House of the Living Dead one-shot, illustrated by Richard Corben. Now we’ll be getting the backstory and continuation of The Monster’s highly unusual adventures written — and with covers — by Mignola, and interior art by Ben Stenbeck. This one is definitely something to cheer and to watch for.

The annual Countdown to Halloween Event, hosted by John Rozum and Shawn Robare, brings together some 200 (!) bloggers to celebrate Pumpkin Season. 

Just click the Creature from the Black Lagoon badge on the menu, top right, and access the complete list of participants. It’s a joyful embarrassment of chilling riches!


September 23, 2014

The Art of Frankenstein : Paco Giménez

Here’s an adaptation of Frankenstein for Young Adult readers published in 2008 by Bromera in Spanish and Algar in Catalan. The two covers by Paco Giménez capture tragic moments: Deep sadness at The Monster’s murder of Victor Frankenstein’s youngest brother, William, and the sudden, violent revenge killing of Elizabeth, a wedding bouquet falling from her hands.

Writer Jesús Cortés (Jesús Cortés Zarzoso) has adapted a number of classic works including Homer’s Odyssey, Melville’s Moby Dick and Stoker’s Dracula. Paco Giménez (Francisco Giménez Ortega) is an award-winning artist who has illustrated a number of children’s books and comics. His Frankenstein illustrations are done in stark, geometric strokes that are at once economical and lyrical.

September 17, 2014

Subway Frankenstein

If you are a book reader, you never travel alone. That’s the message from Bookish, a promotional website launched in February 2013. Here, a reader shares a subway ride with Scarlett O’Hara, Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein’s Monster. The art — artist unfortunately unidentified — was featured last year in one of a series of subway ads in New York. Tag line read, “Give your ride more character”.  

Memorable Characters page on Bookish.com

With thanks to Joseph Grego.


September 12, 2014

Richard Kiel (1939-2014)

Actor Richard Kiel passed away on September 10, just a few days short of his 75th birthday. Kiel parlayed his towering size — due to a hormonal condition known as acromegaly — into a film and television career playing gigantic strongmen, mountainous henchmen, colossal aliens and mammoth monsters. When given a chance, he showed he could also act really well, too.

Kiel’s credits include many memorable parts. Early on, in 1962, he was the giant caveman, EEGAH, and the unforgettable alien in the classic TWILIGHT ZONE episode, TO SERVE MAN. His TV work included appearances on THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., THE WILD WILD WEST and KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER.

Kiel was the original actor chosen to play Bill Bixby’s green alter-ego in THE INCREDIBLE HULK (1978), but he was replaced a couple of days into the pilot shoot in favor of the more muscular Lou Ferrigno. Kiel was happy to bail, having found the full-body makeup and the thick contact lenses most uncomfortable. He was also offered the part of Darth Vader, but the role went to David Prowse after Kiel chose, instead, to play the steel-toothed “Jaws” opposite Roger Moore’s James Bond in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977) and MOONRAKER (1979). It would be the character he’d be most remembered for, though he earned himself a whole new generation of fans with a celebrated turn in HAPPY GILMORE (1996).

Kiel is one of a handful of actors to play two different iterations of the Frankenstein Monster. In 1967, billed as Dick Kiel, he had bolts sticking out of his ears in I WAS A TEENAGE MONSTER, an episode of THE MONKEES in which the boys try to turn The Monster into a pop star. With a bit more to do than just look big and menacing, Kiel demonstrated a fine flair for comedy.

Kiel’s second pass at The Monster had him in full, classic makeup with blue face, flattop — and a bow tie — as a Haunted House club manager in the first season, first episode of THE HARDY BOYS/NANCY DREW MYSTERIES (1977).

In recent years, soldiering on despite a serious car accident in 1992 that left him with reduced mobility, Kiel enjoyed appearing on the convention circuit, happy to meet fans and generous with his time. Richard Kiel was a giant man who, by all accounts, had a heart to match.

Both of Richard Kiel’s Frankenstein appearances are on YouTube. Here are the full episodes of THE MONKEES: I WAS A TEENAGE MONSTER, and THE HARDY BOYS/NANCY DREW MYSTERIES: THE MYSTERY OF THE HAUNTED HOUSE.  

September 10, 2014

Meet Senator Frankenstein Fishface

The gentleman with the exploding mustache is Senator Frankenstein Fishface, a radio personality of the early Forties. A self-professed “foolosopher”, The Senator ran for President on the Pussyfooter’s Party ticket and promoted nudism under the auspices of the Open Pore Nudist Cult of Bareback Gulch, Pa. He also ran for Mayor of New York, promising “to put a radio, overstuffed furniture and a featherbed in every jail cell in our city. That's so our jails will attract a better class of people!"

The Senator was Elmore Vincent (1908-2000), a Texas-born entertainer who first broke into show business as “The Texas Troubadour”. Relocating to Seattle, Vincent got into radio in 1929 on KJR’s Mardi Gras, a daily, 90-minute variety program, appearing as “The Northwest Shanty Boy”, singing lumberjack songs with yodel accompaniment. Having to support his family through the dark days of the Great Depression, Vincent expanded his repertoire, performing comic sketches as a blowhard, word-mangling politician. The show’s director, Ivan Ditmars came up with the name “Senator Fishface” and it is assumed that it was Vincent who added the Frankenstein surname.

In 1934, NBC came calling and persuaded Vincent to bring his act to their San Francisco station. Going out over the Blue Network on the daily Carefree Carnival show, Senator Frankenstein Fishface was a nationwide hit. When the show was cancelled in 1936, Vincent took Frankenstein Fishface on tour, performing live in trademark mustache, a baggy suit and a crumpled high hat. Along the way, he voiced “Pa Scarecrow” for Tex Avery in a Warner’s Merrie Melodies cartoon, I’D LOVE TO TAKE ORDERS FROM YOU (1936).

In New York, Vincent hooked up with NBC again for another 2-year stint, now in his own series co-starring writer-comic Don Johnson as “Professor Willbert G. Figgsbottle”. As a measure of the Frankenstein Fishface character’s enduring popularity, Vincent was recruited to appear in a pioneering test program of RCA’s television system in 1937, beaming out to all of 60 TV sets in New York, live from Radio City. It was Senator Frankenstein Fishface last hurrah. In years to come, Vincent occasionally revisited the character under new names. He was called “Durwood Zinkafoose” in 1949, and “Senator Bolivar Gassaway” in 1961, otherwise Vincent developed a new specialty playing crusty old men. In ’44-45, he played Phineas Peabody on radio’s Lum and Abner, and soon transitioned to television, where he played grandpappys, old janitors and farmer types on classic TV series like DRAGNET, SKY KING, TALES OF WELLS FARGO and THE REAL McCOYS. He played Santa Claus in a 1955 episode of HIGHWAY PATROL and Doc Appleby on THE DUKES OF HAZZARD in 1982. His last TV work saw him play old-timers, including the recurring character “Floyd” on LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, 1980 to ’82.

Elmore Vincent never quite retired, reprising his old man character — in actual old age — for Dinner Theater plays and speaking engagements. He passed away in 2000 at 91. 

Senator Frankenstein Fishface was a precursor of the double-talking, comically illogical experts and phony politicians such as Red Skelton’s San Fernando Red, and satirists the likes of Pat Paulsen, Prof. Irwin Corey and even Brother Theodore. Plugging “Frankenstein” into the character’s name was good fun and symbolic of the name's ubiquitousness.

A fascinating bio of Elmore Vincent on the Lum and Abner site.

August 31, 2014

Mary Shelley Celebrated

We mark the birthday, this weekend, of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, née Mary Godwin on 30 August, 1797. On this occasion, we also note the recent announcement of two new films devoted to Mary Shelley, both starring young, high profile actresses and both under the guidance of women directors.

MARY SHELLEY’S MONSTER will star Sophie Turner of GAME OF THRONES in a film described as “a story of youth that transcends time, a gothic romance, a love triangle that involves a dark passenger…” The attached director, Coky Giedroyc, is familiar with the period and the subject, having directed a TV movie of WUTHERING HEIGHTS (2009), and two excellent episodes of the Frankenstein-related PENNY DREADFUL series for Showtime.

A STORM IN THE STARS casts Elle Fanning, recently of MALEFICENT (2014) as Mary and tells of her forbidden romance with poet Percy Shelley. The film has been entrusted to Saudi-Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour.

We’ll keep an eye out and report on developments on these projects over the months to come.

August 25, 2014

Frankensteinian : Gourmelin's Golem in color

I love how these images, unexpected, undreamed of, emerge to surprise and delight us. Images like Ed Payson’s 3D Frankenstein of 1941 sitting in the makeup chair, or a unique, previously unknown still of makeup man Jack Pierce with Elsa Lanchester as the BRIDE

I previously blogged about the French television adaptation of Gustav Meyrink’s LE GOLEM from 1967, one of the ORTF network’s last productions shot in black and white. Here, across a gap of 47 years, the Golem is revealed in color!

The teleplay was co-written by Louis Pauwels (Morning of the Magicians) and director Jean Kerchbron, whose TV credits include a version of King Lear. Actor André Reybaz played both the lead character, Pernath, and the Golem. The Golem mask was created by Jean Gourmelin, faithful to Meyrink’s description yet also true to artist’s typically surrealistic illustrations.

Here is a tantalizing, 60-second montage from the program in which we glimpse the Golem pursued by an angry mob. Perhaps black and white best suits this adaptation, but the photograph at hand shows that the stone-faced Golem in his thick blue coat was very effective in color, too.

More images from the French TV LE GOLEM.

Gourmelin’s Golem