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

August 21, 2014

Frankenstein, MD Goes Online

A new multiplatform webseries very loosely inspired by Frankenstein launched this week with three episodes that get us nicely up to speed.

Produced by Pemberley Digital, the series repurposes Mary Shelley’s characters to serve pedagogic purposes. Here, in a modern setting, young Victoria Frankenstein (Anna Lore) is a science student with an assistant named Iggie (Steve Zaragoza). The initial episodes deal with electrophysiology, blood substitutes and anesthetics.

It’s all very straightforward and neatly done with interesting information served up with light humor by a good cast. Target audience is Young Adults.

New episodes — roughly six minutes apiece — will appear weekly through PBS Digital Studio and the show will also maintain a presence on multiple social media sites.

Frankenstein, MD on YouTube/PBS Digital Studio 
Frankenstein, MD page at Pemberley Digital.


August 10, 2014

Son of Shock!

Launched in October of 1957, the original Shock! package of Universal horror films was a TV phenomenon that sent national ratings through the roof and, according to the industry’s Sponsor magazine, “May be the key to opening the advertising door in the late evening”. Fifty-two films were offered, led by the classic James Whale FRANKENSTEIN, a full year’s worth of weekly shockers yet, barely six months on, syndicator Screen Gems announced the Son of Shock package, adding 20 more titles to the collection, notably giving the 1935 BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN its television debut.

Published in Broadcasting magazine, this May 1958 ad for “TV’s Most Sensational Feature Film Success” has a monster group dominated by Glenn Strange’s Frankenstein Monster in a nail-drying pose. The same photo is repeated, swapping in a different shot of Strange’s head, to create the image of Frankenstein and its Monster Son. Note, also, the bat-cupid carrying the baby.

Here is a complete list of all the movies in the Shock! and Son of Shock series.

With thanks to George Chastain. 


August 6, 2014

The Shock! Treatment

October 1957, a trade ad in Broadcasting magazine features Glenn Strange’s floating head as Screen Gems celebrates the blockbusting launch of Shock!, the TV package that brought the classic monster movies to a whole new generation of fans.

Just look at the boom, zoom and bloom numbers! Ratings at San Francisco’s KRON-TV went up 807%! It was the same story all over: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Philadelphia and points between recorded similarly stratospheric performances, and all those boggling, industry-shaking returns were generated by just one film, Shock’s inaugural offering, FRANKENSTEIN. 

The James Whale film had been a box-office phenomenon upon its initial release in 1931 and it was still drawing ‘round-the-block crowds when it was sent out again in 1938. FRANKENSTEIN would continue to pop up in second-run houses through the years as a perennially reliable ticket.

When it made its TV debut as the linchpin of the Shock collection, Colin Clive threw the switch that ignited a Monster Boom and Boris Karloff stomped into living rooms across America, ushering in the Monster Kid era. Soon, Famous Monsters magazine and Aurora figure kits appeared, and monster merchandizing multiplied. Within a decade, The Frankenstein was a sitcom star on The Munsters.

Next up: The SON of SHOCK!


July 31, 2014

Dick Smith, 1922-2014

With great sadness we learn that special effect makeup master Dick Smith has passed away, July 30, 2016. He was 92 years old.

Dick Smith was a giant in his field, an innovator, and massively influential, though he might be best remembered for his generosity as a teacher and a mentor to aspiring makeup artists. He was even willing to share his knowledge with the very youngest monster movie fans as he did in 1965 with the magazine-format Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-Up Handbook published by James Warren’s Famous Monsters.

Here, reposted, is an article I wrote back in 2010 about Smith and the Handbook.

Dick Smith's Frankenstein

For first generation Monster Kids in 1965, Dick Smith’s Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-up Handbook was the holy grail. There had never been anything like it before. Here, incredibly, was a step-by-step guide on how to turn yourself into a monster, written in simple language, easily understood, and published in an inexpensive magazine format by Famous Monsters!

I sent away for the book and would spend the next year or two experimenting with monster makeup. I hunted down the suggested ingredients, esoteric stuff like spirit gum, collodion and thick, smelly liquid latex.

Soon, I could lace my arms with disturbingly realistic scars and give myself a bubbly burned face using corn syrup and breadcrumbs, adding red and blue strings for veins. I could arthritically deform my knuckles using glue and cotton matted down and shaped with acrylic paint. I even made a bald-head skullcap, painting liquid latex on a balloon, and worn to hilarious effect.

Smith’s book described a number of makeups, from an easy Weird-Oh character and a painted on split-skull face to more elaborate jobs, stepping up the difficulty level as he went on.

I never attempted the complex werewolf or the book’s pièce de résistance, Smith’s New Frankenstein Monster, which took its cue from Mary Shelley’s description, “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath.

I can’t imagine how any kid could achieve this one without infinite patience, helping hands, and uncommon talent. The full-head job required hammering out a metal skullcap, carefully building up facial muscles with cotton and mortician’s wax (an anatomical diagram of facial muscles and arteries was provided), and covering everything with a transparent gelatin skin. The finished effect must have been stunning. Smith admitted that it did not photograph well, writing “the weird transparency of the skin is more apparent to the eyes than to the camera, but it was most effective.” The whole thing would theoretically peel away easily, though Smith suggested using baby shampoo to clean the red stains off your face!
Dick Smith’s book is symbolic of his generosity and his eagerness to share his knowledge, an avowed reaction to the wall of silence he encountered as a fledgling makeup artist in the late Forties. Hollywood makeup men wouldn’t share their secrets. “None of them would give you the time of day,” Smith said. Throughout his life, Smith was kind to fellow artists, most notably in his mentorship of Rick Baker, who was guided and encouraged by Smith when still a teenager.

Amazingly, when Dick Smith wrote his Handbook in 1965, his best work was still ahead. Smith would go on to create the latex appliance methods still in use today. He introduced the use of bladders for breathing effects, spurting blood, and the crawling skin transformations seen in Altered States (1980). He created the ultimate “old man” makeup, still a reference, for Dustin Hoffman’s Big Little Man, a design also used on vampire Barnabas Collins in House of Dark Shadows, both made in 1966. Smith designed the gruesomely realistic effects of violence in Coppola’s Godfather pictures, Scorcese’s Taxi Driver (1976) and, in what is perhaps his masterpiece, he created the astounding makeup effects on display in The Exorcist (1973).

Dick Smith’s Do-It-Yourself Monster Makeup Handbook, in both its original Warren magazine format and an updated book edition from 1985, is an expensive collector’s item today. Still available is a 40-minute demonstration video, Monster Makeup Hosted by Dick Smith, directed by John Russo.

Scans from the original Warren edition are on view over at the Magic Carpet Burn blog archives. Here’s The New Frankenstein Monster. Click and scroll around to see the rest of the mag.
Dick Smith’s website.

Still online, an abandoned blog, Max and Courtney Make Monsters, attempted to recreate every makeup described in Smith’s Do-It-Yourself book.

Dick Smith’s makeup for TV’s Arsenic and Old Lace.

July 24, 2014

Frankenstein Cannot Be Stopped!

Art/Horror filmmaker Larry Fessenden, Spirit Award winner and Fangoria Hall of Famer, knows his Frankensteins. We previously posted his Frankenstein Mashup, a glorious edit of 27 different Frankenstein films — Be sure to follow the link if you haven’t seen it yet! Now, Fessenden revisits The Monster with FRANKENSTEIN CANNOT BE STOPPED, a music video for the New York-based band Life in a Blender.

The classic Monster is evoked with a rigid, kabuki-like mask, with lighting, shooting angles and context bringing it to life. Fessenden also uses an animated puppet to introduce The Monster, and again at the end for its fiery demise in the requisite burning windmill.

I have always loved the design of the classic flat-top Frankenstein Monster,” Fessenden says, “and as I patched these images together I was amused to see how subtle differences in the performance of the puppet and of Mike Vincent in the mask would evoke specific cinematic incarnations of the monster.

The filmmaker had Frankensteinia readers in mind! “I thought of your readers...” he writes. “Who else could distinguish between Karloff, Glenn Strange, Herman Munster and the Aurora model kit!

The clip is a loving homage to the James Whale original, and the song is a tragic ballad of The Monster’s disastrous flower game with the little girl.

With thanks to Larry Fessenden.

Larry Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix Productions

Frankenstein Mashup by Larry Fessenden

June 23, 2014

Fearless Frankenstein

Korkum yok!... I Have No Fear!

Thus reads the title of the cover story for the Turkish magazine, 46. The subject is rock/pop musician and composer, and film/TV actor Özkan Uğur, posing in an elaborate classic Frankenstein Monster makeup.

There’s a bit of a Glenn Strange vibe to Uğur’s Monster, don’t you think?

Instantly recognizable, truly iconic, the image speaks to the classic movie Frankenstein Monster’s universality.