Here’s a trivia question I’ve stumped film buff friends with: Who was the fourth actor to play the Frankenstein Monster in the movies?
The answer is: Boris Karloff. The most famous of all Frankenstein Monsters was preceded by 3 silent era actors.
The first was Charles Ogle, the scarecrow-like Monster in the so-called “Edison” Frankenstein of 1910. The film was lost and forgotten for over 50 years, only to miraculously surface in a private collection. Today, you can watch or download the sixteen-minute silent on Archive.org.
The second Frankenstein Monster of the movies was played by English-born Percy Darrell Standing in the 1915 feature-length Life Without Soul. The film is lost but a publicity sheet clearly shows the Monster as a dimwitted brute in a torn shirt, without disfiguring makeup. The whole drama, as it often turned out in films of the era, is revealed in the end to have been a dream.
The third interpretation is infinitely more mysterious. Its existence was largely unknown through most of the 20th century and, still today, very little is known about it.
The 1920 Il Mostro di Frankenstein was produced in Italy, with German investment, by Luciano Albertini, who also portrayed Dr. Frankenstein. It co-stars his frequent film collaborators: Wife Linda Albertini and the imposing Umberto Guarracino as The Monster. Of the plot, all we know is that the Doctor confronts his creation in a dark cave. The whole thing clocked in at some 39 minutes of screen time. The film was reputedly censored by Italian authorities, compelling Albertini and company to pursue their film careers in Germany.
The following year, 1921, Guarracino played “the product of the secret workshop” in Die Insel der Verschollenen (Island of the Lost), an unauthorized adaptation of H.G.Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. Trivia question #2: Can you name the only other actor to ever play both the Frankenstein Monster and a creation of Dr. Moreau?
Guarracino is perhaps best remembered as Pluto, the fuzzy-bearded King of Hell to “strong man” genre superstar Bartolomeo Pagano’s Maciste in the classic Maciste all'inferno of 1926, the film that is said to have inspired a young Federico Fellini to become a filmmaker. By the way, Maciste in Hell is a special effect knockout with very elaborate sets and all manner of beast men, alluring she-devils, and a giant fire-breathing dragon identified as “Hell’s Aeroplane”!
Of Frankenstein’s Mostro, nothing survives save an illustration on a Belgian promotion flyer. It shows the monster surrounded by smoke or flames, menacingly brandishing a stick. In the background, an urgent figure appears on a staircase. A “mysterious vision”, the caption reads, “from the novel by Mrs. Shelley”.
I found the small picture on the net years ago, but the source seems to have disappeared. If anyone has access to a better, larger copy, please share!
Out of curiosity, I scanned the image at high resolution, enlarged and photoshopped it a bit to see if any detail could be brought out. I humbly submit the result of this experiment. The Monster appears as a bald-headed, muscular man. The face remains a cipher. A tantalizing image that’ll have to do, at least until a better one is found.