Posts Tagged ‘james whale

23
Oct
08

Where’d HE come from? The Invisible Man

You’ve got the gloves, the goggles, the scarf, the hat, and the long jacket. You’d love to “do the town” but there’s one problem: people can see right through you. Literally. Holing up in some motel, you plot your next course of action. Rob a bank? Get vengeance on those who avenged you? But how did you get here?

 

Stories of invisibility have been around almost as long as vampires and werewolves. In the beginning, only gods, angels, demons, and the like were able to become invisible, or actually be invisible. In Plato’s “The Republic,” a peasant finds a ring that provides invisibility, which he uses to get into the palace and seduce the Queen, plotting to kill the King. The Greek hero Perseus used a cloak of invisibility to kill Medusa. From this point, invisibility was kept primarily to objects such as rings, cloaks, and hats.

 

Skip way-forward to 1859, when author, playwright, and critic Fitz James O’Brien released the short story, “What Was It? A Mystery.” Although more of a playwright than a novelist (or short story writer), this piece of fiction was the first to deal with the subject of an “invisible monster.” About 22 years later then techno-writer Edward Page Mitchell released, “The Crystal Man,” an 1881 novel that is credited for the first use of scientific means to make a man invisible. These two literary sources led to “The Damned Thing,” by Ambrose Bierce (1894), where an invisible monster is loose in the Old West, and “The Horla” by Guy de Maupassant (1897), where an invisible being slowly drives the main character insane.

The same year H.G. Wells released, “The Invisible Man.” Not to be confused with “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, this story was about Griffin, a scientist kicked out of a university who pilfered money from his father and had been conducting experiments on invisibility until an altercation forces him to test it on himself. In being invisible, he robs banks in order to have money to continue finding a “cure” for invisibility. A pursuit by the police occurs and Griffin is killed. As he dies, his body slowly returns to being visible.

 

Horror author H.P. Lovecraft took the invisibility + monster idea and used it to craft his tale, “The Dunwich Horror” (1929). Hollywood, or rather Universal Studios, stepped in 4 years later and released, “The Invisible Man.” Directed by James Whale, “The Invisible Man” starred Claude Rains as Jack Griffin, a scientist who creates a new drug called “Monocane.” This drug allows him to be invisible, but slowly drives him insane. Trying to force his one-time partner Kemp (William Harrigan) to be a partner again and secretly seeing Flora (Gloria Stuart), things go awry. He’s captured and dies in a hospital, becoming visible again after death.

 

You’ve got the gloves, the goggles, the scarf, the hat, and the long jacket. You’d love to “do the town” but there’s one problem: people can see right through you. Literally. Holing up in some motel, you plot your next course of action. Rob a bank? Get vengeance on those who avenged you? But how did you get here?

 

Stories of invisibility have been around almost as long as vampires and werewolves. In the beginning, only gods, angels, demons, and the like were able to become invisible, or actually be invisible. In Plato’s “The Republic,” a peasant finds a ring that provides invisibility, which he uses to get into the palace and seduce the Queen, plotting to kill the King. The Greek hero Perseus used a cloak of invisibility to kill Medusa. From this point, invisibility was kept primarily to objects such as rings, cloaks, and hats.

 

Skip way-forward to 1859, when author, playwright, and critic Fitz James O’Brien released the short story, “What Was It? A Mystery.” Although more of a playwright than a novelist (or short story writer), this piece of fiction was the first to deal with the subject of an “invisible monster.” About 22 years later then techno-writer Edward Page Mitchell released, “The Crystal Man,” an 1881 novel that is credited for the first use of scientific means to make a man invisible. These two literary sources led to “The Damned Thing,” by Ambrose Bierce (1894), where an invisible monster is loose in the Old West, and “The Horla” by Guy de Maupassant (1897), where an invisible being slowly drives the main character insane.

The same year H.G. Wells released, “The Invisible Man.” Not to be confused with “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, this story was about Griffin, a scientist kicked out of a university who pilfered money from his father and had been conducting experiments on invisibility until an altercation forces him to test it on himself. In being invisible, he robs banks in order to have money to continue finding a “cure” for invisibility. A pursuit by the police occurs and Griffin is killed. As he dies, his body slowly returns to being visible.

 

Horror author H.P. Lovecraft took the invisibility + monster idea and used it to craft his tale, “The Dunwich Horror” (1929). Hollywood, or rather Universal Studios, stepped in 4 years later and released, “The Invisible Man.” Directed by James Whale, “The Invisible Man” starred Claude Rains as Jack Griffin, a scientist who creates a new drug called “Monocane.” This drug allows him to be invisible, but slowly drives him insane. Trying to force his one-time partner Kemp (William Harrigan) to be a partner again and secretly seeing Flora (Gloria Stuart), things go awry. He’s captured and dies in a hospital, becoming visible again after death.

 

The 1933 movie was followed by sequels: “The Invisible Man Returns” (1940), “The Invisible Woman” (1940), “Invisible Agent” (1942), and “The Invisible Man’s Revenge” (1944). TV series were created; “The Invisible Man” in 1958, “The Invisible Man” in 1975, “Gemini Man” in 1976. etc. “Hollow Man,” a film starring Kevin Bacon as the main character, was released in 2000 (it also has a straight-to-DVD sequel). And rock band Queen even had a song called, “The Invisible Man,” on their album, “Innuendo.”

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09
Oct
08

Where’d HE come from? The Frankenstein monster

A lone castle, isolated from the town below. A wild-eyed scientist has pieced together parts from various “donors” in order to create a human being. Lightning flashes in the sky and strikes a lightning rod, kicking the machinery below into action. When everything is said and done, a lone finger rises from the compiled body. It’s alive! But, how did we get here?

 

Grave robbing was good pay in the late 1700’s/early 1800’s. Doctors and scientists were just beginning to study anatomy and would pay for a corpse to dissect. Nefarious individuals would go into cemeteries at night and dig someone up, then meet for the dropoff and payout. Money is money, right?

 

It was in the cold summer of 1816 that Mary Wollstonecraft Goodwin and her then boyfriend Percy Shelley went to visit Lord Byron. As the day was dreary, they stayed indoors and waited for the next day. Conversation turned to experiments on Erasmus Darwin, who claimed to have animated dead matter. After reading some German ghost stories and having been tasked to come up with a supernatural story, Mary had a dream. That dream would eventually be realized as a novel called, “Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus.”

 

The “Frankenstein” story was about Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who became inspired by modern studies and combining them with older alchemic studies, proceeds to bring inanimate objects to life. Once he does bring it to life, however, he is horrified by what he created and runs out of the room, fleeing from the creature. Within a year’s time he recovers, but finds that his youngest brother is murdered. Is it the work of the creature? On a hike in the Geneva Mountains the creature finds Victor and tells him a story about helping out a family that turned on him, and that all he wants is a companion. Victor goes to create such a companion, and then destroys it. The creature retaliates by killing Victor’s best friend and wife. Victor is then in hot pursuit of the creature, following him to the Arctic. Victor finally dies from ill health and the creature is disheartened, leaving on an ice raft.

 

Mary Goodwin/Shelley wrote “Frankenstein” in respect to Gothic novels and the Romantic Movement, and as a response to the Industrial Revolution of the time. Victor Frankenstein had more of wonderment with science, and the creature became a rejected child that emotionally and mentally grew up with loneliness. She was speaking out about how times were changing, and how man mentally reacted to the change. There’s also something to be said that the creature is the “Frankenstein monster,” seeing as Frankenstein never named it, rejecting his creation in horror.

 

While critically panned, the book became hugely popular. Theatre producers loved the concept of a scientist “piecing together” and animating a man, but weren’t too keen on the “psychological implication” aspect. Victor slowly became more and more crazy, and the monster began losing any human qualities he had. These changes to the story led to another “creation”: the mad scientist genre. The fine line between genius and insanity depended upon what the mad scientist was trying to do which usually involved mutating humans, body-swapping, etc.

 

Back to “Frankenstein.” Thomas Edison created the first “Frankenstein” movie in 1910. A few other silent “Frankensteins” were also created until 1931, when Universal released what has became the most widely known and recognized Frankenstein movie to date. Starring Boris Karloff as the monster, “Frankenstein” was about Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive), a scientist who is busy at work in his lab with his loyal hunchback, Fritz (Dwight Frye). When his fiancée convinces his old med school prof Dr. Waldman (Edward Van Sloan) to speak with him, they find he manufactures a creature (Karloff). The creature comes to life. Waldman tries destroying it, but the creature kills him. The villagers start a manhunt and chase the monster to a windmill. They set the windmill on fire, the creature burns, and Frankenstein is saved. Of note, the movie was based more on Peggy Webling’s 1920 play than the book.

 

“Frankenstein” joins “Dracula” in the sequel factor. “The Bride of Frankenstein” came next in 1935, seizing on the “Frankenstein” name and attributing it to the monster more so than the scientist. Following that, “Son of Frankenstein,” and “Ghost of Frankenstein.” The Frankenstein monster was the influence for Herman Munster on the TV show, “The Munsters.” And the original “Frankenstein” movie was spoofed by Mel Brooks in the film, “Young Frankenstein.” Trivia note: Brooks was able to use the exact same props and set pieces from the original movie.