A while back my dentist told me that due to overly brutal brushing habits and bad luck in the gum genetics department that I needed to have oral sugery done. I finally went in and did it.It involved cutting tissue from the roof of my mouth and transplanting it in various places along my gumline. I was blissfully unaware of the procedure itself, as the surgeon gave me two little blue pills to take a half-hour before the procedure, plus IV sedation once I got there. I remember seeing two of everything at that point. The rest of the day is kind of a blur, except I do recall waking up with a mouthful of blood ( a common thing with this procedure, I'm told)...I got up and went to the bathroom, and spit up about a cupful or so of blood, then went back to the couch to crash again. The next day , I was more lucid, but with a mouthful of pain. So, with a fresh bunch of sutures, a monosyllabic grunting vocabulary, and a dim view of things in general, I decided it was a good day to watch the original 1931 Frankenstein.
I got a copy of the Universal Frankenstein Legacy DVD set at Half-Price Books a while back. It's a collection I'd been meaning to get for some time, but hadn't gotten around to it yet. Usually Half-Price doesn't have a lot of DVDs that interest me, but when I saw this 2-disc set for 12 bucks ( they were having a sale), it seemed meant to be. I hadn't watched these classics in a long time , and resembling the monster in question, it seemed a perfect film to watch that day.
Frankie and I go way back ( I know that Frankenstein is actually the doctor, not the monster, but I'm one of those that was brought up calling the monster by his creator's name...in other words, if you're a nit-picker, deal with it). The big, flat-topped amalgamation of dead parts brought to life was one of, if not the first, monsters I'd ever seen. I was about 3 years old or so, and I can remember getting out of bed at night, and on weekends my parents would be watching Creature Feature on the local ABC affiliate out of South Bend, Indiana. They would show what I would refer to back then as 'monster movies' on Friday and Saturday nights. This was back in the Dark Ages when there was not yet such things as cable TVs or home VCRs, much less DVDs. TV stations used to show a lot more movies back then, and they were often black-and-white classics(and not-so-classics,too)...something unheard of these days, except for TCM, maybe. It was either Frankenstein or The Mummy that I saw first, at least those are the two ones I can recall seeing at a really young age. Boris Karloff played the monsters in both films, so I guess he's partially to blame for how I turned out, because seeing these classic movies formed my love for horror way back then.
I remember being scared as Hell of Frankenstein when I was little...I even remember a nightmare I had, somewhere between the ages of 3 and 5, I think, where Frankenstein chased me down the corridor of an old castle, and grabbed me and lifted me up over his head, presumably to smash me on the floor or something, but I of course woke up and ran to my folks' room, bawling my rotten little head off. Still, even though Frankenstein scared me, I was fascinated by him. My parents still laugh to this day, because during a horror movie I would get scared, run out of the room...and always come creeping back in, unable to stay away from the black-and-white images on the little TV set in the otherwise darkened living room. There was something there, calling to me, speaking to me, even though I couldn't quite understand it yet. I recall my neighbor, an older kid named Rusty, who was an excellent artist, drew a very nice picture of Frankenstein for me, and I carried that thing around with me for the longest time. I sometimes wonder whatever became of Rusty...I hope he's still drawing today. That drawing meant the world to me then. I also remember having those old Aurora model kits of Dracula and the Phantom of the Opera, with the glow-in-the-dark parts. My parents put them together for me, because I was too young to manage a model kit...Hell, I can barely manage one today, for that matter. Somewhere along the line I got a Frankenstein trash can, and a Frankenstein action figure, both of which I still have to this day.
As I got older ( and by older, I mean about 7 or so), I saw the true spirit behind the monster that I intuitively saw as a toddler. Frankenstein was scary looking, and yes, he did kill some people, but really, he was just a big doofus who wanted what we all do...friends and understanding. This especially came clear in the first sequel, Bride Of Frankenstein (1935), when the monster learns to speak, and briefly has those things he wants so badly, only to have them taken from him. My heart broke along with his when I watched , and my heart still goes out to that giant, stitched-up monster when I see it to this day.
Human feelings aside, I suspect, deep down, that one of the reasons I liked Frankenstein ( and the other monsters) so much is because they were scary. I don't know why this is...I just know that on some deep, primeval level I've always been drawn to monsters and scary stuff, as well as superheroes ( which I guess is the flip side of monsters and horror, though there is a lot of crossover territory...Batman, for example). As I got older and quickly realized that I wasn't one of those kids that 'fit in', I began to identify with monsters more, as they are typically outsiders, especially Frankie, since unlike , say, Dracula, he isn't evil, just misguided. Sometimes the people around you seem a lot like the villagers in the Frankenstein films...a mindless, judgemental mob out to get rid of anything different, unwilling to take the time to look beneath the surface. One can hardly blame Frankie for throwing a few villagers around.
I plan on covering the Frankenstein films in more depth in October when I do my Halloween Horror film reviews, but for today, I just wanted to 'talk' a bit about an old friend of mine that I got to see for the first time in years, and how he's responsible for getting me into 'monster movies' all those years ago. Thanks, Frankie..I owe you.
Safety tip: Kids, take swimming lessons before playing with Frankie...