Super Mates 104: House of Franklin-Stein Part 4

In this year’s final trip to the House of Franklin-Stein, Chris and Cindy share an audio commentary on one of horror’s greatest films, James Whale’s 1931 classic, Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff!

Then it’s back to the comic crypt for “Bizarro Meets Frankenstein” by Otto Binder, Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye from Superman #143 (Feb. 1961). The backwards duplicate of Superman wreaks havoc at a movie studio who dares to declare Frankenstein is the greatest monster!

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Clip credits:

Theme from The Adventures of Superman by Leon Klatzkin

Clip from This is Your Life, November 20, 1957 featuring host Ralph Edwards, Boris Karloff and Jack P. Pierce

15 responses to “Super Mates 104: House of Franklin-Stein Part 4

  1. A Frankenstein commentary is a great way to close out this season of House of Franklin-stein. An absolute classic and the real foundation for the Universal Monster franchise.
    I often wonder what direction the film series would have taken had they decided to indeed kill of Henry Frankenstein at the end of the movie, or where they would have gone had Colin Clive not died after Bride.
    I fairly certain that early advertisement featuring the giant monster and Lugosi’s name influenced Duck Briefer’s comic book version of the monster. He was indeed a towering menace that assaulted the Statue of Liberty, grabbed innocent tourists and hurled them to their deaths.
    I completely agree with your assessment of Dracula. It’s basically watching someone’s recording of a stage production. A well cast stage production, but a little lay none the less. The Spanish Language version filmed at the same tim, using the same set and script is shot much more elaborately. Tod Browning clearly put very little effort into his direction. “Point the camera that way. Action!”
    Thanks for making my favorite season even more entertaining. See you next year.

    P.S. Don’t eat that potato salad!!! Kane has no idea how to season his side dishes. I don’t think the man has ever even heard of paprika. A little dill wouldn’t hurt either.

    1. Interesting to think what would have happened if they had killed Henry in this film. Would Pretorious have worked alone, and terrorized Elizabeth to get Henry’s notes? And if Clive had lived, would he have appeared in Son of… or would they have just went with Henry again, and no jump forward with his offspring?

      The Spanish language Dracula is definitely the better looking, more atmopsheric film. If Bela had been in a film directed like that…I’m not sure even Frankenstein could top it.

      Yeah, a little seasoning would go along way to taming that…gamey smell! I’m not going to taste it, either way though!

    1. The Universal horror films have a VERY intersting take on brains. When they get to all that crazy brain-swapping in the sequels, none of it makes any scientific sense. Well, oddly enough, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein KINDA does!

  2. as a horror movie i THINK bride is a lot scarier!
    1 petorius is geniuinely EVIL
    2. THOSE little creatures live their whole lives in bottles! Denied free will! Philosophicallly that’s chilling@

  3. Ludwig must have been able to say that Maria was murdered because the cat saw everything and told him. Kitty was surely written into that scene for there to be a witness. I think that’s self-explanatory, and my cat agrees.

    I’m always fascinated by the brains-in-jars lecture scene. “The scarcity of convolutions on the frontal lobe” is how Waldman differentiates Abby’s brain from Norm’s, and yes, I see fewer convolutions on one brain’s frontal lobe than the other. I see more convolutions on the one marked “Abnormal” and fewer on “Normal” — according to the labeling. So the labels are wrong — I’m not the only one seeing that, am I? Waldman hasn’t noticed the mix-up since the frontal lobes of both are facing away from him, and none of the students actually come and inspect them so nobody points this out to the prof. Unless I’ve completely popped my top, this means Frankenstein used a normal brain just as planned, and none of the misdeeds the monster commits are attributable to a case of borked-brain at all.

    Legendary Karloff is legendary. There will never be another of him.

    Bizarro stories, I find, are most effective when he himself provides the Frankenstein-monster spice in Superman’s world rather than being Mr. Opposite McBackward from Reversetown, Negative County — that gimmick loses its punch after awhile. The 1988-1992 Superboy series (first season aside) was better than it had any right to be, and doubly so for the Bizarro installments because you could go along on Bizarro’s own journey with him as a fleshed-out character, fulfilling the promise that was always there from the inception (#BillZahro!) But I guess there will always be a writer who wants to steer back to Fun Bizarro and bring back the backward-themed Bizarro and Bizarro World over time.

    So the House of Franklin-Stein will return for another season of fun and fright next year! Glad to hear that, and my cat says the same!

    1. I’m not sure the cat’s testimony would stand up in court. Plus, based on how he reacted to being held, he might not be so sorry to see Little Maria go!

      Perhaps you’re right, and Waldman has already swapped those brains! I mean Goldstadt University cranked out students like Henry, and had faculty like Pretorious, so maybe Waldman isn’t so great either! He’s okay with dissecting a living creature for one!

      Totally agree on the Superboy TV series and it’s handling of Bizarro. I rewatched his episodes a few months back. They are suprisingly poingnant, and still hold up.

      As my Dad says “As long as the Good Lord is willing, and the creeks don’t rise” we’ll reopen the House next year!

  4. Bride of Frankenstein is my favorite for many reasons, but one specific sequence tops all of them…the interaction between the creature and the blind man. It’s also my favorite sequence in Young Frankenstein, but for totally different reasons. Thanks, you two, for doing this every year!

    1. Yeah, I love that sequence, and the initial meeting of the Monster and Pretorious in the crypt. Just wonderful stuff. Karloff was dead wrong about the monster speaking, for those scenes alone. Had he agreed to speak again in Son of Frankenstein, maybe he wouldn’t have felt like such a “prop”.

  5. Another delightful episode! I’ve put in my DVD of “Frankenstein” for a re-watch, and when I’m done, I plan to replay this episode and sync it up with the movie…

    Definitely agree that Karloff deserved an Oscar nomination. While the Academy generally disregarded horror movies, this was the year that they DID reward a different horror performance (Fredric March in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”)…

    The Academy didn’t create the categories of “Best Supporting Actor” and “Best Supporting Actress” until 1936. If they’d had those categories from the start, I wonder whether they’d have considered the Monster to be a supporting role, giving Karloff a chance in that category. As it is, Boris Karloff never got an Oscar or Emmy nomination throughout his entire career, although he did get a Tony nomination for one of his stage roles.

    There’s a book called “Alternate Oscars” by film critic Danny Peary, in which he discusses his choices for what SHOULD have won Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress (as well as mentioning “runners-up” who should have been nominated) from the first Academy Awards up to 1991, the year before the book’s publication. Peary writes that both Colin Clive and Boris Karloff should have gotten Best Actor nominations for “Frankenstein,” although his actual choice for that year’s Best Actor was Paul Muni in “Scarface.” He also lists Karloff as deserving another nomination for “Bride of Frankenstein,” before naming him the deserved Best Actor winner for 1945’s “The Body Snatcher.”

    In terms of other award-worthy horror stars and performances, Peary writes that Lon Chaney should have been nominated for “London After Midnight” (though he admits that’s based on the film’s reputation, since it’s a lost film and he can’t judge for himself), that Vincent Price deserved a nomination for “Witchfinder General,” that John Carradine should have been nominated for “Bluebeard” and “Hitler’s Madman,” and that Sissy Spacek’s Oscar-nominated performance in “Carrie” should have won. He doesn’t mention any award-worthy roles for Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Christopher Lee, or Peter Cushing, but then again, he’s only writing about leading roles, so there could have been years where he thought they deserved supporting nominations…

    1. Fascinating! And I totally agree on “The Body Snatcher”. Karloff’s best role, in my opinion. I’ll have to see if I can track down that book.

      Nice to hear Frederic March got the Best Actor Oscar for “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” that year. I knew he won the Oscar, and I knew it was around this time, but didn’t put two and two together. That’s a great performance, and a movie on our short list for the next few years.

      I think Chaney, Jr. should have at least been nominated for “Of Mice and Men”. Considering the number of actors who have taken home Oscars for effectively playing mentally challenged characters in the past several decades, “Lenny” deserved one too!

  6. What a great way to end this season of the House! I’m one day late, but, in a sense, isn’t that the scariest thing of all??? No? Oh, okay. Well, on to the episode…..

    I’m with you two, the novel is so different than what I was expecting, based on the movie. I wasn’t expecting the monster to talk and have long philosophical diatribes! I find the novel fascinating in a historical context, but I don’t think i enjoyed as much as the Dracula novel.

    That Bela Lugosi Frankenstein poster is amazing! Laser eyes!

    That warning at the start is almost written verbatim on the back of the board for the board game Horrified. I’m not sure if you have ever played it, but I recommend it. It’s a good cooperative game with the Universal Horror monsters. There’s even a nod to the Abbott and Costello characters, Wilbur and Chick.

    Boris Karloff is probably my favourite of all the Universal Monster actors…… heck, he’s just one of my favourite actors, period. He just seemed to have a gravitas that the other actors didn’t have. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the other actors but, to me, Karloff stands above them all. Also, he has a Canadian connection! After coming over from England, he settled in the province of British Columbia (where I’m from!), where he started his acting career. According to one article, in the process of acting in a touring company around the province, that’s where he changed his named from William Henry Pratt to Boris Karloff. So, to paraphrase the article, William Pratt was born in England but Boris Karloff was born in Canada!

    Stupid Fritz. I’m positive he did all this tormenting because he was jealous that Henry was spending more time with (and talking about) the monster than with him. Fritz, people can have enough love in their hearts for two.

    I think Bride is the better made film (and, lordy, I have such a crush on Else Lanchester), but it’s hard to say which film is truly better. I may have to sway to the side of Frankenstein, just because it set the standard for the entire Universal Monster genre. I agree with you, Chris, that, as interesting a film Dracula is, it’s just a glorified film stage production. So, in a way, it’s the exact opposite feeling I have to the novels the movies are based on! Dracula, the better book; Frankenstein, the better movie.

    What a cavalcade of comic characters that dropped by the House this year! You’ll have to start charging rent and/or adding an extra wing to the House for next year!

    This was so fun to listen to and you two constantly bring it every Halloween season and I look forward every year to the House…… of Franklin-stein! Keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks so much Mike! We really appreciate you listening, and commenting!

      I have the Horrified game. I was excited to get it, because of the graphics, the little figurines, and the inclusion of Chick and Wilbur! Alas, when our daughter Dani and I tried to play it…we couldn’t figure it out! Now, we’re not gamers of any sort, so maybe we just need someone to walk us through once, but the gameplay didn’t seem to make much sense to either of us. And Dani’s in all AP/honors classes! I even tried to watch a few YouTube videos on the game to see if that helped. It didn’t. Probably us, and not the game. We need to try it again.

      I agree completely about Dracula and Frankenstein when it comes to movies and novels. Although it may be high time to give Bela some love next year. Despite it’s shortcomings elsewhere, he’s still GREAT in Dracula ’31!

      1. I totally agree with you, Chris! Bela IS Dracula. Even though I said Frankenstein is the better movie, Dracula works because of Bela’s charisma (and, to a lesser extent, Edward Van Sloan’s). I would have loved to be alive in the ’20’s/’30’s to see Bela play Dracula on the stage. I believe you have covered this, but I really enjoy the Black Cat movie more than Dracula and Frankenstein because of Bela AND Boris!

        Don’t force yourself to play Horrified. I’m of the mind that games should be fun and not work. We are a definitely a gamer family so when we played Horrified, we knew it was a combination of a couple of games (most notably Pandemic) so we picked it up with that knowledge. If nothing else, you got some fun minis and standees!

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