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SECRET ORIGINS OF FRANKENSTEIN - CHAPTER 2 OF 18
CLOTHES MAKE THE MONSTER

In part one of this 18-part series, we covered the creation of Jack Pierce's amazing Monster make-up. Now we're going to explore the origins of the Monster's iconic wardrobe. In the 1930s, Universal's wardrobe department clothed kings, queens, and commoners -- but now they had the daunting assignment of dressing a reanimated corpse.

First of all, why did monster need clothing at all? Well, because the mere thought of a naked wankie swinging from the loins of a walking dead man must have given the censors spasmodic fits! Monster or not, he had to have clothing. So, what to wear?

Where did the monster do his shopping? The logical answer is Dr. Frankenstein's closet. And his outfit must have been selected by the doctor, too. What did he choose to dress his "son" in? The color was obvious. Basic BLACK, from head to toe. It's what all the best-dressed monsters are wearing, dahling! And since the monster would have looked ridiculous wearing a white button-down collar shirt, he was given an old black sweat-shirt, as seen below...
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XPAGING "DOCTOR" PIERCE

See those scars on Frankie's wrist? Since Victor didn't want them to show, he covered them with an old black jacket. But the sleeves on the jacket were radically shortened (see photos ABOVE and RIGHT) to make the monster's arms look extra-lanky and out of proportion, exposing the scars anyway.

Like a stripper showing leg, the jacket revealed one long scar, where the hand was attached -- Xshowing enough of the monster's grotesque flesh to be horrifying, but not enough to offend the censorship board.

Another ghoulish touch that is seldom noticed -- Karloff's fingernails (and fingertips) were painted black, to simulate the effect of dead, rotting hands. In the picture on the LEFT, Karloff's nails being painted with shoe polish. Below, an extreme close-up showing the finished manicure...
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NERD PANTS?

Karloff's legs were covered by TWO pairs of black pants to stiffen his movements. Most photos of the monster are dark, which tends to obliterate details in the photographs. This effect was intended, and used intentionally to obscure some parts of the photo and highlight others.

But through the magic of Photoshop, we changed the contrast and levels of the photo below, producing what we believe to be the first-ever photo showing that the pants Karloff wore were the highest of high-waisters. Frankenstein may have secretly been a nerd! Take a look, look-takers...
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This shot from "Bride" shows buttons on the jacket and pants. No belt!
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Are those button-fly pants? If I may make a suggestion...
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The Monster's outer pair of pants were made of a heavy black fabric that bunched up at the top of the boots, showing how high they were. Speaking of boots...
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BOOT CAMP

XMy, what huge BOOTS you have! But these boots were definitely NOT made for walking. Actually, they were used by construction workers to spread asphalt on pavement. This massive pair of asphalt-spreaders boots further elevated Karloff's 5' 11" frame.

The boots appear to be a bit of a "Frankenstein job" themselves, stitched together from two different pairs of asphalt-spreaders boots to form one gigantic MONSTER BOOT! As the sixth of seven children, director James Whale must have worn his share of hand-me-down shoes, and he also worked as a cobbler when he was a teenager. The man knew footwear, and how to make it.

Frankenstein monster's boots were clearly patterned after those of another famous monster, THE GOLEM, a statue who comes alive to protect Jews from oppression. Old stone-face is pictured RIGHT in his 1920 film debut, and an extreme close-up of his boots is seen BELOW.

It's a good thing the Golem's clod-hoppers weren't given much screen time. They look a bit like huge rubbers! The Frankenstein Monster's boots, pictured right, are a definite improvement. They weighed thirteen pounds -- each!

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So that was the outfit. The Monster's "uniform." But would this outlandish get-up actually WORK? Would it really scare people?

"l was thinking this," Karloff recalls, "practicing my walk as I rounded a bend in the corridor and came face-to-face with this prop man. He was the first to see me as the Monster. He turned white, gurgled, and lunged out of sight down the corridor! Never saw him again. Poor chap. l would have liked to thank him. He was the audience that first made me feel like..."
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FIRE GOOD?

Even monsters need a lunch break! The whole outfit weighed 48 pounds. Karloff had to lug it around all day, even during lunch, for the film's entire 18-week shooting schedule, and could only rest in a special chair, seen below.

Still, nothing stopped Boris from lighting up. He's got a cigarette in almost every candid shot taken on the set, such as the one BELOW with his "creator," Dr. Frankenstein himself, Colin Clive. Maybe "fire" isn't so bad after all!
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In the photo above, Karloff, although he is reclining, does not seem to be much taller than Colin Clive. Which raises a question. When Boris was in full costume, what was the Monster's actual height?
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BAR BREAK

The publicity photo below shows Jack Pierce and an assistant touching up Karloff's make-up on the set of Frankenstein. Naturally, Boris has a cigarette in his mouth. To stiffen his arm and limit its range of motion, Karloff's left arm had a long metal bar tied on to his arm with string. You can see the bar, temporarily out of position, on the wrist of the hand holding the mug.
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HIDDEN HORROR

To maintain absolute secrecy, Jack Pierce led Karloff from the make-up room to the set with a bag over his head. Even faceless, with just his cadaverous clothing showing, the Monster still looks menacing. It's true what they say... clothes DO make the man. And clothes also make the MONSTER... dangerous!

The old clothing, the frayed edges, and the huge construction-style boots combine to give the look of a working-class stiff down on his luck. Someone on the margins of society. Someone who may be desperate. A potentially threatening outsider. A Monster!
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Clip and save for your next Halloween costume!
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We conclude this chapter with a 16-second clip from Bride of Frankenstein which shows a typical reaction to seeing Boris Karloff decked out in his full Monster get-up. You must watch it. And you must watch it NOW.
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