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SECRET ORIGINS OF FRANKENSTEIN - CHAPTER 5 OF 18
FORBIDDEN FRANKENSTEIN

This issue is all about WHAT GOT CUT.

Audiences in 1931 were noticeably more squeamish than the ultra-jaded movie-goers of today, and censorship boards were a thousand times more stringent. Federal censors didn't demand any cuts in the first Frankenstein film, but several states did, and so did a swarm of interest groups, and a few foreign countries. Certain scenes were cut before the movie was ever released. Sweden and Italy banned the film entirely.

Four scenes in particular were deemed to be "over the line," and removed from various prints of the film. The deleted footage was rediscovered years later, and restored to DVD versions, which is where the "deleted" material seen on this page comes from. Reader, we're going to dissect the film's four most controversial scenes, one by one. Let's start!
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When Frankenstein's creation first moves its hand, the mad doctor screams out one of the all-time classic lines in film history: "IT'S ALIVE!“

Then, immediately afterwards, Doc Frankenstein exclaims, “In the name of God, now l know what it feels like to BE God!"

This line was deemed blasphemous, and it was removed from the picture. To hear it for yourself, check out the 18-second clip below. Click the button, and... it's alive!

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XBLASPHEMOUS WHY?

What was so objectionable about this line? Well, the basic message of "Frankenstein" is that man must never "play God," and if he does he will pay a horrible price.

But what does it mean to "play God"? It can't mean creating life. After all, people create life every time a baby is born! No, Dr. Frankenstein's offense must have been of a different variety.

When we recall that the story originated with an ardent feminist, it becomes apparent that by "giving birth" to new human being, Dr. Frankenstein was accomplishing a miracle God had previously reserved to WOMEN alone. Creating life WITHOUT A WOMAN was Dr. Frankenstein's crime against God's natural order of things! THIS is how he was "playing God."

In Shelley's novel, the killing of women is an ongoing theme. It starts when Dr. Frankenstein "kills" women by creating life without them. He creates a bride for the Monster, a woman, but then aborts his work before she is born (unlike the films). In reven ge, the Monster kills the doctor's wife, as pictured in the panels on the right, from the Classics Illustrated version of the story.

What's with all the killing of women? Did Mary Shelley hate her own sex? No, she did not. If we keep in mind that the novel was published in the early 1800s, we can then see that the "killing" of women represents pre-Victorian English society's constant denigration of females, regarding them as second-class citizens who could not vote or own property -- constantly "killing" their individuality and sense of self-worth. Mary Shelley didn't hate women, but she perceived that the society she lived in, in many ways, DID.

And so, Dr. Frankenstein's crime is not simply creating life, but creating life without a woman, an act reserved unto God alone. This is how he "plays God." This theme still permeates the movie, but the line which put it into words was deemed blasphemous (which is exactly what it was supposed to be), and removed. Cut number one!
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Once it is realized what a horrific menace the Monster is, Dr. Frankenstein and company try to knock him unconscious, so they won't have to deal with him. If that sounds a bit like sticking an annoying child in front of a TV set, remember that parental neglect is what the original story was all about. Back to the movie -- first, the Monster is smacked in the head with a cane, as seen below through the miracle of Ani-Motion...
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Then later, something longer-lasting is used: a drug. Not Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, or Daytrana, but an injection of something that knocks the Monster out. Originally, the film contained a close-up shot of a hypodermic needle being stuck into his reanimated flesh -- a big no-no in the censor's eyes. The shot with the shot was deleted from many prints of the movie. Cut number two!
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The doctor's lab assistant, the hunchbacked Fritz, got his kicks by tormenting the Monster with a burning torch. It was much more fun than tormenting rats, the only thing lower on the scale than poor, deformed Fritz. Besides, rats usually ran away. The Monster was chained to a wall, so he couldn't get away...
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Shots of Fritz (Dwight Frye) leering and poking the torch straight at the camera were also deleted from many prints. Watch it happening below, again and again, through the miracle of Ani-Motion! Yikes!
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Perhaps recalling his own two-year imprisonment in a POW camp during WWI, James Whale portrayed the monster's helplessness and sufferings with horrifying realism.
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Eventually the Monster escapes his chains, and look out Fritz! The Monster wastes no time getting his revenge. He hangs Fritz from the neck, brutally killing him -- just as James Whale must have occasionally longed to do to his captors during the two years he spent as a POW in a German prison camp.

It is no coincidence that the hunchback's name is Fritz, a thoroughly German name which, in the Thirties, was a slang term for all Germans. At any rate, this scene was too much for some theater-goers to take, so it was removed from many prints of the film. Cut number three!
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The censors needn't have worried, though. As this behind-the-scenes promotional photo shows, "Fritz" was just a dummy. His head looks real enough, but look closely at his HANDS...
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You knew it was coming! The next scene deleted from Frankenstein is the most infamous of them all. Horror was the goal, but the scene where the Monster throws a little girl into a lake horrified censors TOO much. This scene was deleted in many prints, and when the film was re-released in 1937, it was cut from EVERY print.
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We know what happens in this scene-- but on the the first take, Karloff didn't throw the girl far enough! The water was too shallow, and she didn't sink. So director James Whale did a second take, and this time Karloff managed to throw the girl, whose character was named Maria, far enough to reach deeper water, although it was still fairly shallow. Look out below! Here's the most famous scene censored from Frankenstein, a 90-second clip th at must be seen NOW!
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Despite all the trouble filming this scene, in the end, producer Carl Laemmle reportedly decreed, "No little girl is going to drown in one of my pictures!"

The solution, which Karloff disapproved of, was to end the scene abruptly just as the Monster reaches for the girl. Abruptly, her father is then seen carrying her lifeless body into town, leaving the even worse implication that the Monster may have molested the girl before murdering her. Cut number four!
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The movie's climax was changed completely, giving it a "happy ending" by adding a few additional scenes. In the original ending, a mob of angry villagers chases the Monster and his creator to the top of a windmill. Then the Monster hurls Dr. Frankenstein to his death. His torso and legs can be seen at the very top of the frame, right below these words......
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His motionless body falls, lodges briefly in the windmill's blades...
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...then he plops to the ground with an all-but-audible thud. In the end, Dr. Frankenstein, who thought he could create life as though he was God, pays for his crime with his own life.
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This scene was parodied in Humbug #4 (November 1957), art by Will Elder...
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GHOUL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

Audiences rejected this ending as too downbeat. To fix the problem, Universal decided to add a concurrently-shot ending where the doctor recovers. He is last seen in bed, with his bride-to-be, Elizabeth at his side (both played by stand-ins, see photo below).

This scene was added to the existing cut of the film, despite the fact that it completely contradicted the previous scene, where the doctor is obviously killed. This change wasn't a cut, it was an "add."

Surprisingly, James Whale liked the new conclusion. "The semi-happy ending," he said, "was added to remind the audience that after all it is only a tale that is told, and could easily be twisted any way by the director."
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In 1986, Frankenstein's deleted scenes were discovered, restored to the film, and released by Universal. In the restored version, the forbidden footage extends the length of the 71-minute film by about a minute. Then the picture ends.


That was it! The production was now complete. The movie had been shot, edited, previewed, and somewhat censored. Despite the cuts, it was still a gruesome tale of things sordid and better left undiscussed. It was a true "horror" movie. Yet it was also strangely beautiful, and fiendishly inviting. How would the movie-going public react to it? No one knew. But they were about to find out. The lights went dim in the theatres...

...and then, something absolutely uncanny happened. Something that has no parallel in recorded history. A strange hush fell over the world as all the monsters ever invented paused from their horrific work, took to their knees, and bowed their heads. Why? Because THEY knew. They knew that the Chosen One, the One they had spent countless eons waiting for, was about to arrive. They were about to crown their KING.

Reader, wherever you go, whatever you do, DO NOT MISS OUR NEXT ISSUE!
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