February 26, 2010

Boris Karloff: The Blogathon That Wouldn't Die!

With the news this week that our Boris Karloff Blogathon has been Rondo-nominated as Best Fan Event of 2009, also comes a “lost” blogathon post, and a new, late entry to the celebrations.

First up, a Blogathon link I wasn’t aware of until just recently. It’s a gorgeous collection of posters and stills from Karloff’s The Mummy (1932), posted on the fabulous Wrong Side of the Art! blog. Photos include backstage shots with makeupman Jack Pierce and director Karl Freund, and the superb studio portrait of Boris reproduced above.

Wrong Side of the Art! is devoted to the poster and promotional art of cult and low budget films— the kind of films with the best poster art! — and if you visit once, you’ll keep going back, I promise you.

Checking in late, but boy was it worth the wait, Howard S. Berger and Kevin Marr —otherwise known as The Flying Maciste Brothers — offer a fascinating new perspective of James Whale’s Frankenstein films on their unique blog, Destructible Man, devoted to “the Theory and Practice of Cinematic Prosthetic Demise, aka The Dummy Death in Film”.

In step-through screen caps sequences, the Macistes deconstruct the stunt-dummy pitches performed by Karloff’s Monster, notably Colin Clive’s floppy fall from the windmill in Frankenstein (1931) and Dwight Frye’s disarticulated dive off the laboratory tower in Bride of Frankenstein (1935). And speaking of dummies, I was happy to see the cemetery skeleton from Frankenstein’s opening scene get singled out. It’s worth noting that it cameos in the second film, also in a graveyard setting. It’s my favorite Frankenstein prop ever.

In few words, but with tremendous insight, the Macistes suggest that The Monster itself, as a reassembled, reanimated collection of parts is “a kindred spirit of the cinematic FX-dummy from the outset”. And there’s a great visual catch, very astute, on the scene where Frankenstein and his Monster peer at each other through the drumspokes of the ratcheting windmill, equating the effect with that of the zoetrope, an early optical device that prefigured the cinema, and in another brilliant leap, postulating that the flickering images of Frankenstein and his ungodly creation are distorted reflections of each other.

Go read We Belong Dead, on Destructible Man.

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