September 4, 2007

Dr. Waldman : Edward Van Sloan

“I am happy, said M. Waldman, to have gained a disciple; and if your application equals your ability, I have no doubt of your success.”

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

In the novel, Professor Waldman makes a brief but important appearance as Frankenstein’s benevolent mentor at Ingolstadt University. He was the Good Cop to Professor Krempe, whose haughty contempt alienated the young student. In the 1931 film, the two professors were more or less merged into Dr. Waldman. Here, he is Frankenstein’s trusted teacher, but a bit of a picklepuss as well.

In the scene pictured above, Waldman explains the difference between a good brain and, well, Abby Normal’s. The criminal brain, of course, is soon to be swiped by Frankenstein’s maladroit assistant and inserted into the Monster’s hatbox skull. This gaffe, at first merely annoying to Dr. Frankenstein, spoils the experiment and, tragically, results in Waldman himself being throttled by the Monster as it rises protestingly from the dissection table.

Actor Edward Van Sloane (1881-1964) spent most of his movie career playing smaller, supporting roles, but he is forever famous for a trio of pictures made at Universal in the early 30s. In addition to his turn as the somewhat paternalistic Waldman in Frankenstein, he was Dracula’s dour nemesis, Dr. Van Helsing, sporting a forbidding buzz cut and coke-bottle glasses, and the stern archaeologist, Dr. Muller, who examined a petrified Boris Karloff in The Mummy.

Van Sloan, with his flinty stare and trademark clipped delivery was the Voice of Doom, the no-nonsense party pooper who delivered ominous warnings about vampire habits, ancient pharaoh’s curses and the downside of meddling with nature.

If anyone ever said, “There are things man was not meant to know!”, it must surely have been Edward Van Sloan.

Van Sloan's IMDB page, and a short biography.

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