March 31, 2009

Frankenstein's Hollywood Capers

James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) and Boris Karloff’s portrayal of The Monster had an instantaneous and profound impact — which still reverberates today — on pop culture. Among the first spoofing references it inspired, theatrical cartoons were quick to feature the distinctive box-headed Monster in caricature cameos. In Warner Bros' 1935 Hollywood Capers, The Monster is the featured menace.
The star of the piece is Beans, a cartoon cat that turned out to be just another unexceptional and quickly forgotten Mickey Mouse clone. In this outing, Beans, is refused admittance to a movie studio. Observing W.C.Fields and Charlie Chaplin waltzing in, our hero disguises himself as Oliver Hardy to get past the guard. After some antics and a musical interlude, roughly halfway into the action, Beans lands on a laboratory set where a mechanical Frankenstein Monster with a hinged jaw and bloodshot eyes rests on a slab.
Backing into a switch, Beans activates the robot who rises in a shower of electrical bolts and goes clomping around the studio, walking straight through walls. The Monster eats a camera — he is seen approaching through the lens — and, in a bit of surrealism, gets punched by his own reflection in a mirror. In the end, The Monster walks into a wind machine for what can best be described as a Rube Goldberg demise.
Hollywood Capers was directed by Jack King, who had left Walt Disney in 1933 to join Leon Schlesinger’s company, producers of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for Warner Brothers. King would return to Disney in 1936 where he stayed for good, directing (among other titles) Donald Duck cartoons, until his retirement in 1965. One of King’s animators on Hollywood Capers was a young Charles “Chuck” Jones, soon to join Tex Avery at Warner’s Termite Terrace where his illustrious career kicked into high gear.
Hollywood Capers was included in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 3 DVD set released in 2005. There’s a washed-out but serviceable copy available on YouTube.

Watch Hollywood Capers on YouTube.
Jack King’s filmography on the IMDB.


MangaBottle said...

Me again. I noticed you don't have any video games staring the monster, so I did a search on and came up with 18 games with "Frankenstein" in their title:
Other games to check out are "Darkstalkers" ( and "Castlevanina" (, since both feature characters based on the monster

MangaBottle said...

Oh, and you might want to check out the mysterious case of Andrew Crosse, a Victorian scientist who legend has acidentally created insects while experiment with electricty and chemical soulutions:

Pierre Fournier said...

Thank you for your enthusiasm, MangaBottle!

You’ll be please to note that I have been working on a series about the “real life” Frankensteins, Crosse included. There are many, including Lind, Galvani, Aldini, etc., as well as the alchemists who are mentioned in the book. I’ll start with Erasmus Darwin, who was mentioned by Mary Shelley. I’ve already posted about Dipple, by the way.

About video games, it’s a question of what is available to review. As you know, my blog has a strong visual component (large images), many of the games are 15 or 20 years old and there’s nothing available anymore except, sometimes, very small images, and next to no information. Perhaps the most famous game is the one that had Tim Curry as Dr. Frankenstein, and I have been hunting for info and, hopefully, someone’s first hand experience at playing the game in order to write something intelligent and informative about it.

I could post here 3 times a day, and I still wouldn’t be able to cover all aspects of Frankenstein. I try to cover a lot of terrain, but I have no illusions about cataloguing everything. By the way, I am now using Twitter (link on the sidebar) and I am posting links there to Frankenstein news and sites of interest that I never get around to cover here on the blog.

Again, thanks for your suggestions. May I ask you to email me with any new ideas? The comments box is not the best place for it.

Address is

rob! said...

Nice post, Pierre! Yet another Frankenstein segment I've never heard of, let alone seen.

Pierre Fournier said...

Rob: I'm digging up some more Frankenstein cartoons for you.