July 2, 2009

Frankenstein's Mixed-Up Mexican Lobby Cards

Here are two Mexican lobby cards, both from 1958, found on the always entertaining Monster Movie Music, a daily blog stop for me. Hosts Eegah! and Tabonga! — two names certainly deserving their exclamation marks — post music clips and screen caps, accompanied by brief and respectfully wacky commentary, to some of the best schlocky horror and discount science fiction movies ever committed to celluloid.

What’s interesting in these ads are the Karloff Frankenstein faces prominently displayed, even though the character as pictured doesn’t actually appear in these films.

Karloff does headline El castillo di Frankenstein, a dubbed version of Frankenstein 1970, but he plays the elderly scientist who builds an atomic Monster, seen in heavy bandages. The greenish Frankenstein face at left is a much younger Karloff in burn makeup from Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

The second card, from La hija di Frankenstein (Frankenstein’s Daughter) must have been even more baffling for moviegoers…

For starters, Boris Karloff had nothing to do with this one, but there he is, upper left, in his Son of Frankenstein (1939) getup. Then there’s the bizarre image of the movie’s Monster, also used on American posters, which is just as misleading. The bandaged head is somewhat similar — with added neck bolts — to that of the film’s creature, but the rest, from the neck down, is all wrong. The Monster in this movie is, in fact, the “daughter” of the title, seen wearing a rubber suit, and not the bare-chested muscle man depicted here. The ad writer only compounds the confusion with a line suggesting that the title character is the scientist: “Perverse and bloodthirsty, her cruelty surpasses that of her own father!

Mind you, the filmmakers themselves were confused about this one. The script called for The Monster to be assembled from female body parts, but that seemingly important detail was not communicated to the makeup man who delivered tough-guy actor Harry Wilson to the set in a gruesome split-faced mask. The mistake was fixed on the spot, quick and dirty, with a padded bra and smeared lipstick.

Today’s movie posters certainly aren’t anywhere nearer to truth in advertising, but these lobby cards hail from a time when the ballyhoo was as bold as circus advertising and somehow — and perhaps only in retrospect —charming. The unapologetic use of the Karloff images attests to their power as a Frankenstein label, and unmistakable shorthand symbols for horror films.

Frankenstein’s Daughter Reviewed
Frankenstein 1970


Christopher said...

boy!..if only the movies were as good as the Lobby Cards!..The male monster body on the Frankenstein's Daughter always cracks me up..the doctor does sex changes too?

rob! said...

I think movies lost something when exploitationists like the people who made these posters left the business.

Lolita of the Classics said...

Wow, that second lobby card was reeaally messed up!