The admission price was a hefty 75 cents, and I retain the sensation of those three quarters tightly held in my little dimpled fist. When I got to the theater, there was already a long line awaiting the afternoon matinee. I don’t recall seeing any posters displayed, probably because I was so intently focused on the unrehearsed ritual of exchanging my quarters for a ticket, and how quickly that ticket was torn once I was inside the lobby. I followed the others into the theater and grabbed a seat about midway toward the screen, on the left and on the aisle - because, as regular readers of this blog know, I had a history of running out of the theater screaming when I went to see a horror picture.
When the houselights went down, there was a big cheer - the kids there, who were mostly young teenagers and other kids slightly older than me, were that eager to be entertained. If you think about it, their only frame of reference was amusement parks and birthday parties, where the whole idea of entertainment is that you provide half of it with your own enthusiasm. There were a few trailers I don't specifically remember and then the film began - the first film I ever saw by myself.
|And the crowd of paying customers went wild!|
To my initial disappointment, the film proved not to be FRANKENSTEIN but Howard W. Koch's FRANKENSTEIN - 1970, a film I'd never heard of! Nevertheless, it was going to be my first Frankenstein film and my first exposure to Boris Karloff, so I wasn't about to demand a refund. And I'm glad I didn't because I was not in the least disappointed.
|Mike Lane teasing the frame as the Monster in the opening sequence.|
|Karloff as the disfigured ex-Nazi Baron Victor von Frankenstein.|
Warner Archive recently issued FRANKENSTEIN - 1970 on Blu-ray and the presentation of its black-and-white scope image perfectly complements how I remember its gigantic image on the screen during that childhood matinee. Watching it, I can still hear the happy screams of that mostly teenage audience. I wonder how many of those youngsters are still with us, or if any of them will actually buy Warner Archive's new Blu-ray disc as a souvenir of the fun it once gave them in the dark. But I remember, and this cherished memory of mine seems a vital, vanished link to the film’s actual prowess, because its reputation has never been very hot among a younger group of people who grew up watching a badly-cropped and commercially-interrupted presentation on television. This was one of those films from the late Fifties made in scope to entice people to theaters for an experience they couldn’t get on television, yet it was quickly retired there with only half of its available image. This is the hobbled way in which the film survived for approximately 50 years, at which point the widescreen version suddenly popped up on cable broadcasts.
|Vanity, thy name is Karloff - using a promotional still of the period to create his perfect Man.|
|The Baron bakes his creation to life in his 1970-savvy atomic reactor - mail-order, of course!|
While not on the level of the finest Frankenstein films, FRANKENSTEIN - 1970 is nevertheless a better than average horror film of the "I Was a Teenage..." period and the repository for what I consider one of Karloff's most underrated and admirably modulated performances. It is particularly worth seeing now with its super-crisp representation of Carl E. Guthrie's black-and-white scope cinematography. Guthrie's name is not as well known as some, but his credits include William Castle's MACABRE and HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, John Cromwell's CAGED, and a stint as one of the cameramen on the black-and-white version of MGM's horror classic DOCTOR X (1932) - the first movie about "synthetic flesh"!
(c) 2019 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.