Monster Hit Caused a Scandal in Kansas City
In the 1818 novel “Frankenstein,” Mary Shelley invented a creature that was philosophical, articulate and vengeful. But most people remember the Hollywood version: lumbering and with bolts in his neck, memorable thanks to Boris Karloff and the makeup designed by Jack P. Pierce. Nov. 21 marks the anniversary of the film’s 1931 debut. On Nov. 10, 1931, Variety wrote that the studio added a prologue two days before prints shipped, in which audiences were warned what to expect. Universal and director James Whale reshot the ending after previews: “New scenes keep the doctor, who treats the monster, alive instead of burning him to death with his robot.”
Kansas City still wasn’t pleased. In those days, local communities could censor films, and K.C. demanded 34 cuts including the climax, because the movie “shows cruelty and tends to debase morals.” Despite that (or because of it), the film was an enormous hit. • Visit Varietyultimate.com for every issue of Variety since 1906.