The huge success of James Whale’s 1931 version of Frankenstein has ensured that Karloff’s creature will forever be the definitive Frankenstein’s monster. As designed by Whale and makeup artist Jack Pierce, Karloff’s creature — with his flat-topped head, neck electrodes, too-short suit, clunky boots, halting speech, lurching gait, and sleepwalker’s outstretched arms — didn’t much resemble Shelley’s creation.
But Karloff’s performance, in which he brought to the surface the character’s deep pathos, was so indelible that it has resonated with audiences ever since. Even people who have never seen Karloff’s portrayal — in Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein (pictured here), and Son of Frankenstein — know it anyway, so often has it been imitated and parodied. To this day, any actor who revives the character has to reckon with Karloff’s ghost.
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