The Missing Link Reviews

It's Alive! The Classic Cinema Saga of Frankenstein

by Gregory William Mank. A.S. Barnes & Co. Hardcover. 200 pages. Out of Print.

When you think you've read all there is to know about Baron Frankenstein and his monster, think again. Gregory William Mank's It's Alive! is possibly the most comprehensive account of Universal Studio's series of classic horror films that featured the monster.

Printed in 1981, It's Alive! provides an exhaustive study into every facet of each entry in the film series and as Mank points out, the Frankenstein films ran parallel to the cycle of the horror genre itself.
Frankenstein of 1931, along with Dracula released a few months earlier, fully inaugurated "horror" as a genre unto itself. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is considered the pinnacle of horror from the "Golden Age" of cinema while Son of Frankenstein from 1939 kicked off the second horror cycle after a three year hiatus when the genre fell out of favour after the studios were pressured to provide clean, wholesome and equally bland entertainment. Admittedly the five remaining Frankenstein films of  the 1940's displayed signs of decreasing quality, culminating in 1948 with the torturous Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein that laid to rest any chance for Universal's stable of monsters to become anything more than subjects of parody.

Mank's study of the series reveals detailed production histories of each film and briefly covers the studio politics that were prevalent at the time, the publicity gimmicks that were employed plus full cast and production credits.
What makes this book so absorbing is that Mank has managed to track down a handful of the surviving veterans of the series who shared their first-hand memories with the author. This list includes Elsa Lanchester, Josephine Hutchinson, director Charles Barton, David Manners, Curt Siodmak, Elena Verdugo, Lugosi's former wife Lillian and Karloff's only child Sara-Jane.

An additional chapter titled "Denouement" details the lives of those involved after the film series had ended, while Mank has included a Biographical Appendix listing the filmographies of the significant players of the Frankenstein films. Lastly a short chapter outlines how Mary Shelley's original novel still has a lasting impact on the filmmakers of today.

After locating this book, it now commands pride of place on the bookshelf despite the rather unattractive dust-jacket, but don't let this deter you from adding this excellent study to your own shelf.

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