For our first Scene that I love for this year’s Horrorthon, I’m sharing the opening of the 1931 classic, Frankenstein. The scene below features neither Colin Clive or Boris Karloff. Instead, Edward Van Sloan breaks the fourth wall and, in his humorously avuncular way, lets the audience know what’s in store for them.
Today, of course, we all know the story of Frankenstein and his monster. However, imagine how audiences in 1931, many of whom probably knew nothing about the story they were about to watch, must have felt when Edward Van Sloan specifically took a minute to warn them that they were about to see something terrifying. You have to remember that Van Sloan was talking to the first generation of regular filmgoers and he was introducing them to one of the first true horror films of the sound era. Today, it’s easy to smile when Van Sloan says, “You can’t say we didn’t warn you.” In 1931, I imagine it probably sounded more like a dare. Van Sloan was asking, “Do you have the courage to stay in theater?” It’s kind of charming, isn’t it?
Edward Van Sloan was a bit of fixture when it came to the early Universal horror films. Not only did he play Henry Frankenstein’s mentor but, in the same year, he played Prof. Van Helsing in Dracula. He also had a key supporting role in The Mummy. When it came to explaining the supernatural and the undead, no one else did it with quite the class of Edward Van Sloan.