Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Igor, pull the switch!

In the recent Victor Frankenstein with James McAvoy in the title role, we have seen Daniel
Radcliffe as his handsome but hunch backed assistant, Igor. To many, it seems that Frankenstein has ALWAYS been assisted by a hunchback called Igor. But in fact, it's one of those urban legends like Sherlock Holmes stating “Elementary my dear Watson” (not once does he utter these words in the original Canon) or Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan saying "Me Tarzan you Jane” (he only says “Tarzan... Jane... Tarzan...”)

So no, there isn't a single trace of an Igor in Mary Shelley's novel, nor is there any character who could have inspired the deformed valet pulling switches in the popular imagery. No Igor either in any of the theater plays that have been staged throughout the 19th century. No Igor in the first film version of Frankenstein in 1910.

Could we date the creation of this character with the release of James Whale's Frankenstein in 1931? Everyone remembers Boris Karloff being persecuted by a hunchback holding a torch, played by Dwight Frye... Unfortunately, the guy isn't called Igor, but Fritz. Damn. In fact, Dwight Frye appeared in most of Universal Frankenstein films, as a different character each time, but he never played an Igor. J. Carrol Naish plays another hunchback in House of Frankenstein, but his character is called Daniel!

The first time a Frankenstein met an Ygor (with an Y) was in 1939 Son of Frankenstein, the third entry in the Universal saga. Played by none other than Bela Lugosi, this Ygor introduces himself to Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone), and says he used to be his father's assistant – which is rather dubious since we haven't seen him in previous movies. Besides, he's not a hunchback at all, he simply has a broken neck due to his attempted hanging by the townspeople. Lugosi's Ygor returne in the sequel Ghost of Frankenstein, then lived on as the Monster's brain in Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man.

There was no character called Igor in the Frankenstein movies produced by Hammer Films, and the only occurrence that can be spotted in the 60s is the western schlock Jesse James meets Frankenstein's Daughter, where said daughter renames her creature Igor for unknown reasons.

By the time Mel Brooks made his Young Frankenstein in 1973, the hunchback assistant Igor was a given in most people's minds, probably because of a confusion between Dwight Frye and Bela Lugosi's characters. However, Young Frankenstein's Igor played by Marty Feldman marks his real screen debut. Innumerable other Igors would follow, in movies such as Mistress Frankenstein, The Nightmare before Christmas, Frankenstein Italian Style, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, Van Helsing, Crazy Dracula Spring Break Weekend, Christmas at Draculas and even... wait for it... Daughter of Werebitch Meets Skankenstein.

In 2008, there was even a feature animated film starring Igor, with the voice talents of John Cusack as Igor and John Cleese as Dr Glickenstein. In this (dark) comedy, Igors are a race of slaves doomed to assist crazy scientists in their experiments. But our hero has higher ambitions!

There is no character called Igor in Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Shane Briant's Hammer films

Shane Briant, who was recently seen in the series Serangoon Road and in Roland Joffé's The Lovers, will play the Burgermeister of Darmstadt in our movie Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein. Fourty years ago, he starred in several Hammer films before the company sadly went out of business.

Shane started his screen career at the age of 25. After a bit part in Von Richthofen and Brown, directed by Roger Corman, he landed a key role in Hammer's Demons of the Mind (1972), which can be considered as his true screen debut. Oddly enough, his face is proeminently featured on the original poster, even though his name does not among the main actors. Directed by Peter Sykes, who would later direct Christopher Lee in the famous To the Devil A Daughter, Demons of the Mind is not one of the most successful films produced by Hammer. Still, Shane's performance was so remarkable that the studio offered him the lead in their next production.

Straight on Till Morning is a dark thriller directed by Peter Collinson (The Italian Job with Michael Caine). Shane Briant co-stars with Rita Tushingham, who becomes his victim when he reveals himself to be a vicious serial killer. Cruel but handsome, cold but elegant, the young actor came across as a perfect fit for one of Hammer's most famous franchises...

Logically, in 1973, Shane is cast as Peter Cushing's co-star in the new installment in Frankenstein's saga. Playing the immoral young Simon Helder, he becomes the doctor's assistant in Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell, directed by the legendary Terence Fisher.

The infamous baron and his new assistant team up to create a new monster, played by David Prowse (Cushing and Prowse would eventually meet again in Star Wars, where the former plays Grand Moff Tarkin and the latter Darth Vader!). Madeline Smith, Bernard Lee and ex-Doctor Who Patrick Troughton complete the wonderful cast of this incredibly atmospheric entry. Unfortunately, Monster From Hell would end up being both Hammer's last Frankenstein and Fisher's last film, which prevented Helder from ever returning.

The next and last Hammer film for Shane Briant would be Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter, a pre-Buffy vampire caper written and directed by Brian Clemens, showrunner of the BBC Avengers. Shane plays the decadent Paul Durward, and shares the screen with Horst Janson, scream queen Caroline Munro and ex-Avenger Ian Hendry. Captain Kronos could have been a great TV series or movie franchise, but Hammer's reign was about to end, along with an era of gothic horror that had started with Curse of Frankenstein in 1957.

Now, Shane Briant is set to return to the world of Frankenstein, where he will also meet Holmes and Watson. You can be a part of this adventure by joining the ongoing crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, which is now collecting funds for the January shoot with Shane. If you want his costume and the set to be gorgeous, contribute now: http://igg.me/at/holmes-vs-frank