Author Topic: Back to the classics ~ DP's Karloff FRANKENSTEIN  (Read 306 times)

The Maskahuna

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Back to the classics ~ DP's Karloff FRANKENSTEIN
« on: November 30, 2017, 11:08:22 PM »

Can there possibly be a Don Post mask that's been photographed
more often than their Karloff Frankenstein?

Whether from Universal Studios Tour or other themed attractions,
its image can probably be seen in countless travel brochures and
untold millions of family photo albums across the world ~

I first saw it within a year of its creation in the Captain Company ads
of Famous Monsters magazine ~

Back then, Pat Newman was using a life cast armature of Boris Karloff
himself to sculpt masks for Post Studios. Verne Langdon recalled:
" Karloff had sunken eye sockets. We could go in pretty deep. His facial
structure was perfect for sculpting on. In clay they look one way; in
rubber, all finished with paint and hair, it looks another way. I learned
to envision these heads and faces not as they were but as they would be."

I'm fairly certain the look was patterned after the Jack Pierce makeup
for 1939's Son of Frankenstein. It appears Verne even matched the
mask's hair styling to this production still ~


Its longest continuous production run lasted nearly ten years, from which
period the following five artifacts still survive:

This vintage casting not only boasts its original finish but is the only known
existing copy which depicts the old style hair application (brushed back at
the sides) ~


'More vintage copies currently owned by HMA members ~


There's nothing better, or harder to score, than a "polyfoamed-in-the-mold" casting.
Here are alternate angles of the same one featured on 1998's reissue boxes ~


'An exclusive view of the two-piece master mold while warehoused in Oklahoma,
less than a year after DPS closed down forever ~

For its first fifteen years, the mold remained intact ... until the mid 1980s

DP craftsman Rob Tharp recounts the in-house tampering:

"For the reissue of the Karloff Frankenstein and high-brow Phantom masks in 1983,
Mold Department Chief Johnny Johnson made a copyright information plate that he
carefully inserted into the master molds for Karloff and the Phantom, at the backs of
their heads.  Regrettably, he wrote the copyright date as 1963 instead of 1983. 
When I pointed this out to him, he said 'It's going to be covered by hair anyway,
don't worry about it.'  I can't count the number of times I've cringed at eBay auctions
for those two masks that say '1963 Frankenstein (or Phantom) mask' in their descriptions. 
Other than various scribed trim lines, at least Johnny didn't mess with the sculpture."

Of course, the classic Karloff Frankenstein is not to be confused with
the later "wide scar" version ~

Rob Tharp again:

"That wide scar version of the Karloff Frankenstein was a clay press Barry Crane did
that was intended to freshen up the detail on the Karloff sculpt.  Barry couldn't resist making
the scars a little more gruesome.  I like some of Barry's work a lot but I didn't like that one. 
I lobbied hard not to replace Pat's sculpture with Barry's and the original remained in place
until after I left, then the wide scar model finally got its day in the sun.  I've mellowed
about it now but I still like Pat's version a lot better."

Limited production commenced again in 1989. The late Sam McCain, then employed
at DPS, painted the entire run and commented about it in subsequent interviews:

'A finished copy from '89 ~

In the final act of their long engagement at Don Post Studios, Karloff
Frankenstein joined other Universal Monsters for "the 1998 reissues" ~

Although collectively referred to as such, it was one of only four characters
which actually entered production by late 1998. The rest gradually followed
into '99.

Rob Tharp formulated the paint scheme for that edition but can still
look back on those busy days from a fan's perspective:

"The Karloff Frankenstein was my favorite of all the Don Post masks
when I first started working there.  I was thrilled when I got to paint my
first batch of them.  Forty three years later, I'd say he's still my favorite. 
What a great sculpture!"

The DP Karloff Frankenstein, like Post Studios itself, lounges today in
well-earned retirement. We may never see them in mass production again
so fill this thread with images of your own. Let's recreate a time when you
could casually stroll up to your neighborhood magic shop and expect to see
Frankenstein staring back at you. Now that's my kind of nostalgia!

« Last Edit: December 01, 2017, 12:15:31 AM by The Maskahuna »

Gory Glenn

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Re: Back to the classics ~ DP's Karloff FRANKENSTEIN
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2017, 11:41:00 AM »
What an absolutely fantastic post Maskahuna! A very enjoyable read. I'm not surprised that they went with the "Son of Frankenstein" look for the sculpt as DP seemed to use the newest version of whatever monster they were replicating. I also agree wholeheartedly with Rob about the Pat vs. wide scar Frank. I think Pat's sculpt is much better, not just on the scars but around the mouth area as well. Love that final pic. Can I buy one please.  ;D Great post. Thanks again for sharing.


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Re: Back to the classics ~ DP's Karloff FRANKENSTEIN
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2017, 01:40:38 PM »
Great post Huna,love the backstory on the mask as well as all the pictures.Thank you.


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Re: Back to the classics ~ DP's Karloff FRANKENSTEIN
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2017, 11:13:18 PM »
Thanks so much Huna for the fantastic post on the history of this classic Don Post/Pat Newman Karloff Frankenstein mask. He has been my all-time favorite mask since I was a very young lad.  I first fell in love with this mask in viewing an issue of Famous Monsters Magazine in 1969.  We now have had a fond relationship that has spanned over many decades.
I also have always wondered why Pat Newman decided to sculpt Boris Karloff’s portrayal of the Monster from the “Son of Frankenstein” and not the original 1931 film. However, the sculpture does almost implement a combination of the two looks of the Karloff character from each film in my eyes. The scene in which Frankenstein pursues Mae Clarke especially comes to mind. 

I first saw the Karloff Frankenstein at a large Magic Shop owned by magician Marshall Brodien (TV Magic Cards - Wizzo the Wizard) from Bozo the Clown fame.  The shop was situated inside the first all indoor amusement park and shopping mall in Bolingbrook, Illinois called “Old Chicago”.  The Brodien shop had the most beautiful displays of the complete original Don Post classics inside glass cases. To this day they were some of the finest copies I have ever seen of the classic Universal Monster line. They must have been some special prototypes as they were all on varnished wooden displays with incredible finishing and hair-work including eye inserts.   My dad was unwilling to open his wallet for these classics ‘back in the day” despite my very enthusiastic pleas.

This Boris Karloff Frankenstein will always be an iconic mask and symbol of the greatness of Don Post Studios and the classic artists that brought these magical pieces to life.  Thanks again for all the wonderful photos and information.

Boris Karloff - Mae Clarke

Pat Newman Classic -

Marshall Brodien Magic Shop -

A photo of the Magic Shop - once it was sold and some years after its hey day -

A classic shot of the Old Chicago Haunted Mansion - featured drive carts such as at Disney Theme Parks -

A little History of Chicago Legend Marshall Brodien -
« Last Edit: December 02, 2017, 12:13:48 AM by FRANKENSTEIN »


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Re: Back to the classics ~ DP's Karloff FRANKENSTEIN
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2017, 01:27:21 AM »
Great post, Huna -- and thanks for posting that video. I totally remember those TV Magic commercials growing up.
"You're dead, son.  Get yourself buried."
--J.J. Hunsecker


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Re: Back to the classics ~ DP's Karloff FRANKENSTEIN
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2017, 10:56:56 AM »
Incredible post brother! Always love seeing all the different variations of Pats’ masterpiece throughout the years. The 83 has to be my favorite. It just has hat perfect vintage mask look that others cannot capture.


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Re: Back to the classics ~ DP's Karloff FRANKENSTEIN
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2017, 09:19:33 PM »
Fantastic post, Maskahuna! Thank you!


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Re: Back to the classics ~ DP's Karloff FRANKENSTEIN
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2017, 09:49:37 PM »
Thanks for all of the fabulous Franktastic information.  I really look forward to all of your posts, but you truly outdid yourself with this one.