Dig Deeper - Frankenstein's Electrician


"It's alive!  It's alive!!"   Next up on the Lyric Arts stage is The New Mel Brooks Musical, Young Frankenstein.  Both his 1974 film and Brooks' 2006 stage musical adaptation are an affectionate parody of the classical horror film genre.  Brooks shot his film entirely in black and white, used 1930's style cinematography and score, and was able to use almost all the original lab equipment from the 1931 Universal Pictures film directed by James Whale.  Here is an excerpt from an excellent biography of Kenneth Strickfaden, the man behind Hollywood's golden age of mad scientists...


Kenneth Strickfaden, innovative genius of illusionary special effects from silent films to the age of television, set the standard for Hollywood’s mad scientists. Strickfaden created the science fiction apparatus in more than 100 motion picture films and television programs, from 1931’s Frankenstein to the Wizard of Oz and The Mask of Fu Manchu to television’s The Munsters.

The skilled technician, known around Hollywood’s back lots as “Mr. Electric,” once doubled for Boris Karloff in a dangerous scene and was nearly electrocuted. From his birth in 1896 to his death in 1984, Strickfaden’s life was filled with adventure. He spent his early years working the amusement parks on both coasts, served overseas as a Marine during World War I, took a 1919 cross-country trip in a dilapidated Model T, and favored risky pursuits like automobile and speedboat racing. He worked as an aeronautical mechanic, constructing airplanes for an historic around-the-world flight. A science teacher at heart, he gave 1,500 traveling science demonstration lectures across the U.S. and Canada.

"Kenneth Strickfaden:  Dr. Frankenstein's Electrician" by Harry Goldman covers Strickfaden’s entire personal and professional life and discusses his influence on later films. It reveals the fate of his collection of equipment, is richly illustrated with numerous rare and previously unpublished photographs and includes appendices with doodles from Strickfaden’s notebooks, correspondence, a complete chronology and more.