As films, they were really important to me and when I saw the Everyman Classic edition of the book in Darfield Library I borrowed it and, although I couldn’t really understand it, I carried it round with me in my school bag in the same way that I carried progressive rock albums, because it was an emblem of the way I wanted to present myself to the world.
Those films, though, those films. Without looking (and I promise I’m not!), I’ll see if I can remember them as I gaze down time’s long tunnel.
Frankenstein, that was the first one. The classic, with Boris Karloff as the monster. And that came out in 1931. I remember seeing extracts on that old Michael Parkinson programme called Cinema, and being simultaneously scared to death and intrigued because there’s something enduring and universal about the idea of somebody making a man from bits of other people.
Then it was The Bride of Frankenstein in 1935, with the fantastic Elsa Lanchester as the bride, and then it was Son of Frankenstein in 1939 and I’m not sure if Boris Karloff was the monster any more by that point.
And then my dates are getting a little hazy but I think it was Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man in 1942 and then the one that brought that first run of black and white Frankenstein films to an end with more of a whimper than a bang, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1944.
It’s hard for me to overestimate how much of my early teenage years were caught up in this story; I had a plastic model of the monster that I made from a kit and displayed on a shelf in my bedroom.
I bought a magazine called Famous Monsters of Filmland that was full of information about the films, so much so that I used to drive my mum and dad to the brink of full-blown exasperation by getting them to test me on what I cleverly (or so I thought) called Frankentrivia.
I was moved almost to adolescent tears by the plight of the monster, by the way nobody understood him and that underneath all the anger he was a sweet soul who just wanted people to like him. Oh, I wonder why that appealed to a sensitive adolescent lad who wanted to be a writer?
I’ll just check and see how many I got correct. Ah, I got some dates wrong and I missed a few films out. I was okay until Son of Frankenstein but how could I forget The Ghost of Frankenstein in 1942, and The House of Frankenstein in 1944?
And the Abbott and Costello one didn’t come out until 1948. And I was a year too early with the …Meets the Wolf Man one too. That’s a real blow; it’s like thinking you know your nine times table off by heart and then it turns out you don’t.
It’s almost like memory is as imperfect as that monster was. Hey, that’s a line worth keeping!