Monstrous Controversies

The 1920s – 1960s weren’t exactly the heydays for movies filled with murder and gore. When horror films started being produced, people were revolted at a murder scene that today’s generation wouldn’t even blink at.

The Universal Monster movies faced backlash for its “racy” content when released. Scenes were cut, lines were changed, and some films were banned altogether. Fortunately, some of the scenes that were cut have been restored, but many remain lost.

Before the Monster throws Maria in the pond in Frankenstein (1931)

Perhaps the most well-known controversies involved Frankenstein (1931). The scene where the Monster throws the little girl, Maria, into the pond was cut by many states including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York because it was considered too horrifying for audiences. These same states also banned the line “Now I know what it feels like to be God!” because it was considered blasphemous.

Kansas banned 32 scenes from the movie, which cut it in half. Rhode Island newspapers refused to run advertisements for the film, and Britain censors cut out the scene where the Monster finds Fritz’s hanged body and kills Dr. Waldmann.

Edited versions of the film had to be created, and it wasn’t until 1985 when it was restored with all its previously cut scenes. Information found here.

Dracula (1931) had its fair share of censorship after the Production Code of 1934. An epilogue of the film featuring Edward Van Sloan was cut because he said “Just pull yourself together and remember that, after all, there are such things (as vampires).” The epilogue was cut out of fear that religious groups would think the film was encouraging a belief in the supernatural and be offended. This scene has not been restored and is considered lost. Information found in this book.

Elsa Lanchester as The Bride in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The Production Code also greatly affected The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Frankenstein and Dracula were initially untouched by censors, but because of the Production Code, The Bride of Frankenstein had to be censored before its release. “Throughout the script there are a number of references to Frankenstein which compare him to God, and which compare his creation of the Monster to God’s creation of Man. All such references should be deleted,” said head of the Production Code, Joesph Breen. Many scenes were cut, including a scene were the Monster watches a couple exchange love vows and many killing scenes. According to IMDb, the “body count” of the original was 21, but it was cut down to 10 because of the censors.

The director, James Whale, was afraid the film was going to be banned altogether, so he changed the beginning scene to say that the film is a work of fiction told in the words of the author of the novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley.

The film was still banned completely in some countries, however. Hungary, Palestine, and Trinidad banned the film, and other countries such as Japan and China deleted many scenes, including a scene where the Monster looks longingly at the unanimated body of the Bride. This scene was objected to because they felt it looked like necrophilia. In Sweden, so many scenes were cut that the film was released very short in length.

Information found here.

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