Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Degrees of "Son of Frankenstein"

While watching the 1940 WC Fields film The Bank Dick on TMC the other day, I was astounded to recognize some of the music.  It’s an active, suspenseful piece that is used twice in The Bank Dick, each time to accompany a bank-robber chase (there are two bank robberies in the movie!).

It was music from 1939’s Son of Frankenstein, by Frank Skinner!  The music is heard at the climax of Son, when the Monster (Karloff) has taken Dr Frankenstein’s little boy.  There are various scenes of pursuit and standoff, as the Monster holds the tyke over the lava pit, until Basil Rathbone does his Tarzan act and saves the day.

I checked with IMDB                        about The Bank Dick,   and it says that Frank Skinner was the “uncredited” composer.  The onscreen credits list the Musical Director for this Universal movie as Charles Previn.

So here we have a clear case of what they call, in TV, “tracking” – that is, using music previously prepared for one situation, in another.  Another classic example from the movies is how Universal reused Franz Waxman’s exotic Bride of Frankenstein music for its Flash Gordon serials.

Now, here’s another interesting movieland cross-pollonization.  Growing up as a twisted sort of soul, I had seen Son of Frankenstein at least ten times before, as an adult, I watched Bambi with my young children.  Once again, I went “hmmmm,” when I heard “young” Bambi speak.  Now, WHERE had I heard that too-cute voice before?

And then it hit me – it was the same voice as Peter von Frankenstein, the infant Son of Frankenstein!

Nowadays, you can see Donnie Dunagan listed as the “uncredited” voice of young Bambi on IMDB.  But twenty years ago, all I could do was go, “hmmmm.”

See you next Wednesday!
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© by Mark Alfred