Kenneth Strickfaden, Dr. Frankenstein’s Electrician

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About the Book

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.
Besides covering Strickfaden’s entire personal and professional life, this book discusses how later films show his influence. It reveals the fate of his collection of equipment, and is richly illustrated with numerous rare and previously unpublished photographs. Appendices provide a selection of notes, doodles, and scribbles from Strickfaden’s notebooks, informal sketches, correspondence, documents, a chronology of his film and television contributions, a bibliography, a film index, and a complete subject index.

About the Author(s)

The late Harry Goldman was a retired science teacher. He founded the Tesla Coil Builders’ Association and edited and published the TCBA News for 20 years. His work appeared in Filmfax, Radio Today, American West and numerous other publications. He lived in Queensbury, New York.

Bibliographic Details

Harry Goldman
Foreword by Ed Angell
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 224
Bibliographic Info: 141 photos, filmography, appendices, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2005
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2064-3
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8355-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Foreword by Ed Angell      1
Preface      3

1. Where Have We Met Before?      7
2. For Unto Us a Wizard Is Born      12
3. The Road Taken      22
4. From the Halls of Montezuma…      29
5. California, Here I Come!      36
6. Dr. Frankenstein’s Electrician      42
7. The Man Who Doubled for Boris Karloff      53
8. On the, Road Again-and Again      61
9. The Tesla Coil Connection      74
10. “I Could Have Retired a Millionaire…”      84
11. The Last Frankenstein Picture Show      89
12. “We Had a Ball!”      96
13. No Ordinary Man!      109
14. Notes from Charles, the “Littler” One      121
15. “Re-Memories” (of Early Santa Monica)      132
16. Saying Goodbye to Mr. Electric      138
17. A Sampling of Mad Scientist Films      142
18. The Strickfaden Legacy      150
19. A Final Word      154

Appendix A. Photographica      158
Appendix B. Technical Notes and Sketches      168
Appendix C. Miscellaneous Illustrations      184
Appendix D. Film and Television Chronology      199
Selected Bibliography      205
Index      209

Book Reviews & Awards

“WOW…long overdue book!”—Little Shoppe of Horrors; “well researched”—Serial Report; “intriguing”—Spice; “Goldman’s biography is an homage to Strickfaden’s significant contributions to the film industry”—Ithaca College Quarterly; “thorough…essential”—Monsters from the Vault.