In 1931, Frankenstein and his monster were more welcome in Karlstaad than in the state of Kansas.
Arguably one of the greatest monster movies ever made was banned in Kansas that year on the grounds that it promoted “cruelty and tended to debase morals.” It wasn’t a decision that the Kansas State Board of Review rushed toward, though. The board submitted a list of cuts to Universal Studios that would allow FRANKENSTEIN to be shown in the state. Here’s a sample:
And it gets worse from there. In all, Kansas demanded that 32 scenes in the film be cut or trimmed, which would have reduced FRANKENSTEIN’s 71-minute running time in half. “Banned in Kansas: Motion Picture Censorship, 1915-1966” contains a mostly complete transcript of the Kansas State Board of Review’s notes, and they show a perverse attention to detail. Members of the board almost certainly watched the film more than once in order to compile their exhaustive notes. It was a right they didn’t believe extended to anyone else in Kansas, though.
Frankenstein: ‘He is just resting, waiting for a new life to come.'
Here we are — ’
Other states took a more surgical approach to censorship. While Kansas wanted to essentially turn FRANKENSTEIN into mulch, states such as New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts were content to simply eliminate a scene or two. Frankenstein’s line, “Now I know what it feels like to be God,” was frequently excised, as was the scene where the monster tosses a child into a lake.
1934’s Motion Picture Production Code damaged the film even further. The code was meant to create a uniform set of standards and values for U.S. cinema, and many of the films made before that year suffered deep cuts. While FRANKENSTEIN continued to appear in theaters for decades after its original 1931 release, these were versions altered by Universal in the master negative. Most of these cuts remained in place until the rise of home video in the 1980s.