Although the continuity is a little wayward, the events of many of the Golden Age of Universal horror films actually take place in one of two fictional locales – the village of Frankenstein and that of Vasaria (sometimes spelled Visaria). In turn, these were generally filmed in the same place too, the sprawling Universal back-lot, nicknamed ‘Little Europe’.
Frankenstein Village is home, naturally enough, to the famed Frankenstein family who resided in the area for 700 years. Taking elements of the setting of Mary Shelley’s novel, Ingolstadt in Bavaria, it is referred to in House of Frankenstein as being located near the fictional town of Reigelberg in Switzerland (the country is also referred to in a 1930 shooting script for Frankenstein).
Notable places of interest in the village include a castle on the edge of the village, the ancestral dwelling of the Frankenstein family, latter inhabitants being the Baron and his son, Henry. Located behind the castle was an old watchtower where Henry Frankenstein drew notoriety for his attempts to grant life to cadavers. The building also had a crypt and a windmill is to be found nearby. Overseen by a burgomaster, the locals partake in many traditional trades and much of their economy appears to be based on the large forested area at the edge of their community.
Generally assumed to be in Switzerland, Vasaria is nestled in the mountains of Eastern Europe, rather isolated from the outside world and approximately a three-day journey from the nearest hamlet – Frankenstein. Vasaria was also home to men of medicine – Doctor Gustav Neimann (played by Boris Karloff in the film House of Frankenstein), and the youngest son of Henry Frankenstein, Ludwig (Cedric Hardwicke in Ghost of Frankenstein). Vasaria also became the residence of Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr), better known in furry mode as The Wolfman.
For the narrative to make any sense at all, the events of the films should take place in roughly this order:
Frankenstein (Frankenstein Village)
Bride of Frankenstein (Frankenstein Village)
Son of Frankenstein (Frankenstein Village)
Ghost of Frankenstein (Vasaria)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
House of Frankenstein (Frankenstein Village)
House of Dracula (Visaria)
Bud Abbot and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (ironically the one film which attempts to put all the monsters in a ‘believable’ real world where they could cross paths). Both towns have a surprisingly high quota of hunchbacks and hanged criminals.
Stage 12 at Universal Studios was built in 1928, covers 29,500 square feet and was originally created for the 1929 film, Broadway. The sprawling nature of the set meant that in leant itself to epic productions where entire communities had to be housed – these included Dracula, Frankenstein ( both 1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Alas, a devastating fire in 1967 means that the current replica of a town available to visit is not the original.
Daz Lawrence, MOVIES & MANIA