Fresh of the success of Dracula, Universal’s 23-year-old head of production Carl Laemmle, Jr. is looking for another hit to solidify his position at the studio. He believes he’s found just the ticket in an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel, Frankenstein. Unfortunately for Junior, his father and the studio’s founder Carl Laemmle, Sr. does not agree.
Over the course of several weeks in the summer of 1931, Junior tries to put the finishing touches on the production of Frankenstein. There are still little things to take care of, like the film’s director and the actor playing the lead role of the Monster. British import James Whale is the first choice to direct the movie, but he’s a temperamental artist insistent on controlling the film. As for the lead role, Junior has his heart set on Dracula’s Bela Lugosi, while Whale at first insists on the unknown Boris Karloff.
Junior spends most of the novel running around town is his chauffeured car trying to get everything with the film on track and repair things with his domineering father. He also tries to avoid setting off his “fits”, embarrassing episodes that see him break out in sweat and eventually black out.
It’s Alive! is obviously a passion project from Julian David Stone and his writing is full of energy. However, the story is so narrowly-focused it feels rather incomplete. The whole plot of the novel takes place before cameras ever roll on set. Though Stone tries to capture the inner lives of Lugosi and Karloff, he ignores James Whale, a curious decision to say the least. Gossip columnist Louella Parsons appears occasionally as an antagonist, but her presence contributes very little to the story.
All in all, It’s Alive! captures the author’s passion for a niche subject, but probably won’t engender much interest in it from others.