Hollywood presented another dilemma to the BBFC in the form of a new film genre horror. Not that the Board immediately recognised the danger posed by horror films. They had banned the genre’s prototype, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, in 1922, but that was largely because Mrs Bram Stoker was indefatigable in her attempts to sue anyone who adapted her late husband’s book Dracula for the stage or screen; so when the BBFC found out that Mrs Stoker was close on the trail of Murnau they avoided the danger of being dragged into court through a judicious refusal of a certificate to the film. They therefore passed the two most famous early examples of horror to come out of Hollywood. Todd Browning’s Dracula in 1931 and in the following year James Whale’s Frankenstein, without much delay and with only minor cuts. Released under an `A’ certificate, Frankenstein could be seen by children accompanied by adults, and amongst other concerned groups the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was especially wary of the menacing scene in which Boris Karloff’s monster and a little girl from the local village float flowers upon a pond just before he strangles her off-screen.
This sequence — which had already been toned down at Karloff’s suggestion — is in fact a testament to the vulnerability the English star brought to the role coupled with the newfound ability of the talkies to create an atmosphere of terror through the use of sound effects and music, rather than an indictment of what was actually portrayed on the screen. Nevertheless the NSPCC complained to the Home Office, who recommended that the BBFC follow the advice of various local councils with the introduction of a special new certificate which would be designated `H’ for `horrific’.
The 1931 version of Dracula with Bela Lugosi as the legendary Count was cut by seven minute before it was submitted for censorship and that is probably why it encountered no opposition from the Board.
Originally, the monster twirled the little girl around his head before throwing her in the lake. Boris Karloff successfully suggested that the scene be replaced by floating flowers; nevertheless Frankenstein (1932) posed problems for the censor.