WolfmanOz at the Movies #26

Frankenstein

Mary Shelley famously wrote Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus which originated in 1816 when herself, her lover and future husband Percy Shelley and Lord Bryon had a competition to see who could write the best horror story. After a number of days, Mary Shelley was inspired to write this great novel after imagining a scientist who would create life and then became horrified as to what he had made.

It is one of my favourite novels and I view it more as a science fiction story rather than a horror story and the novel has had a considerable influence on literature and on popular culture where it has brought to life to a complete genre of horror films.

The first sound version of the story was Frankenstein released in 1931 which was directed by James Whale and starred Boris Karloff as the creature, and, along with Dracula also released in the same year, set off a series of horror films that would become a staple of the Universal studio.

The film was really a loose adaption of Mary Shelley’s novel but it established Karloff as a horror icon star and it provided the most famous portrayal/look of the creature as Karloff’s performance still resonates today, nearly 90 years later with his hissing venom.

A sequel followed in 1935, The Bride Of Frankenstein, which again was loosely based on the original. Again directed by Whale and starring Karloff, it’s a delicious black comedy horror movie that still manages to entertain today.

Another sequel followed in 1939, The Son Of Frankenstein, which was then followed by a number of B grade entries with The Ghost Of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, The House Of Frankenstein and House Of Dracula. The series was increasingly becoming silly which was capped off with Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein albeit this is still quite a good comedy horror flick.

It wasn’t until 1957, with the release of Hammer’s The Curse Of Frankenstein with Peter Cushing as the Dr. Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as the creature did the story regain fresh impetus.

Again, like the Universal cycle, the Hammer films were only very loosely based on the original novel and Hammer produced another six films in the series – The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958), The Evil Of Frankenstein (1964), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), The Horror Of Frankenstein (1970) and Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell (1974).

I find the Hammer films still quite enjoyable to watch but I was longing for a reasonably accurate interpretation of one of my favourite novels, and finally in 1994 with Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein an attempt was made.

Taking it’s cue from Francis Ford Coppola’s successful interpretation of the Dracula story with 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Branagh went back to the original novel with an attempted faithful adaptation, albeit still with a number of differences.

Here, at least was an attempt to bring Mary Shelley’s great novel to life, although it was more operatic in its depiction than the subtle nuances of the novel. I could admire the effort and intent but it didn’t quite reach the heights it aspired to.

So I’m still hoping for a faithful film version of one of the great novels although I’m not confident of seeing it anytime soon given the dross we are served up now.

And, of course I should not forget to include Mel Brooks marvelous comedy horror send-up Young Frankenstein released in 1974. But, of course, Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder were referencing the classic 1930s films not the novel.


Enjoy.

PS I will do a future post on that other great horror film staple – Dracula !

24 thoughts on “WolfmanOz at the Movies #26”

  1. Saw most of them when young, the acting was pretty bad. Young Frankenstein was brilliant comedy. The days daily life should be filmed when we have constant horror and a parade of freaks all demanding their 15 minutes of fame. Trouble is, they’re not actors. and we can’t walk out.


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  2. we have constant horror and a parade of freaks all demanding their 15 minutes of fame. Trouble is, they’re not actors, and we can’t walk out.

    Liberty Quote!


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  3. I really should get out a bit more for I haven’t seen any of the films, yet I wonder if these like the amazing novel explore the nature of fragile humanity in contrast to that of the force of scientism, the nature of the inner journey of discovery as revelation in contrast to that of the processes of hitting upon the means to justify an end.


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  4. Cassie of Sydney says:
    June 23, 2022 at 12:13 pm
    I’ve never been a fan of Frankenstein…..the movies never really scared me. I’m a Dracula fan.

    As I said in my post I view Frankenstein as science fiction, well the novel anyway.

    I’ll be doing a post on Dracula sometime in the next few weeks . . . once I can find my fangs !


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  5. If I remember correctly there is a great scene in the 1931 film where da monster is watching an innocent child throwing flowers into the lake. We are all terrified at the juxtaposition. But he and the child greet each other. We are calmed. Then he throws the child into the lake! He learned from watching the child that, if it is beautiful you chuck it in the lake. Smart.


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  6. JohnJJJ says:
    June 23, 2022 at 12:37 pm
    If I remember correctly there is a great scene in the 1931 film where da monster is watching an innocent child throwing flowers into the lake. We are all terrified at the juxtaposition. But he and the child greet each other. We are calmed. Then he throws the child into the lake! He learned from watching the child that, if it is beautiful you chuck it in the lake. Smart.

    Frankenstein (1931) – The Monster and the little girl [HD]
    https://youtu.be/fsTNadRsVnY


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  7. “Fair Shakesays:
    June 23, 2022 at 12:59 pm
    No mention of Fred Gwynnes tribute to Frankenstein as Herman Munster. A few nuts loose but drove a great set of wheels.”

    Do you know, when I read the piece I thought of Herman Munster….now that I used to enjoy as a kid!


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  8. “I’ll be doing a post on Dracula sometime in the next few weeks . . . once I can find my fangs !”

    Fabbo…am enjoying your weekly movie posts.


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  9. I enjoyed Frankenstein: The True Story, which has a stellar British cast, a script with considerable nuance (written at least in part by Christopher Isherwood), and last but not least, anchored on screen by James Mason. Made for TV in 1973.


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  10. What is striking is the spin-offs. Mary Shelley kick-started a huge genre which was manifested in books, comics, theatre, TV and movies for a long time afterwards, and is still with us.

    Like Conan Doyle, she put her finger on the pulse and came up with something new which appeals to something in the human psyche – a not inconsiderable achievement.


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  11. I have little interest in the schlock-Frankenstein.

    Kenneth Branagh’s film wasn’t bad but, as you say, more operatic and less nuanced than the novel.

    I have long thought that the adaptation thus far most faithful to the novel was the 1973 British telemovie in two parts, Frankenstein: the True Story (not to be confused with with the US 1973 movie, Frankenstein). It is the one with James Mason as Dr Polidori. It brings out the pathos of the novel.


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  12. Boris Karloff’s last role was in an adaption of a Charles Bukowski short story.
    He played himself.
    Didn’t seem particularly scary.
    Lon Chaney, he was scary.


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  13. As you say, the novel was science fiction, a warning against using to technology without moral responsibility or much thought of consequences. As such, I bracket it with Brave New World, 1985, Fahrenheit 465, Lord of the Rings and even the Triffids. This means it is a metaphor still for our straitened times.
    moderated

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  14. Ah the monster movies – the pathos – Charles Laughton in the hunchback of Notre dame – “ oh I wish I was you “ the hunchback to the statue.
    Oh the horror the horror


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  15. In totally unrelated news , I went to see a movie today ( in the Geelong area) in a converted shearing shed . Witness with Kelly McGillis and Harrison somebody. Great day


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