...Frankenstein starts here...Who or what is Frankenstein?Mary Shelley's novel FrankensteinEarly film and theatre adaptations
            of Mary Shelley's novel FrankensteinUniversal Studios Frankenstein films...
            do you know Karloff?Hammer Studios...
            meet Peter CushingFrankenstein movies from the 1970s-1990sMad Professors and monstrous creations...
            Robocops, Re-Animators and androidsMarvel Comics Frankenstein MonsterAny questions ?Read more about Frankenstein!Frankenstein links on the internet!


Introduction

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus (1818) is one of the most popular works of gothic horror and science fiction literature and also ranks among the best known novels of English Romanticism. Although most people are in some way familiar with the story, many do not know that it is based on an almost 200-year-old novel, let alone have read it. In fact, the fame of Victor Frankenstein and his creation is based mainly on various adaptations and rewritings of the original 19th-century novel. The Frankenstein myth has entered 20th century popular culture and has become part of it in the same way as Coca Cola, James Bond, Dracula, Levi's Jeans, Mickey Mouse, Elvis Presley or the Beatles. First adaptations of Shelley's novel appeared shortly after its initial publication in the form of plays written for the stage. Since then Frankenstein and his monster have been featured in countless forms, mostly movies, but also horror and science fiction novels by various writers, TV programmes and pop songs. Even children's books and cartoons (e.g. episodes from Looney Tunes/Bugs Bunny, The Flintstones, Tom & Jerry) with a less scary version of the monster were produced; and several toy manufacturers have marketed "Frankenstein" action figures and other Frankenstein-themed toys. 

One popular examples of the use of the "Frankenstein" myth was a 1998 American TV commercial for "Twix" candy bars (dir: Rob Pritts). It is a spoof of a scene from the classic 1931 film version, in which the little girl demands "Twix" from the Monster instead of sharing flowers with it. Proclaiming, "Two for me, none for you!", the Monster ends up sacrificing one of his arms rather than sharing his second "Twix" bar with the little girl.  <font face="Arial" size="1"> This site requires QUICK TIME plug-in</font>

Nowadays many so-called adaptations of Frankenstein are rather exploitations of Mary Shelley's novel. In his Frankenstein Scrapbook Stephen Jones lists hundreds of films featuring mad scientists, artificially created monsters and references to Frankenstein, both novel and film. About 80 films carry the name "Frankenstein" in their title, although many of them have little in common with Mary Shelley's novel and only use the popular name "Frankenstein" to draw people into cinemas. Among these "fake-Frankensteins" are titles like Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter, Frankenstein Conquers the World (a "Godzilla"-like monster film from Japan) , Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein, Dracula Vs. Frankenstein and Frankenstein Meets the Space Monsters. Jones even lists a number of porn films exploiting the Frankenstein myth.

Unlike Dracula, another great figure from horror literature, Frankenstein has undergone several changes and mutations over the decades. In most Dracula films the vampire is basically the same and the image of Count Dracula conceived in the novel has not been altered. Mary Shelley's creation, on the other hand, has always prompted new interpretations. Literary purists might state that Frankenstein has never been too lucky since most film adaptations were not faithful to the book. Others might say that Frankenstein - much more than Dracula - has inspired artists to create something new out of old parts, just as Victor Frankenstein created the monster by piecing together old body parts. 
The "Twix" commercial perfectly illustrates how the conception of Frankenstein and his monster has changed since the first publication of the book. Of course one of the major changes is the misnaming of the creature. Today the Monster is usually named "Frankenstein" whereas in the novel this is the name of its creator Victor Frankenstein. The Monster has a flat head with bolts in its neck (and the face of Boris Karloff) - originally none of these features were in the novel. And Victor Frankenstein is reduced to the image of the typical "mad scientist", a monomaniac bent on making life out of dead parts. Literary critic Chris Baldick describes the modern Frankenstein myth as a skeleton story requiring only two basic principles:

   a)  Frankenstein makes a living creature out of bits of corpses.

   b)  The creature turns against him and runs amok. (Baldick 1990: 3)

The essays on this website illustrate how and when these changes occurred. The main focus will be on the most important film adaptations because due to their wide reach they had the longest-lasting impact on the image of Frankenstein. Additionally, the site also features continuations of the Frankenstein myth in modern science fiction and horror films, especially the myth of the artificially created human being.

Throughout the texts references to several secondary sources are stated in brackets. The full titles of these works are listed in the BOOKS section of this website, together with other interesting works related to Frankenstein, Romanticism and horror.




These are short summaries of what you will find in the various sections of Frankenstein Castle:


Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein
Several critics have tried to provide interpretations of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, ranging from seeing it as a cautionary tale to feminist approaches.
(This section includes summary and downloadable e-text of the complete, unabridged novel.)

Theatre plays and early films
 
The earliest adaptations of Mary Shelley's novel were
theatre plays, the first of them, Brinsley Peake's Presumption, written as early as 1823. Some of these plays changed great portions of Frankenstein's plot, usually in order to dehumanise the Monster and to include a morale.
(This section also focuses on Frankenstein films before 1930.)

Films made by Universal studios in the 1930s
 
Shot in 1931, the first important Frankenstein film was James Whale's Frankenstein. Despite the liberties taken with the original plot, this film provided the definitive lasting visual image of the Frankenstein monster: to most people Boris Karloff as the Monster has become synonymous with Frankenstein. It was
also the first great addition to the Frankenstein myth in the 20th century. The following series of Frankenstein films contributed to a further change of the myth, when people began to confuse the creator with the creation. In the end the Monster had become Frankenstein and the focus had been moved from the creator to his creation. But by taking away most of its human features, these films also often turned the Monster into a mere killing machine.

Films made by Hammer Studios
A
new breed of adaptations followed in the 1950s and 1960s, when the British production company Hammer started their own Frankenstein series with The Curse of Frankenstein. In these films the central character is Victor Frankenstein. But here he is no longer a guilt-ridden scientist who wants to work for the benefit of mankind.
Instead, Hammer turned Victor Frankenstein into a ruthless villain, who would do anything to continue his experiments. This Frankenstein kills, blackmails, rapes and treats his creations like disposable objects. However, the plots of Hammer's films didn't have much in common with Shelley's novel and were mainly exploitative mad scientist movies.

Film versions made through the 1970s to 1990s
          After the end of the Hammer series
only a few films contributed new ideas to the Frankenstein myth. In the 1970s only Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, a parody of the Universal series with Boris Karloff, and the musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which added a sexual component to the story of Frankenstein, were successful reworkings of the Frankenstein myth.
A more serious way of adapting Frankenstein began in the
early 1990s. Roger Corman's Frankenstein Unbound mixes fact and fiction and introduces a 21st-century Frankenstein who travels back in time to meet the real Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein.
Kenneth Branagh's film Mary Shelley's Frankenstein takes a few liberties with the plot of the novel, but is a movie made in the spirit of Mary Shelley. The film sticks very closely to the book and portrays the characters as they were intended by Shelley.

Frankenstein-related films
          The myth of Frankenstein, in particular the motif of the artificial human being and its creator,
has found an ongoing continuation in a huge number of science fiction and horror films, most prominently in the TV series Star Trek: Next Generation and in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner.

Frankenstein comic books
From January 1973 to September 1975 the American comics publisher Marvel ran a series entitled The Frankenstein Monster. According to the concept of comic writers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby the Monster had been turned into a "superhero" like Superman, Batman or Spiderman. The Monster was both a powerful creature and a friendly neighbour, yet a tragic being which is often rejected by human society like other "superheroes". It saves the innocent and fights evil (in this case a globe-spanning crime cartel called ICON - International Crime Organizations Nexus). This series also introduces Veronica Frankenstein, scientist and last descendant to Victor Frankenstein, who wants to help the Monster in order to compensate for what Victor had done more than 100 years before her time.

          
Covers for issues # 16 & 17 of Marvel's The Frankenstein Monster
(Art by Val Meyerink)



 

© 2000 - 2004 Andreas Rohrmoser