Have been Frankenstein crazy the past year. It all started with my viewing of that excellent stage play of Frankenstein 2011 based on a script by Nick Dear, Directed by Danny Boyle and featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller both as the creature and Victor Frankenstein. I watched both versions and definitely feel that Benedict’s Creature and Miller’s Victor Frankenstein are best suited to the actors abilities. There is a very physical performance in Benedict’s Monster that shines through the actor and expresses the creature beyond words alone. Miller’s Frankenstein is gentlemanly and carries the genius and torment of Victor Frankenstein wonderfully making his story as gripping as the monsters.
Since then I burned through the entire Universal Frankenstein series. Universal’s ‘Frankenstein’ is the most iconic image of the creature that most of us grew up with. Boris Karloff as that giant monster with the spark plugs in his neck. The German expressionism featured in ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ make these must see movies not only for horror fans but cinefiles too. As a horror movie you’d expect Frankenstein monster to be shown in a negative light but he is probably the most sympathetic and a character most identified with in all of horror cinema.
‘Son of Frankenstein’ takes away the humanity of the creature, he no longer speaks and characters speak of the creature’s murderous and violent attacks in the past. ‘Son of Frankenstein’ is however a beautiful looking movie and the sets are to die for. Looming, shadowy, like something out of a stage play. Absolutely fantastic set design.
‘Ghost of Frankenstein’ is when things really start to get cliche and focuses on the secondary characters such as the hunchback Igor now played by Bela Lugosi who was best know for his role as Dracula. Igor isn’t really all that compelling a character to watch yet since they’ve taken away the voice of the monster they need someone to speak for him. Igor comes across as too cerebral compared to out first meeting with him in Frankenstein.
‘Frankenstein meets the wolf man’ isn’t as fun as it sounds and the focus here is really on the Wolf Man, Lambert, who is searching desperately for a cure to his curse of being a Werewolf. The cure he searches for, is death.
‘House of Frankenstein’ continues things in a similar theme, once again the wolf man seeks death. There is another subplot though featuring Dracula which is tidied up pretty quickly before getting to the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s Creature. There’s a bit too much confusion about whose Brain is going into whose body and why such brain switching would actually benefit any of them. You’d have to watch it to try and get it. It’s lite on plot explanation and theories are pulled out of thin air. This series gets less and less interesting and more sillier the further it goes away from the source material.
‘House of Dracula’ is quite enjoyable and perhaps the most serious of the films since Son of Frankenstein. Again the story is similar to the previous two movies but the role of Dracula plays a bigger part in how events unfold and the Wolf man himself finally finds peace as does the creature.
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
To me the Novel felt like a revenge story more than anything else. An endless circle of hatred between the two characters of Doctor Frankenstein and the Wretch neither of whom understand the motivations of the other. Their only desire is to hurt one another. By the end their lives have no other meaning than that.
The first half of the story is told mostly from the perspective of Victor Frankenstein to Captain Walton who discovers Dr. Frankenstein during his exploration of the North Pole. The second half brings the creature’s side of the story into it and his own experience which ran parallel to Victor’s own miseries.
Captain Walton is reflected in Victor’s drive and ambition and although that ambition has destroyed Victor’s life he still holds onto the thought of pushing further into the world through the exploration of life and it’s many mysteries. The only character who finds any real peace in the story is the one forced to give up on his dreams and return to his loved ones.
It’s amazing to think that this was written in the early 19th century by a girl still in her teens. Where did such a manifestation of horror and science come from? It supposedly came from a dream she had. 200 years later and it’s still just as relevant to today’s sciences as humanity tinkers with Artificial intelligence and human genetics.
‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’
The movie by Kenneth Branagh does resemble the novel in many ways but the film tries to add something of 20th century science into it. The other thing is that it’s too long, overt and far too raw, the graphic nature of the film takes away from the heart of the story and to me this and ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ were 90s Horror films that appealed visually but lacked depth.
The creature doesn’t hold much sympathy over me. It’s has the mind of a criminal which inhabits the form and thus gives credence in some ways to it’s actions. It makes it too easy for Frankenstein’s monster to be a complete bastard because he is acting on the nature of his criminal mind and less that of a tortured one.
Curse of Frankenstein was the first shot at the story by Hammer films and arguably the weakest of all the forms of media of Frankenstein I had immersed myself in. Why I feel it’s important though is because it’s the first onscreen pairing of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in a Horror movie. An onscreen relationship that would go on to bring us their pairing in the Hammer Dracula series which were the best Dracula films to date. At first the producers had planned to have this Frankenstein film star Boris Karloff and be shot in black and white but after a threat from Universal to sue for similarities to their own series this idea was scrapped, a new script was written and the film was shot in colour with a different looking creature.
Well it seems that Guillermo del Toro wants to make the next Frankenstein movie and wants Benedict Cumberbatch to play the lead role. Not only that but since he is making it for universal he would have access to using any imagery or material from those films. My imagination bubbles at what he might come up with. I look forward to seeing what sets the bar for the next generation.
Favorite Quote: Some years ago, when the images which this world affords first opened upon me, when I felt the cheering warmth of summer and heard the rustling of the leaves and the warbling of the birds, and these were all to me, I should have wept to die; now it is my only consolation. Polluted by crimes and torn by the bitterest remorse, where can I find rest but in death? – The Wretch