Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein” laid out the terrifying premise of an ingenious man trying to play god and defeat death itself. Hollywood has been milking this idea for decades, sometimes brilliantly and sometimes painfully. This Halloween, why not spend a little time with the best representations of the good doctor and his horrific creation?
There’s a reason this 1931 film yielded the most iconic imagery for this story. Boris Karloff’s makeup and grunting performance have become the standard for the creature. This gothic classic deviates quite a bit from the original novel, but its impact is clear; most know the conventions of this version much better than the source material.
Despite not being able to communicate very well vocally the creature is a source of amazing empathy but also horror. In many ways the film is harsher than many of the more modern horror films, a benefit of being made before the implementation of the restrictive Hays Code.
What if Dr. Frankenstein had a grandson who had no interest in his grandfather’s legacy? Well, that is until he makes a trip to Transylvania and finds himself thinking he could succeed where his grandfather’s work went wrong. This concept from star Gene Wilder was refined by comedy legend Mel Brooks into this one of a kind horror-comedy. Filmed in black and white to recapture the feel of the classic horror films, this witty spoof features one of the best comedy casts ever assembled and non-stop laughs.
“The Curse of Frankenstein”
The movie on which the prolific Hammer Horror line of films was spawned, this take focuses much more on the good doctor than on the creature, in contrast to most versions of the story. In this film Dr. Frankenstein is relaying his story while awaiting execution for murder: a murder his creation committed but he has been convicted for. A fresh design on the monster helped distinguish this film even more from others. It also served as the first onscreen pairing of legendary horror duo Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, playing Frankenstein and the creature respectively.
The story of Frankenstein is not always adapted straight; sometimes it is used as a jumping off point for something different. That’s very much the case in this Tim Burton-directed oddity.
A cross between Frankenstein and Pinocchio, the film tells the story of the artificial young man known as Edward whose creator died before he was able to finish his creation. Taken in by a local family, the film plays very much like a fairy tale but still touches on the issues of isolation and otherness Mary Shelley’s creature had to contend with. Johnny Depp began his illustrious career of playing weird characters right here as Edward.
“The Bride of Frankenstein”
Director of the 1931 original James Whale returned to explore a subplot of the original novel that he wasn’t able to get onscreen before. It turns out Frankenstein and his monster both survived the events of the first film, and while the doctor would rather leave it all behind him the monster has other plans. The creature demands a mate, and with the encouragement of a demented colleague the doctor goes to work on creating a bride for his monster. This film has a decidedly campier feel to it from the dark, gothic original, but the horror aspects are still present throughout. Karloff again delivers a great performance as the creature, playing him a bit more talkative than in the previous film.
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