Five Great Takes on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

In 1818, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley first published Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. The novel had been in her head for two years ever since an evening party with her, her husband Percy Shelley the poet, Lord Byron, had a competition to see who could write the best horror story. Mary Shelley had thought about the story for days before dreaming of a scientist who having created life was horrified by what he had done. This dream and story formed the basis of her novel, and instantly a whole new genre of fiction. It was the first use of the ‘mad scientist’ trope (which really started to take off nearly a hundred years later with the invention of the Atomic bomb). It is also considered by many to be the first ‘true’ science fiction story. In the two hundred years since publication Frankenstein has been one of the most influential novels ever written and has inspired the following films.

Frankenstein (1931) Directed by James Whale (The Invisible Man, Showboat) and starring the one and only Boris Karloff in the title role. Also starring Colin Clive and Mae Clark, it was an immediate hit. It was Universal Studio’s biggest financial success that year and spawned numerous sequels including Bride of Frankenstein. It is now regarded as possibly the most iconic horror film in history and one of the best films of all time.

Young Frankenstein (1974) Mel Brooks directed and Gene Wilder (in one of his most bravura performances) starred in this parody of the classic 30’s horror film. Brooks made the conscious decision to film in black and white while employing 30’s style movie credits to help make a movie that works as both a comedy AND a monster flick. It originated such classic moments as ‘It’s Franken-STEEN not Franken-STINE,’ and a wonderful rendition of “Putting on the Ritz.” Small wonder not only that Young Frankenstein was a box office smash that has gone on to become one of the most widely lauded comedies of all time and on its 40th anniversary Brooks proclaimed Young Frankenstein to be the finest movie he had ever filmed.

The Monster Squad  (1987) In this horror comedy Frankie along with all the other major Universal monsters, (The Mummy, Wolf Man, Fish Man) are put together into a monstrous team led by Dracula himself in a plot to plunge the world into darkness. In the opposing corner is a club of pre-teens obsessed with classic monster films. While initial reviews were mixed, Monster Squad has since gone on to become recognized as a cult classic and every few years there’s talk of a possible remake.

Frankenweenie (2012) Young Victor mourning his beloved Bull Terrier Sparky manages to resurrect him through electricity. But when others coerce him to reveal the process and start re-animating their deceased pets and ahem…other creatures mayhem ensues. Tim Burton originally made a live action short on the concept in 1984, and nearly thirty years later would make a full length, stop motion picture filmed entirely in black and white. This was the fourth time Burton used stop motion animation and the first time of the four films that was not a musical. Filled with Easter Eggs referencing countless film versions of Shelley’s Frankenstein and other classic horror novels, Frankenweenie got an 87% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes, was nominated for a BAFTA award, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award, and won the Saturn award.

The Frankenstein Chronicles (2015-present) Inspector John Marlott (Sean Bean of Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings) discovers a corpse in the river Thames that turns out to be made up of the bodies of eight different children. Co-starring Tom Ward as Home Secretary Robert Peel and Anna Maxwell Martin as Mary Shelley this ongoing crime period television series is now available on Netflix!

Top photo: Bigstock

About Winnefred Ann Frolik (155 Articles)
Winnefred Ann Frolik (Winnie for short) was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She completed the International Baccleareate program at Schenley High School and then attended the University of Pittsburgh where she completed a double major in English Literature and Creative Writing. After graduation she spent a number of years working in the non-profit sector and it was during that phase in her life she moved to D.C.  Winnie co-wrote a book on women in the U.S. Senate with Billy Herzig.  She enrolled in a baking program in culinary school and worked in food services for a while. She currently works in personal services while writing for Woman Around Town and doing other freelance writing projects including feeble personal attempts at fiction. Her brother is a reporter in Dayton, Ohio so clearly there are strong writing genes in the family.  She lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with two demanding cats.