Much like “Alice in Wonderland” and the “Wizard of Oz” there were several screen adaptations of the story of Frankenstein. Notable versions of this tale exist and several versions have spawned sequels and other spin offs. I will focus on four versions of this tale.
The first is “Frankenstein” from 1910. It was thought to be a lost film at one time until a copy was found in Wisconsin in the 70s; now we can now witness it online for free. It’s was made by the Thomas Edison Production Company and they really had a unique interpretation of the monster. When it comes to the creation he is cooked in a large caldron and then comes out looking like a strange Kabuki actor. For 1910 that must’ve been weird as hell for people to see. It’s a very short movie and in the end Dr. Frankenstein and his monster are joined through looking at a mirror. It’s a very surreal interpretation.
Next up we have the classic “Frankenstein” of 1931 played by Boris Karloff. This version is truly ingrained in the public mind now as to what the monster looks like. Not only that but because of the popularity of the film people started becoming confused with whether to call the monster Frankenstein or Frankenstein’s monster. I tend to be a purist on that one so I go with the monster since the doctor was Frankenstein. But its fiction so who gives a shit. Karloff gives it a sterling performance and even came back for another 2 movies as the character. “Bride of Frankenstein” is a better movie in my opinion but you really need to see to two of them together to get the feeling of a complete tale.
As for just the first movie on its own merits however there is a lot to say about the fact that they once again decided not to kill off the Doctor. At least the second movie takes over right where it left off. It’s a classic and totally worth seeing. Like all of the original Universal Horror movies of the 1930s they represent an era that was a golden age for cinema.
In 1957 Hammer studio gave us “The Curse of Frankenstein”. It stared Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein and Christopher Lee and the Monster. Hammer was already known for bringing audiences more gore and more cleavage to our classic movie monsters. This one turned Dr. Frankenstein into a murderous, psychopathic, rapist. It was a very unique vision of the doctor. He was a man who inevitably didn’t care about anyone when it came to his work. This was a different vision than any we’ve seen before and it was a very good movie. They made several sequels to this series too much as they did the Hammer Dracula series.
Then in 1994 we have the newer version “Frankenstein” starring Kenneth Branagh as the Doctor and Robert DeNiro as the monster. This movie followed the novel pretty well with only a handful of turns away. Still the idea of using electric eels for electricity to power the monster was an original notion. The thing that made me like “Bride of Frankenstein” so much is I actually feel sorry for the monster. If you have read the book you know that the monster is a VERY pitiable man.
Karloff pulls this off well in “Bride of Frankenstein” but it’s not easy to do with the script of “Frankenstein”. However, DeNiro has a more flexible script to work with then Karloff so he can show his range and make us feel the absolute isolation and abandonment the creature feels. It’s a really wonderful portrayal and considering the fact there are several remakes of “Frankenstein” out there its well worth seeing.
These “Frankenstein” movies are all pretty good. But if you are a fast reader you can likely zip through the book in a few days tops. It’s a short read and totally worth it as well. Take a bit of time to get to know the source. You won’t regret it. Plus, you’ll be able to brag to people that you read a classic before you saw the movies.