Although the official World Frankenstein Day is celebrated on August 30th of each year to honor Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley, who authored “Frankenstein” in 1818 at the age of 21, it’s a monstrous good month to pick up the read or revisit a bit of film lore.
Frankenstein’s cinema history has had many dismembered parts since the 1931 debut starring Boris Karloff. So, if you are so inclined for a marathon monster fest, here are a few flicks to whet your unhallowed appetite (yes, whet not wet):
- Frankenstein (1931): The original film featured Boris Karloff’s iconic creature, who never asked to be here and never wanted anyone to give him life. And once resurrected, there is a nobody to show him how to live.
- Bride of Frankenstein (1935): The follow-up that brought back Karloff’s monster and introduced his mate Elsa Lanchester, with one of the most infamous coifs of all time. Many film critics have cited the film as the best horror sequel ever, mixing absurd humor and romantic comedy satire.
- Curse of Frankenstein (1957): Christopher Lee gave Victor Frankenstein’s creation new heights. The actor, at 6-foot-5, was horrifying in stature and the first Frankenstein feature in color. It was rather violent for the times, complete with organs in jars and surgical procedures, taking the theme to its next level.
- Frankenstein: The True Story (1973): The project featured a 22-year-old Jane Seymour and a monster that doesn’t start scary but degenerates as the Victorian-era tale progresses. The film strayed Shelley’s novel, but captured the emotion of the storyline.
- Young Frankenstein (1974): Director Mel Brooks’ hilariously contemporary film in black and white cinema style, and featuring Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced “Fronk-en-steen”) is a rare horror comedy.
- May (2002): This is a variation on a theme in Lucky McKee’s modern horror classic with a gender switch and a Dr. Frankenstein-type who’s not actually a doctor. The awkward young woman at the heart of the movie is not driven by mad science, but instead is inspired by loneliness to stitch together her own misshapen creature to create a friend.
- Andy Warhol’s Flesh for Frankenstein (1973): The famed pop artist was a producer on this Italian-French X-rated movie that featured sex, violence, farmhands, sex, disembowelments, monks and sex. Not appropriate for children.
- Frankenstein General Hospital (1988): One of the hazards of being a public-domain character is attracting spoofs like this one where Dr. Bob Frankenstein uses a hospital basement for his experiments in creating the perfect man. Probably, one of the worst Frankenstein movies ever made.
- Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994): Director Kenneth Branagh’s film had an impressive cast for his take, with Helena Bonham Carter, John Cleese, Robert De Niro as the Creature and Branagh himself as Victor Frankenstein. But, this gothic romance was somewhat of a dreadful by-product.
- Frankenstein (2004): The TV miniseries with Julie Delpy and Luke Goss as the strong-jawed, flowing-haired monster turns 10 this year, and it’s just as “ludicrous” as one would think a Frankenstein tale would be coming from the Hallmark Channel.
- Van Helsing (2004): This monster mash with Hugh Jackman, is a confusing blend of iconic creatures and Hansel and Gretel witch hunters!?!
- I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957): With its one huge eye and a ghastly patchwork face, the monster is downright goofy with clunky diaglogue, with funny lines.
- Lady Frankenstein (1971): Things get a little crazy in this one. When Dr. Frankenstein dies, his daughter and lab assistant continue his experiments and fall in love, and she then transplants her beau’s brain into a servant. But it does yield up the coolest-looking monsters ever.
- The Bride (1985): Franc Roddam puts a spin on the Bride of Frankenstein tale with Sting as scientist Baron Charles Frankenstein, Clancy Brown as the monster Viktor and Jennifer Beals as the mate Eva. An odd curio…
- Frankenstein Unbound (1990): B-movie director icon Roger Corman’s last feature starred John Hurt, Raul Julia and Bridget Fonda and threw in some futuristic sci-fi elements with old archetypes. Certainly not mainstream.
- Frankenhooker (1990): Boris Karloff might have turned over in his grave when this comedy came out featuring a mad scientist who, after his girlfriend is killed in a bizarre lawn-mowing accident, tries to put her back together again with the parts of dead New York City prostitutes. The film is in a class all by itself!
- Victor Frankenstein (2015) James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe star in a dynamic and thrilling twist on a legendary tale. Radical scientist Victor Frankenstein (McAvoy) and his equally brilliant protégé Igor Strausman (Radcliffe) share a noble vision of aiding humanity through their groundbreaking research into immortality. But Victor’s experiments go too far, and his obsession has horrifying consequences. Only Igor can bring his friend back from the brink of madness and save him from his monstrous creation.
Did you know?
- Mary’s mother was famed feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who died soon after Mary was born.
- Frankenstein wasn’t Shelley’s first published work. She published her first poem, Mounseer Nongtongpaw in 1807
- Percy Bysshe Shelley was still married to his first wife when he and the teenaged Mary ran away together.
- The couple didn’t marry until 1816, after Percy’s first wife committed suicide.
- Mary was only 21 years old when Frankenstein was published anonymously.
- In 1822, Mary was widowed at the age of 24, when her husband drowned. He had been out sailing with a friend in the Gulf of Spezia. She spent the rest of her life working to preserve his name and poetry in literary history.
- Mary Shelley died of brain cancer on February 1, 1851, at age 53, in London, England.
Reference material taken in part from the following sources: daysoftheyear.com literarycounsellor.com, USA Today 2014 article by Brian Truitt, and rottentomatoes.com
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