Frankenstein – a History of the Monster.

Frankenstein movies and memorabilia are incredibly popular with the public and collectors. We thought we’d look into the history of the monster, from his humble beginnings in Mary Shelley’s book to the blockbuster movies that carried his name.

The Book

First published anonymously in 1818, Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein (or as it was known back then The Modern Prometheus)  received mixed reviews. One review described it as “a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity “.

1910 saw the first screen adaption of Frankenstein was made by Edison studios and directed by J. Searle Dawley. The unbilled cast included Augustus Philips as Dr Frankenstein and Charles Ogle as the monster. For many years this was beloved to be a ‘lost’ film. In 1963 the plot and film stills were discovered published in a 1910 issue of The Edison Kinetogram. Better news still a print of the film was discovered in the 1970’s * and this film is now available in the public domain.

* The copy was purchased in the 1950’s by a well-known film collector called Alois F Dettlaff.

Frankenstein (1931 )

James Whale was the director, Boris Karloff was the monster and with Colin Clive as Dr Frankenstein. This film is one deserving of its high ranking in all the best film polls. For example, there was no score which in my opinion shows just how good the actors were. In addition, the atmosphere in the film draws the viewers in keeping them in suspense. This movie set the standard for films featuring Frankenstein. To conclude, it was a monumental success.

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935 )

 In 1933 Universal announced they were to produce ‘ The Bride of Frankenstein ‘. This wasn’t without problems.

James Whale firstly refused to direct until he was given full artistic freedom. More importantly, Boris Karloff and Colin Clive returned and were joined by Ernest Thesiger (who brilliantly portrays an even madder scientist Dr Pretorius) and Elsa Lanchester who stars as ‘ The Bride.

 The plot from this film follows on from the 1931 movie and in it Mary Shelley reveals how Frankenstein and the Monster didn’t die. In this movie we see the monster as a humanely being craving for love, affection and friendship. Karloff again showed why he was the best in the business at this genre. In particular, the scene where the monster meets the blind hermit is cinematic gold. The acting is terrific, particularly Colin Clive as Frankenstein.

 For instance, the scene where the Bride comes alive is mesmerising as Clive exclaims She’s alive! ALIVE! It is a scene that is etched into cinema history.

The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958 )

 Produced by the well-known Hammer Film Productions, the Revenge of Frankenstein actually stands up as a pretty decent film. The plot involves DR Frankenstein escaping from the gallows and heading for Germany where he continues his horrifying experiments under the guise of DR Stein. This film had many of the components of a Hammer film. The bubbling beakers in labs and the foggy streets. One thing of note from the film is that Hammer co-produced this with Columbia Pictures. They couldn’t use similar features and make-up of the Frankenstein films of the 1930’s due to Universal’s contractual rights.

 British actor Peter Cushing took the lead role as DR Stein whilst Eunice Grayson is the female interest in the film, overall one of Hammer Productions best films.

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed ( 1970 )

Hammer films released their 5th Frankenstein film in 1969. Directed by Terence Fisher and armed with a decent script enabled Peter Cushing to show off his true talents. The plot stems around Dr Frankenstein and his assistant kidnapping the mentally sick Dr Brandt and performing the first ever brain transplant. This film ranks as one of Hammers best.

    Frankenstein ( 1994 )

 Directed by Kenneth Branagh,the film is a slow melodrama of a movie and was panned by critics. Robert DeNiro tries his best as the monster but to no avail. Therefore, it flopped on its release losing over $40,000,000. 

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