Frankenstein is a literary character that has been around since he was invented by Mary Shelley in the early nineteenth century. Most people think Frankenstein is the monster that was brought to life from dead tissue and proceeded to terrorize the countryside. However, the name Frankenstein actually refers to Victor Frankenstein, the doctor who created the monster and yelled, “It’s alive!”
Since the publication of Shelley’s book “Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus” in 1818, readers, as well as theater-goers and film buffs have been fascinated by the story that was written to pass the time during a dreary summer in Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Frankenstein was first adapted for the stage in 1826 and the first movie starring the creature was produced in 1910 by Edison Studios. It is Boris Karloff’s monster from 1931, though that is the epitome of what people think of when hearing the name Frankenstein.
In honor of Frankenstein Day, which also happens to be the 215th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s birth, why not have a Frankenstein movie marathon?
“Frankenstein” (1931) starred Boris Karloff as the monster, Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein, Mae Clark as Elizabeth Lavenza and Dwight Frye as Fritz. The classic low-budget Hollywood horror film is a classic. The film was actually adapted from a play that was adapted from Mary Shelley’s novel. It has appeared on several best movies lists and is ranked number 87 on the American Film Institute’s (AFI) list of 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.
“Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948) is one of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s most popular films. The plot revolves around two baggage handlers played by Abbott and Costello and a shipment of monster bodies sent to the McDougal House of Horrors, a wax museum. Unfortunately, the monsters come to life when the delivery is made and the rest of the film is a series of mishaps that have the two main characters trying to prove what they have seen is real and to recapture the creatures. Horror film regulars who appear in the film are Vincent Price as the Invisible Man, Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman and Bela Lugosi as Dracula. Frankenstein’s monster is portrayed by Glenn Strange. The film is number 56 on AFI’s list of 100 Years, 100 Laughs.
“Young Frankenstein” (1974) is a Mel Brooks film full of laughs and sight gags. Gene Wilder stars as a Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced Fronk-en-steen, if you please) the grandson of the mad scientist who reanimated dead tissue. When he inherits his family’s Translyvania estate, he travels to that country to investigate his inheritance. As the movie progresses, Frederick becomes more and more convinced that his grandfather wasn’t mad and was onto something scientifically. The film concludes with a hilarious series of events that partially transforms both the monster and Frederick, much to the delight of their respective spouses. Teri Garr stars as Inga, Peter Boyle as the Monster, Madeline Kahn as Elizabeth, Marty Feldman as Igor and Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher (whinny!) It listed on several AFI lists including number 13 on 100 Years, 100 Laughs.
“Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” (1994) was a big budget film produced by Francis Ford Coppola, directed and starred Kenneth Brannagh and featured Robert DeNiro as the monster. Other big name stars that appeared in the film include Helena Bonham Carter, Aidan Quinn, Tom Hulce and John Cleese. The film was a box office let down and received only two and a half stars from film critic Roger Ebert. However, in this viewer’s opinion, it’s a well-told story with a few interesting plot twists. DeNiro’s is the perhaps one of the most human portrayals of the monster ever.
“Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman” (1943) is film starring two of Hollywood’s most famous monsters. Lon Chaney Jr. is once again the Wolfman and Bela Lugosi is Frankenstein. The Wolfman comes back to life when disturbed by grave robbers and in an effort to rid himself of his curse, he travels to Frankenstein’s castle. On his way there, he transforms into the Wolfman several times, causing havoc every time. Once at the castle, he accidentally awakens Frankenstein’s monster, who has been frozen in ice. After many efforts by doctors and villagers to destroy the creatures, they ultimately die in a flood. In addition to Lugosi and Chaney, the film stars Ilona Massey as Baroness Elsa Frankenstein and Patric Knowles as Dr. Mannering.
Whether you own these films on DVD or Blu-Ray, run down to Spotlight Video or Blockbuster to rent them or stream them through your computer with Netflix, check out some of the films that have become part of American culture of Frankenstein Day.
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