Monday, October 20, 2008

FRANK TALK By Frankie Franken

Hello, everybody! This is Frankie Franken with more of our 31 Days Of Halloween. Today I was thinking about Bethany's post on Dracula, and I considered that maybe I should write something about Frankenstein. Even though the Mad Scientists' Guild has largely labeled Mary Shelley's novel as an inaccurate and unscientific account of the First Experiment (which is, basically, making a Creature like me), the book is one of my favorites. Plus, I'm kind of wondering if the Guild understands that it's actually a novel, and not a scientific text. But that's neither here nor there.

Since Bethany listed a lot of films in her post, and since everybody likes to watch scary movies around Halloween, I thought I would list some of my favorite films about Frankenstein--some that I think are some of the best. So here we go!

Frankenstein (1931). This is the first widely popular Frankenstein film, and the one that's really set the tone for all other Frankenstein movies. Boris Karloff's portrayal of the Creature has been the defining and iconic performance for many others. Even though the movie isn't really close to Shelley's story, this film is still cool, and Jack Pierce's makeup (which is another icon in history) is fantastic for the time.

The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935). This was Frankenstein's sequel, and it does carry on a plot thread from the original novel, which is the monster's desire for a mate. For my part, while this film is cool, I think the ending is very sad, and I also think that the director (James Whale) missed a great opportunity to make a more tragic film than it was. However, I did get a groovy hairstyle out of it!

The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957). A studio in England called Hammer Film Productions made this film, which, along with the international hit Horror Of Dracula, returned the story of Frankenstein to prominence. However, the Creature doesn't get a lot of screen time in this film; instead, it concentrates on Dr. Frankenstein, who is played with great verve by a wonderful actor named Peter Cushing. This film, like Horror Of Dracula, was also a hit, and spawned a number of cool sequels with Cushing returning as the good doctor.

Dan Curtis' Frankenstein (1973). This is a made-for-TV film that is probably one of the closest adaptations of the original novel that's ever been done! Bo Svenson plays the Creature, who even looks like Shelley's description. No box head in this one!

Frankenstein--The True Story (also 1973). This British film came out the same year as Dan Curtis' Frankenstein, and ended up overshadowing it. Though it has great atmosphere, the film is only like Shelley's original novel at the end; for most of it, the Creature and Dr. Frankenstein are good friends until the Creature begins to deteriorate.

Young Frankenstein (1974). This film is one of the coolest and funniest Frankenstein movies out there, and it's also the movie by which all parodies of Frankenstein must be judged. Instead of parodying Shelley's novel, director Mel Brooks wisely went for the old cliches of the 1930's Universal Monsters films, making this a farce and a loving tribute. And in this one, the Creature gets to tap-dance!

The Bride (1985). People say that this is supposed to be a remake of The Bride Of Frankenstein, but in this one the pop singer Sting is playing Doctor Frankenstein, and the whole look of the movie reminds me of the Hammer Frankenstein films. This, in my opinion, is the movie that James Whale should have made, and I love the ending.

Frankenstein Unbound (1990). This was made by Roger Corman, and it's really cool, but it's also really weird. In it, a scientist's attempts to develop an energy beam open a rift in time and send him back to 1817 Switzerland, and right in the middle of the original Frankenstein story, which in this movie really happened. Amazing.

The Monster Squad (1987). Even though this really isn't a Frankenstein film, I included it because the Creature plays a very pivotal role. Bethany reviewed this film a while back, and she loved it. I did too, and it's a perfect film for Halloween.

Van Helsing (2004). Many people really hated this film when it came out, but I love it, and since it's another monster-mash movie like The Monster Squad, I included it here. Shuler Hensley, who played the Creature in this film, would go on to play the Creature in the musical stage adaptation of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein on Broadway! Talk about getting stuck in a part!

Incidentally, speaking of musicals, I'm going to end this post with a couple of neat websites for you to check out. Authors Mark Baron, Jeffrey Jackson, and Gary P. Cohen have written a musical adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein that was performed off-Broadway in New York, and drew a devoted fan following! See it here and hear the music at You can even buy the original cast recording, too!

And of course, there's my favorite Frankenstein website, the Bakken Library's Frankenstein Exhibit, which has an online virtual exhibit showing the original laboratory that Victor Frankenstein would have used, information on Mary Shelley herself, a view of an 1831 edition of the novel, and even a link to the complete 1818 text. The Bakken Library is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota; if you're a resident or happen to be in the area, visit the Library and see this cool installation. Visit it by clicking on the link above.

So that's my post on the Creature who may or may not have inspired my creation. After all, Dad says he's never really read the book Frankenstein, but there's a copy in the castle library so it must have made some impression. For some reason, he's started keeping it next to some books on raising a teenager, which could mean anything.

Anyway, be sure to check out all these groovy films and websites, and be back tomorrow for more 31 Days Of Halloween! See you soon!

Frankie Franken

Tomorrow: The Countdown Begins--10 Days To Halloween!