In honor of the recent 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, I want to reblog this post about the horror film that is, in my opinion, the closest to the original novel.
I also want to mention that I have taught this novel several times at both Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA and the Department of Graduate and Continuing Education at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.
It is also interesting that the sequel The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) to Universal Studio’s Frankenstein (1931) is a far better film and more faithful adaptation to Mary Shelley’s classic Gothic novel than was the original movie. James Whale directed and Carl Laemmle Jr. produced this film.
(Richard Rothwell, 1840)
The movie opens with a sequence in which Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and Mary Shelley appear, which is a nod to the summer of 1816 in which the three writers shared time together and decided to writer ghost stories. Mary Shelley’s contribution was a short story about a young doctor who reanimated a corpse, and which she later expanded into the famous and deeply important novel. In this scene, Mary explains that the story did not end, as shown in the first movie, with the death of the creature in the burning windmill.
Whale imbues this film with both highly religious symbolism, as when the creature is captured and tied to what looks like a crucifix and to references to important sections from the book. The creature famously finds a friend in the blind man, who is able to befriend the creature because he cannot see his deformities. This is a clear reference to stereotyping and bigotry.
In the novel, the Creature demands that Frankenstein create a mate for him, so that his loneliness can be alleviated. In this film, Elsa Lancaster, who also plays Mary Shelley in the opening scene, plays the bride. But as would be expected, it does not go well when she rejects the Creature’s advances, and he says the powerful line, “We belong dead.”
Jack Pierce again did the famous makeups, and Boris Karloff starred again as the Creature.
This movie was successful financially and critically. It is, in my opinion, a cinematic masterpiece!
If any of you have interest either in horror or cinema, this is a film that you should see.
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