The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Friday, November 4, 1994 - 5
A look back at the monster
By FRED RICE
The hulking figure raises his long
c sand extends his hands stitched on
the wrists. His head is shaped like a
box with a tremendously thick ridge
along his forehead. Two fat corks plug
his neck and keep his head from falling
off. He moans and screams. He bru-
tally strangles his victims.
This was the horrific vision of Dr.
Frankenstein's monster, played by
Boris Karloff, in the 1931 "Franken-
stein." The illiterate masses no doubt
.terpreted the title to be the name of
e monster rather than the mad doctor
who created him.
But the name and the gruesome
looking Karloff have stuck together for
the past six decades. Today you can
find Karloff's image on countless cheap
plastic Halloween costumes. He ap-
pears on the boxes of Frankenberry
Cereal. His image was the basis for the
d character in the classic TV show,
The original film also spawned a
host of sequels, inspiring everything
from "The Son of Frankenstein" to
"The Bride of Frankenstein."
But sadly enough, the original
movie was rather lousy, so it has been
rather surprising that the monster's
image has become so imbedded in pop
Even more interesting is the fact
tat very few people seem to remember
that "Frankenstein" was originally a
book written by Mary Shelley in 1816.
The Karloff film takes place in the
1930s and is confined to small sets that
are out of place in the expansive scale
of a gothic novel.
The Karloff film opens with Dr.
Frankenstein stealing bodyparts, madly
preparing to create his monster so that
he canexclaimtothe world, "It's alive!
It's alive!" But the opening of the book
ignores these more horrific events and
instead sends acharacteron anexpedi-
tion to pursue personal enlightenment
in the cold North Atlantic.
There he finds Dr. Frankenstein in
a near dead state resting upon a glacier.
The Karloff film ignores many im-
portant themes in favor of delivering a
cheap thrill. Hollywood sets out with
the clear intention of making the mon-
ster an inherently evil villain, a large
hulking killer into which Frankenstein
has inserted the brain of a criminal.
In the book, people mistreat the
monsterendlessly. Helearnshis wicked
behavior from the wicked society
around him. Dr. Frankenstein is ulti-
mately the villain of the novel. He
abandons his creation at its birth, ig-
noring his responsibility to care for it.
The creature spends his life hound-
ing Frankenstein. He expresses his an-
ger at his abandonment by lashing out
at society, and in particular, atthepeople
close to Dr. Frankenstein.
The film concludes with a town
delivering justiceto the evil creature by
burning down the castle that the crea-
ture has escaped to. In the book, the
creature catches up with his creator and
admits that despite his abandonment,
he still loves Dr. Frankenstein.
Mel Brooks musthave realized what
Here we see Kenneth Branagh who plays the role of Frankenstein as well as directs the new film "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein."
an awful job the Karloff film did in
adapting the novel. Brooks' "Young
Frankenstein" (1970) brilliantly paro-
dies the original movie. At the end of
the film, the creature exchanges "brain
fluid" with his creator and is finally
able to speak. He tells the townspeople
who have come to kill him that all he
ever wanted was to be loved, and
successfully makes friendships with
all of them.
An important question now is
whether or not the new "Mary
Shelley's Frankenstein," from direc-
tor Kenneth Branagh, will be faithful
to the novel in the way that no film has
yet. Based on the trailers, the answer
is probably yes.
The new Frankenstein film ap-
pears to have captured the gothic mood
of the novel. Judging by the costumes,
it will also be the first major Franken-
stein film to be set in the 18th century,
which is when the novel's events ac-
tually took place. The best sign yet:
director Branagh does not have his
name attached to the title while au-
thor Shelley does.
Hopefully, "Mary Shelley's Fran-
kenstein" will set the record straight.
At the very least, the make-up job on
Robert DeNiro, who plays the new
monster, should usurp that of Karloff.
Frankenstein:A selected filmography
By FRED RICE
Even though it's terrible, Boris
Karloff's performance defined the
monster for subsequent horror films.
the Wolf Man ('43)
An exciting pairing of terrors. This
the only time that Bela Lugosi, better
known for portraying Dracula, plays
Abbott and Costello
o put Abbott's brain in the monster.
The Wolf Man tires to save him.
The Curse of
The retelling of the Shelley story
with Peter Cushing and Christopher
Lee. Followed by six sequels.
.... ML w
Conquers the World
A Japanese version of Frankenstein.
Monsters are only terrifying in Japan if
they're over 50 feet tall, so the crea-
ture here serves as a substitute for
Mel Brooks' hilarious retelling fea-
tures Gene Wilder as the good doctor
and Peter Boyle as the hulking, drool-
The absolute goriest Frankenstein
ever made. It was originally rated X.
An all time low in Frankenstein
B-movie king RogerCorman takes
a crack at the Frankenstein story with a
notable cast including John Hurt,
Bridget Fonda and the late Raul Julia.
Orchestrated by Kenneth Branagh
(who doubles as the doctor), and fea-
turing the great Robert Deniro as the
monster, this is sure to be the best
rendering yet. Or is it?
1 ,, y
DJ. John King
B~ef ait Rash
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