- Film (1931). Universal. Dir James Whale, starring Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Edward van Sloan, Dwight Frye. Screenplay Garrett Fort, Robert Florey, Francis Edward Faragoh, based on an adaptation by Florey and John L. Balderston of the play by Peggy Webling, based in turn on Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818) by Mary SHELLEY. 71 mins.B/w.This remains the most famous of the Frankenstein films, although it was not the first. (The Edison Company made a 16min version in 1910; it was dir J. Searle Dawley and starred Charles Ogle as the Monster. A second version, also US, was the 70min Life without Soul in 1915, dir Joseph W. Smiley.) Dr Frankenstein is a SCIENTIST who builds an artificial man usingparts from stolen bodies. He succeeds, with the aid of an electrical storm, in bringing the creature to life but, because his assistant has provided the brain of a criminal rather than that of a "normal" man (a clumsy plot device which has nothing to do with Shelley's novel), the creation proves difficult to control. Eventually the FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER escapes, accidentally kills a small girl, and is pursued and apparently slain by angry villagers (originally the Monster killed Frankenstein, too, but the studio substituted a happy ending).The film remains a semi-classic today. With his atmospheric lighting, smooth tracking shots and numerous low-angle shots that were never obtrusive but made effective use of the high-ceilinged sets - particularly Frankenstein's laboratory - Whale succeeded in making a HORROR film of some grandeur, with an undertone of ironic humour. Much of the credit must go to Karloff for his fine (unspeaking) performance as the pathetic Monster, considerably helped byJack Pierce's famous make-up; Karloff's success here doomed him to horror roles for the rest of his life.There have been numerous sequels and remakes. The sequel BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), also dir Whale, is the best film he ever made. Other, increasingly awful, sequels from Universal were Son of Frankenstein (1939), Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), House of Frankenstein (1945) andAbbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). In 1957 the UK company Hammer Films remade the original, calling it Curse of Frankenstein (vt Birth of Frankenstein), and then made The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), Frankenstein Created Woman (1966), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) and The Horror of Frankenstein (1970), ending with Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1973). Five of these were dir Terence Fisher, and nearly all featured Peter Cushing's interestingly tense and upright performance as Baron von Frankenstein. Andy Warhol produced in Italy a 3-D SPLATTER-MOVIE pornographic version(remarkably tasteless on all counts) dir Paul Morrissey (or possibly an uncredited Antonio Margheriti): Carne per Frankenstein (1973; vt Flesh for Frankenstein; vt Andy Warhol's Frankenstein). A successful parody/homagemovie was Young Frankenstein (1974), dir Mel Brooks. Other versions of the story, mostly exploitation films, were made in Italy and Spain. Two more US titles are Frankenstein 1970 (1958), dir Howard W. Koch and starring anageing Boris Karloff, and Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965; vt Mars Invades Puerto Rico), which is not about Frankenstein at all. Thereare many more.An interesting attempt to recreate Mary Shelley's original novel, including its finale in the Arctic (all previous films had changed the story), is the 3-hour made-for-tv film Frankenstein: The True Story (1973), Universal/NBC, dir Jack Smight, from a script by ChristopherIsherwood and Don Bachardy, starring James Mason, David McCallum and Michael Sarrazin. It was theatrically released, cut to 123 mins. The teleplay was published as Frankenstein: The True Story * (1973), by Isherwood and Bachardy. FRANKENSTEIN UNBOUND (1990) is based on the 1973RECURSIVE SF book by Brian ALDISS, but it does incorporate much of Shelley's original, including interesting Arctic scenes. Another tv movie version, made for cable tv, and moderately true to the book, though not very interestingly so, is Frankenstein (1993), 150 mins, dir David Wickes, with Randy Quaid as the creature. By far the most distinguished of any version from the last two decades of the 20th century is MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN (1994), dir Kenneth Branagh, which is sensitive to the natureof the original yet prepared to use somewhat more modern metaphors to illuminate it, but even this is an uneven work.A book about versions of the story is Hideous Progenies: Dramatizations of Frankenstein from Mary Shelley to the Present (1990) by Steven Earl Forry.JB/PN
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.