Welcome to Psycho Drive-In’s 31 Days of Schlocktober celebration! This year we’ve decided to present the ABCs of Horror, with entries every day this month providing Director information, Best-of lists, Genre overviews, and Reviews of films and franchises, all in alphabetical order! Today brings us F is for Frankenstein! It’s hard to imagine a world without Frankenstein and his Monster. The idea was born from a friendly contest in 1814 among Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, her future husband Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and John Polidori to see which could write the best horror story. Mary won. Hands down. In Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, Mary weaves a tale of obsession, romance, abused science, romance, Fathers and Sons, horror, and rejection. It’s all there. Her epic has been adapted for film more times than I can reliably search. As I dig through our amazing repository of information, the internet, I am resigned to believe that the actual number of adaptations is beyond count as new interpretations seem to creep in every day. I am limiting myself to only my favorites for reasons of admiration or revulsion. Either way, it’s been an interesting time watching these films. A case could be made that movies like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Golem, and 2001: A Space Odyssey are, in minor ways, Frankenstein films. To simplify things, I’m not including films that can be interpreted as “Frankensteinish.” My editor might kill me otherwise. Frankenstein, 1910 We can thank Thomas Edison for the first Frankenstein film. This 16-minute film is ambitious and the effects are delightful. The creation of the monster is partially depicted by running film of a burning skeleton backward. The result must have been jarring for a turn of the century audience. Edison’s Frankenstein makes use of split-screen mirror effect in which it’s hinted that the Creature might just be a manifestation of Frankenstein. The Creature himself is truly a horror. Hairy, large, with elongated fingers. All the elements are there; megalomaniacal scientist, an evil creation, the need for love. A remastered version is available on YouTube. Two more Frankenstein films were created during the silent era. Sadly, Eugenio Testa’s Il Mostro di Frankenstein and Joseph W. Smiley’s Life Without Soul are lost to time. Universal’s Frankenstein Series, 1931-1948 Frankenstein, 1931 Truly, Frankenstein films entered western culture with Universal’s Frankenstein in 1931. Borrowing heavily from the look of the German Expressionist film movement, James Whale’s Frankenstein set the tone for every adaptation, homage and parody to follow. If you haven’t seen the film before, be prepared for the forceful edit when the Creature first appears; the Creature walks through a doorway, full figure, then suddenly, we are inches from the Creature’s face. It’s still scary. Jack Pierce’s make-up and creature design is disturbing and left an indelible mark on our popular culture. If you want people to know that the Creature is in your film, you make him look like Jack Pierce’s creature; flat head, heavy lids, bolts on the neck and a giant scar. Make-up alone doesn’t account for the film’s success. Colin Clive pays a fantastic Henry Frankenstein. Dwight Frye as Fritz, Frankenstein’s lab assistant and fellow grave robber is nearly as creepy as the Creature. His cruel teasing of the monster ends with a just reward. Then there is Karloff. Frankenstein’s monster was the role of his lifetime for good or ill. There is no denying that he was brilliant in a largely silent role. It wasn’t just grunting and flailing; Boris Karloff brought true emotion to the role. The scene where he throws flowers into a river with a little girl was both amusing and horrifying. Karloff’s mastery of the role cemented the Creature as an icon of cinema and no one will ever do it better. Bride of Frankenstein, 1935 So, I just said that no one will ever be a better Creature than Karloff. Well, that includes Karloff himself. He reprised the role of the Creature and it fell flat. In this movie, the Creature speaks and comes off buffoonish. The film itself is horribly disjointed and doesn’t really find its feet until the end. Colin Clive is Henry Frankenstein again having miraculously survived being thrown from a windmill at the end of the first film. A new scientist, Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) ensnares the good doctor into recreating his experiment. The Creature returns and forces them to create a mate. The majority of the film moves from Clive’s fretting to Karloff avoiding capture and back again with an overly dramatic gypsy showing up in between. At the end, The Bride (Elsa Lanchester) comes to life and the film becomes brilliant. Her performance, though only a few moments long, is every bit as iconic as Karloff’s first turn as the Creature. I’m in a minority with my dislike for this film. Many consider it to be greater than its predecessor. Well, they’re all wrong. [Editor’s Note: Nuh uh! You are!] Son of Frankenstein, (1939) Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi come together in this threequel. Karloff plays the Creature, now mute and lifeless. Lugosi plays Ygor, assistant to the son of the original doctor, Baron Wolf von Frankentein, played by Basil Rathbone. Truly, it’s Rathbone and Lugosi’s movie and both rise to the occasion. After discovering the Creature in a coma, Frankenstein Jr. brings the creature back to life, discovering that he is powered by Cosmic Rays and not electricity, making him immortal. Ygor then hypnotizes the Creature and uses him for revenge. Like the first two films, Son of Frankenstein is beautifully filmed but lacks some of the nuance of the previous two. The Ghost of Frankenstein, 1942 Lon Chaney Jr. takes a turn as The Creature with Bela Lugosi reprising his role as Ygor. The production value was lessened but this film retained much of the feel of the previous three films. Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, 1943 Truly a sequel to The Wolfman, this movie sees Lugosi as the Creature while Chaney repeats his performance as the Wolfman. Larry Talbot comes back to life in Wales and seeks the old gypsy from the first movie. At her suggestion, they seek out Doctor Frankenstein who may be able to give him a final death. Talbot discovers Frankenstein’s monster frozen in a block of ice, but it’s a fun romp watching the monsters fight. The age of the monster fight has begun! Escewing the idea of horror for spectacle, this movie barely delivers both. The fight promised by the poster art takes place in the last three minutes of the film and is barely worth the effort. If you are a completest, watch this movie, if not, meh. House of Frankenstein, 1944 Obviously a cash grab because Universal Monsters were popular, this movie featured The Wolfman, The Creature, and Dracula! Boris Karloff returns to the franchise to play Doctor Gustav Niemann while Glenn Strange plays the Monster. Lon Chaney Jr returns as The Wolfman and John Carradine plays Count Dracula. I thought this movie was fun. Though, again, most of the fun happens in the last 15 minutes. House of Dracula, 1945 More of the same for this sequel to House. This time Dracula and The Wolfman seek a cure and the Monster shows up eventually. Not as good as House but still entertaining. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein, 1948 Some people mark this as a terrible end to the Universal monster franchise but I see it as a celebration. Abbott and Costello play freight handlers stuck in an awful predicament. If you are fans of their comedy then you won’t be disappointed. Bela Lugosi returns as Dracula for the second time and, I believe, does a better job than his inaugural performance as the bloodsucker. Lon Chaney Jr. is The Wolfman again but plays it up for laughs a bit. Glenn Strange actually had something to do in this movie and performs an excellent Creature. The Hammer Frankenstein Series, 1957-1974 The British took over the Frankenstein franchise in 1957 and set a new standard for horror. Rather than rely on influences from German Expressionism to give a dark, brooding horror element, Hammer relied on shock and gore. The blood was bright red and shown in enormous quantity. For all of the gore, one element stands out even brighter; Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein. His doctor has a full arc, growing from driven creator to broken villain. His performance is remarkable. Curse of Frankenstein, 1957 Peter Cushing plays Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lee, his Creature. This was their first horror movie together and they became, arguably, the greatest horror duo ever in film. Cushing delivers an amazing portrayal of Frankenstein while Lee plays an amazingly sympathetic and terrifying monster. Hammer was threatened with a lawsuit if the creature’s make-up resembled Universal’s version and the result is gruesome. Sadly, this would be Lee’s only turn as the Creature. Hammer’s Dracula beckoned. Cushing’s Frankenstein stood in cold contrast to Colin Clive’s version. Where Clive was maniacal, Cushing was calculating and steadfast. Of the six Frankenstein films Hammer produced, Curse is far and away the best. The Revenge of Frankenstein, 1958 Peter Cushing returns as Frankenstein, working under the pseudonym, Dr. Victor Stein. He and Dr. Hans Kleve create a new Creature and transplant the brain of his assistant, Karl, inside. Cushing was, once again, brilliant as the despicable doctor. The Creature is very tragic. After a savage beating, the Creature’s brain is damaged and he becomes a cannibal! The make-up is very reminiscent of Universal’s monster. I’m guessing the lawsuit never came to fruition. Excellent sequel! The Evil of Frankenstein, 1964 This movie picks up elements from Universal’s Son of Frankenstein. The creature is, again, the victim of a mentalist and forced to do his bidding. Cushing continues his portrayal of Frankenstein with every bit the power from the first two films. After returning to his family castle, he finds the Creature frozen in ice and brings him back to life. He enlists the help of a hypnotist, Zoltan, to give the Creature full animation. Like Ygor from Son of Frankenstein, the mesmerist uses the Creature for revenge and greed. Not a bad film but not quite as good as the first two. Frankenstein Created Woman, 1967 Yes, a female Creature was inevitable, but this isn’t your Daddy’s Bride! This time, Cushing’s Frankenstein uses the body of a drowned girl as a vessel for the soul of her executed lover. I’m not making this up. This film has a little cheesecake to it but keeps with the Hammer tradition. Christina (Susan Denberg) as Hans, the lover, as the Creature (whew!), seeks revenge on the true murderers. She was devious and sexy in this film. A truly creepy moment comes when Christina was speaking to Hans’ severed head to get instructions. Frankenstein Must be Destroyed, 1969 Cushing’s Frankenstein is becoming more of a villain. This time he is blackmailing a couple to assist him in his experiments. Frankenstein kidnaps a mad scientist to cure him of his insanity then transplant his brain. More than the script itself, this movie is famous for a controversial rape scene between Anna (Veronica Carlson) and Cushing’s Frankenstein. Neither actor wanted to do the scene but the distributors were complaining about the lack of sex in the film. The result was awful. Cushing, however, played the scene well and was very, very disturbing. The Horror of Frankenstein, 1970 Not talking about this one. It’s rubbish. No Cushing. It’s a campy remake of Curse. Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen. Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, 1974 This was the last of Hammer’s Frankenstein films and it does not disappoint! Cushing’s Frankenstein is hiding in an insane asylum and meets Dr. Helder (Shane Briant) who shares his passion for reanimating dead flesh. David Prowse returns from the unmentionable Horror of Frankenstein to play the Creature. This might be the best of all the films. Cushing had taken Frankenstein from a driven, cold, and methodical scientist to a nearly raving lunatic. His performance as Dr. Frankenstein will always be the standard by which all other actors are measured in the role. Frankenstein Also-Rans The Bride, 1985 This more modern interpretation of Frankenstein was a direct continuation from Universal’s Bride of Frankenstein. Sting plays an extremely wooden Dr. Frankenstein. He’s unlikable in the beginning and a true villain by the end. Clancy Brown plays the Creature, given the name Viktor by his diminutive friend Rinaldo played by David Rappaport. The Bride, Eva, is played by Jennifer Beals and she turns in a fantastic performance. After Viktor destroys the tower because his Bride is frightened of him, the two creatures set on different paths. Viktor travels to Budapest and joins the circus while Eva becomes Frankenstein’s societal experiment. Clancy Brown’s Creature is horribly tragic and never truly moves beyond simple language. Brown is forced to show emotion physically and he’s spectacular. His relationship with Rinaldo is fairly sappy and Rappaport’s voice over at the end is overly sentimental. The fusion of all the various plot threads work and, overall, I recommend this film. Frankenstein Unbound, 1990 I’m going to hand it to Roger Corman, he can make an entertaining movie! This is an odd duck of a Frankenstein movie but it’s got two great things going for it; Raul Julia as Victor Frankenstein and Nick Brimble as one of the most horrifying Creatures ever. The make-up is an amazing blend of metal and flesh. The creature even has two opposable thumbs on each hand! The story is a bit of a mess, John Hurt plays a scientist from the future who is accidentally sent to the past (don’t ask) then befriends Victor Frankenstein who is being coerced into creating a bride for his Monster. This is a better movie than you might think. Give it a watch, I enjoyed it. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, 1994 This film get a bad rap and I’m not sure why. Kenneth Branagh turns in an excellent performance at Victor Frankenstein, at once tragic and proactive. Robert De Niro has a few stumbles as The Creature but tell me that your heart doesn’t break for him when he finally reveals himself to his unknowing family and I will call you a liar. This movie was given a tremendous budget and it shows. The Creature’s “birth” is excruciating. A fumbling, messy affair that leaves us equally horrified and embarrassed. Loved it! If the film is guilty of anything, it’s that it spends a little too long giving Victor a reason for wanting to reanimate the dead. Overall, a fine movie. The Frankenstein Theory, 2013 No. Just no. The “found footage” aspect of this movie can’t make up for a bad script. By contrast, The Blair Witch Project looks like Citizen Kane. Frankenweenie, 2012 (1985) Sorry, but this animated movie from Tim Burton is a far cry from the amusing short he did of the same name in 1985. It’s ok for an afternoon watch or if your kids are into a bit of the macabre, but it fails to deliver a fully entertaining experience. Watch the short instead. Much better. Young Frankenstein, 1974 There are few movies that I will watch more than a few times. Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein sits at the very top of that list. Every performance is perfect. Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein (Frah-ken-STEEN) is the most absurdly serious creator in Frankenstein film history. Madeline Kahn as Elizabeth turns in one of the funniest performances of her career. Marty Feldman as Igor was a comedic revelation, delivering some of the best lines in the film. Then there is Peter Boyle. Sweet God in heaven he kills me as The Creature. Even when he hams it up (which is often) I’m left satisfied. Does comedy get any better than the scene in the blind man’s hut? How about the dance number? Infinitely quotable, superbly acted, and beautifully filmed, Young Frankenstein may be the best movie on this list. See larger image Frankenstein: The Legacy Collection (Frankenstein / The Bride of Frankenstein / Son of Frankenstein / The Ghost of Frankenstein / House of Frankenstein) New From: $75.75 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.