This month, the world celebrated 200 years since the first publication of Mary Shelley’s Gothic opus Frankenstein. Written while Shelley was still in her teens, Frankenstein was born of a fevered nightmare the young writer had while vacationing with friends in Switzerland, during the long, volcanic winter of 1818.
To celebrate this landmark occasion, we decided to look back at 5 of our favourite on-screen interpretations of Shelley’s classic monster – no easy task when there’s been so many excellent portrayals over the years.
5Fred Gwynne – The Munsters (1964-66)
Herman, head of the Munster clan, probably doesn’t appear on many people’s lists of their favourite incarnations of Frankenstein’s Monster, but he should. There’s simply no denying the heavy influence of Shelley’s creation on the character, albeit the Hollywood aesthetic, with squared off head, stiff as a board limbs, and gigantic shoes.
Unlike many other incarnations of the Monster, though, Herman (Fred Gwynne) is a bumbling family man, intent on fitting in with the rest of society rather than tracking down his creator. Herman Munster may have been built from spare body parts, but there’s no denying they gave him one hell of a heart.
4Patty Mullen – Frankenhooker (1990)
To describe an undead monster as sexy is probably cause for some concern, but there’s simply no denying that Patty Mullen as Elizabeth makes stitching together your very own custom made girlfriend look incredibly appealing.
3Peter Boyle – Young Frankenstein (1974)
Mel Brooks’ irreverent parody of the 1931 Frankenstein movie depicts “Fronkensteen’s” Monster as an all singing, all dancing, and heavily endowed, caricature of Karloff’s original. In typical Brooks fashion, Young Frankenstein is a string of dirty jokes and slapstick, and offers a completely fresh spin on the classic character, with Peter Boyle hamming it up in the classic role. Young Frankenstein wasn’t the first comedic Frankenstein movie, but it’s definitely one of the best.
See also: Peter Hinwood in Rocky Horror Picture Show.
2Elsa Lanchester – Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Elsa Lanchester spent only moments on screen as the Bride of Frankenstein, but she has forever been etched into the minds of horror fanatics everywhere. The image of her black beehive hair, with the white streak running through it has inspired many a cosplayer to replicate it, and is as iconic as the character itself.
The closest reproduction of the Bride came in 1994’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in which Helena Bonham Carter found herself scalped and dissected opposite Robert De Niro’s understated Monster. As good as Bonham Carter was, she doesn’t even come close to Lanchester, and I dare say no one ever will.
1Boris Karloff – Frankenstein (1931)
There is simply no denying that Boris Karloff’s depiction of the Creature is the definitive one, and although it is almost 90 years ago since the original Frankenstein movie, his performance has never been surpassed. Despite being the name most commonly associated with the character, Karloff only appeared 3 times in the role, but brought a truly brilliant clumsiness to the Creature; like a new born discovering its own feebleness for the first time. If I asked you to picture Frankenstein’s creation in your head, this would be the image you conjured up.
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