What is Frankenstein Films?
In the 91 years since Boris Karloff starred in James Whale’s 1931 adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein’s monster has made appearances in countless movies. But how many of them actually do justice to the source material?
If you’re looking for a classic horror movie that pays tribute to the monster from Mary Shelley’s original novel, then you have plenty of choices.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
The most revered comedy writers of their day and arguably the two biggest names in the horror film genre, Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks created this affectionate spoof of James Whale’s classic 1931 movie. It’s a slick production, stylishly shot in high contrast black and white (unusual for a Hollywood film made in the mid-70s) and it reproduces in exquisite detail the sets of the original Frankenstein films.
It’s also a funny and well-crafted film, though one that doesn’t always succeed in capturing the mood of the original films. The humour is mostly subtle, the gags woven into the story rather than trying to make a complete joke out of a story that is often quite familiar and over-familiar in its plot and characters.
Nevertheless, the film is very funny and the performances are great. Teri Garr is a lot of fun as Frederick’s lab assistant Inga and the hunchback Igor is played by the hilarious Marty Feldman.
Young Frankenstein is a light-hearted, affectionate spoof of Mary Shelley’s novel and the many classic Universal Films featuring the monster, with the usual guffaws and slapstick thrown in for good measure. Despite its blatantly vulgar references to Victorian-era burlesque stage adaptations, there’s something wonderfully timeless about the film’s tone and atmosphere.
A re-make and continuation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein tale, Young Frankenstein was a smash hit and has been re-released in limited cinemas for the first time since its release. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable spoof that evokes the feel of an earlier, simpler time in the horror genre and is definitely worth seeing again.
In the wake of his hugely successful parody western Blazing Saddles (1974), Wilder and Brooks produced this film which, while replete with cheesy, slapstick gags, reflects an appreciation of the old-school approach to comedy. It is closer in spirit to the 1948 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein travesty than either the 1931 Karloff version or the 1974 Warhol send-up and is more theatrical in its conception than more cinematic, but it uses repetition skillfully to milk its jokes.
The Bride of Frankenstein (1992)
While Frankenstein films can be a bit over-the-top, they’re still among the most enduring of all genre films. They are both spectacular and satirical, offering up outrageous thrills and macabre humour that’s as timeless as the monsters themselves.
The Bride of Frankenstein is another film that is said to riff on the original story by Mary Shelley, albeit in a much more modern and edgy manner. The story, adapted by director Sebastian Lelio and produced by Scarlett Johansson, follows the Bride as she finds herself disenfranchised from her creator, eventually gaining autonomy and ownership.
This film is a direct sequel to the first film in the series, and it takes place just after the events of that earlier film. Baron Henry von Frankenstein (Colin Clive) returns to his castle to begin work on his latest creation, the Monster (Boris Karloff), after he’s kidnapped by a group of men led by Doctor Septimus Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger).
As he begins his experiments, Henry is plagued by the thought that creating a mate for the monster might lead to a new breed of creatures capable of wreaking havoc on the world. To deal with this premonition, he decides to destroy the unfinished bride before it can be animated.
The film also features some elements that weren’t in the first one, like a brief friendship between the Monster and a blind old man. The film also includes a scene that is censored by various countries, where the Monster looks lovingly at the body of his mate and snatches it up in his hands.
Hotel Transylvania (1995)
The film centers on Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) who has built Hotel Transylvania, a lavish five-stake resort that caters to the world’s monsters. He has invited some of the most famous monsters, including Frankenstein and his bride Eunice (voiced by Kevin James), The Mummy, The Invisible Man and a family of werewolves.
On his daughter Mavis’ 118th birthday, Dracula throws a party for all the guests. Johnny and Mavis visit, and he falls in love with her. But Mavis has a problem. She wants to move back to her parents’ house in California so that her son Dennis will not grow into a vampire.
Eventually, however, she decides not to leave the hotel. She is worried that her son will not gain vampire powers and she also thinks that he may fall in love with another human girl.
Meanwhile, Drac panics when he hears that Johnny and Mavis are considering taking over the hotel. He lies to them about a real-estate law that only allows monsters to own hotels. This scares Johnny into believing that he is not part of the family and he impulsively decides to become a monster.
As the story continues, Johnny and Mavis travel to California where they meet Mike and Linda’s (voiced by Nick Swardson and Jackie Sandler) son and daughter. They spend a couple of nights in their house, but it is soon clear that they are not comfortable there. In an attempt to make Mavis feel more at home, Mike and Linda try to decorate their home in a spooky way, but Mavis is still not comfortable.
After their stay in California, Mavis and Johnny return to Transylvania. Mavis is reluctant to leave the hotel, but Johnny convinces her that Dennis will be safe. Mavis agrees to return, but not before Johnny finds out that she has been recording their conversations on a video camera.
The Wolf Man (1993)
The Wolf Man is one of the most iconic horror movies of all time. It was the first movie to make Lon Chaney a Hollywood celebrity in his own right, and it also introduced werewolves and lycanthropy into popular culture.
In the film, Larry Talbot is sent out on a hunt in order to find his brother Montford. He catches and kills several animals but is bitten by another in the process. This causes him to change into a werewolf. He tries to escape, but is caught by two villagers with dogs. They recognize him and ask for his help.
Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) rides up in her cart and offers to take him home to the castle. She says that he is a monster, but that she can help him change back into his human form.
She tells him that he can only do this once every three years. She also explains that his next victim will be a woman, and that he is to kill her. This is a terrible twist of fate for him, and he feels as though his life has been taken away from him.
It is a very interesting story, and it makes for an enjoyable movie to watch. The acting is great, and it is definitely worth watching if you are a fan of classic horror films.
The fight scenes in this movie are absolutely frenzied. Donnie Yen is at his best in these scenes, and he brings the grit that makes him one of the top martial arts stars on the planet. He is very good at the limber choreography, and the quick cuts during his fight scenes allow us to follow the flow of each punch he throws.
The Curse of Frankenstein (1994)
A film version of Mary Shelley’s novel, The Curse of Frankenstein is one of the first horror films produced by Hammer Films. The movie was a critical success, and established the company as a premier player in classic horror cinema.
The film is loosely based on the book, but it adds elements to the story that aren’t in the original. The movie features a much stronger sense of atmosphere and an intriguing storyline that moves along quickly. It’s a great film to watch if you’re looking for something that will captivate you.
In this version of the story, Victor Frankenstein is obsessed with conquering death, which leads him to do experiments that are dangerous and against his professor’s wishes. When he realizes that he’s made a mistake, he’s ashamed and kills his creation.
Unlike the original, however, Victor does not get to know the creature before it murders his brother and sets out on its own quest for a soul and a mate. Instead, the doctor is left with a monster that wants to kill him and seeks revenge against everyone who helped him make it.
There are some very good acting performances in this film. It takes a while for the characters to establish themselves, but when they do, viewers are eager to find out what will happen next.
Aside from the excellent cast, The Curse of Frankenstein also features some impressive set design by Bernard Robinson. Originally an art director, Robinson was able to create magnificent sets out of nothing, and his work on this film is a perfect example.
Another key element of The Curse of Frankenstein is the relationship between Victor and his creation. While most versions of the tale have the creature belittling or mocking the creator, this film is more realistic in this respect. It’s also a more psychologically complex and compelling film than most adaptations of the novel.