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Frankenstein: From Controversy to Classic

By Edited Dec 24, 2015 11 17
Poster - Frankenstein
Credit: Wikimedia Commons public domain photo

Frankenstein: From Controversy to Classic

A Halloween Classic

Halloween costumes run the gamut from innocent cute to downright frightening and truly bazaar. They display the creative and fun side of individuals, and it is fun to see the new creations people come up with every year. On the flip-side of the new costumes are the time-honored standards, the getups that have been around for years. One of the most popular of these classic costumes is Frankenstein's Monster (nowadays simply know as Frankenstein). He is a Halloween classic, yielding not only costumes but toys, gift novelties, and even rubber duckies!

Frankenstein Rubber Duckie

The Creation of The Monster

Frontispiece to Frankenstein 1831
19-year-old Mary Shelley conceived the story of Frankenstein's monster while visiting with neighbors on Lake Geneva. Mr. and Mrs. Shelley would often discuss "The principle of life" -- A favorite subject of their day -- with their friend Lord Byron and his physician Dr. John Polidor.

One evening in 1816, after reading ghost stories aloud together, Byron suggested they each write one.[1] They all agreed to write a story of a gruesome and ghastly subject, and the creation of a Frankenstein's monster slowly grew in Mrs. Shelley's mind. Of the four stories, only Mary Shelley's writings emerged as a classic work of art.[2]

Shelley completed her novel in 11 months. The first edition published in 1818[3] was edited by her husband, Percy, who changed much of her
writing to a more elaborate and often stilted "literary" English version. For example, where Mary wrote, "We were all equal" Percy rewrote, "Neither of us possessed the slightest preeminence over the other." Thus, when the first edition credited the author as anonymous, everyone considered the book to be the work of Percy Shelley.

Nine years after Percy’s death, a third edition of the book was released. This time the book included Mary Shelley's byline and an "Author's Introduction." In addition, Mary made all final revisions.[1]

The First Movie

The first Frankenstein movie opened in 1910; a silent 12-minute film, directed by J. Searle Dawley and produced by Edison Studios. This 12-minute film is the only film where the monster is created using chemicals and potions. There have been over 50 Frankenstein movies and in all the other films the monster is assembled using body parts from various corpses.[4]

This movie version of the story begins when Frankenstein, a young student leaving for college, bids his sweetheart and his father farewell.  Shortly after arriving at school, he becomes consumed with the mysteries of life and death, so much so he neglects almost everything else. He desires nothing more than to create a human being, and thus his appetite to bring forth his creation to fruition is the catalyst for his experiments.

File:CC No 26 Frankenstein 2.JPG
One evening while in the laboratory mixing chemicals in an enormous caldron, he is convinced that he has discovered a way to create the perfect human being. Unfortunately, something has gone extremely awry and to Frankenstein's consternation, his "perfect" creation turns out to be a horrifying and repulsive monster. 

Realizing his fatal error, Frankenstein rushes back to his room, only to have the creature follow and peer at him through the curtains of his bed. This monster is too much for him to handle and Frankenstein faints, falling to the floor.

A few weeks later he returns home and regains his health under the care of his father and sweetheart. On another evening, he is startled and horrified when he glances in the mirror and sees the reflection of the monster -- who has followed his creator with the devotion of a pet. 

When the monster sees his creator with his sweetheart, he becomes jealous. He attacks him later in his house and a fight ensues. In the midst of the struggle the Monster glances up at a mirror and, for the first time, he sees a reflection of himself.


The monster, horrified, runs away but returns on the day that Frankenstein and his fiance wed. As he is walking into the main room, Frankenstein hears a scream of terror. His bride rushes into the room and faints. The monster follows and overpowers Frankenstein and then leaves.

In the last scene we see that the monster is grim; he stands in front of a mirror and looks despairingly at himself. He begins to fade away gradually, leaving only his reflection. A moment later, Frankenstein enters and stands in front of the mirror and sees the monster's reflection as his own but it begins to fade and becomes the reflection of himself as a handsome young man.

The movie ends as Frankenstein's young wife walks into the room, and they embrace.

It's Alive!

Edison's Frankenstein
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1910 Frankenstein Silent Film on YouTube

A copy of the recently recovered original 1910 Frankenstein silent movie is available on YouTube.[5]

Charles Ogle In Frankenstein 1910

1910 Frankenstein Silent Film

The Book - A Harrowing Tale

The novel is much more horrifying and graphic than the 1910 movie. In the book, Frankenstein and his wife do not live happily-ever-after. In stark contrast, Frankenstein's wife is murdered by the monster. While he is grieving the loss of her, Frankenstein looks up and sees the monster standing outside with a grin on his face. The monster seems to jeer and to point his finger towards the corpse of Frankenstein's wife.

The book ends with the monster so distraught over his creator’s death that he jumps from a ship onto an ice raft and is "borne away by the waves."[1]

In the book, you will not find the character of "Doctor" Frankenstein or his hunchback assistant. In addition, the monster is not made out of body parts from different cadavers nor has he bolts sticking out of his neck. Shelley's Frankenstein is much, much more sinister.

Frankenstein -- The True Story

Frankenstein: Complete, Original Text (Forgotten Books)
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Early Controversy

Frankenstein Cooke
The first movie version of Frankenstein, although much more subdued than the novel, was not only considered a frightening tale but was deemed controversial. The issue resonating with the majority of the public was the fact that only God could create life, and the story depicted a human creating life through black magic. The controversy began after the 1910 release of the film.[6]

While the original Frankenstein movie may seem tame compared to today’s horror flicks, it was considered an alarming and disturbing tale back in its time. Several individuals not only withheld their patronage of the film but fought to have it removed from theaters.

Frankenstein 1931(Boris Karloff)

YouTube by LaNoviadelMonstruo

Frankenstein (Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection)
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Remakes of the Classic Story

Since the first Frankenstein motion picture, several remakes have been made. One of the funniest is the Mel Brooks comedy Young Frankenstein.  The story of Frankenstein's monster told with a comedic twist. The movie is packed with one-liners, innuendos, and slapstick humor. 

Actor Gene Wilder plays the monster's creator and provides one of his most memorable performances. The late Peter Boyle, most known for playing the cranky father on the long-running sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, plays the monster. One hysterical scene involves Boyle and Wilder performing the 1927 Irving Berlin classic Puttin' on the Ritz while on stage, wearing hats and black tie attire.

This movie will have you laughing from beginning to end, and it will leave you with a new perspective on Frankenstein.

Gene Wilder - Young Frankenstein (1974) - Puttin' on the Ritz

Young Frankenstein

Young Frankenstein [Blu-ray]
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For fun check-out "Young Frankenstein," the comedy by Mel Brooks. You will laugh from beginning to end as you watch the story of Frankenstein told in a slightly different way.

Frankenstein the cartoon

From Controversy to Classic

Frankenstein: what began as controversial has become a classic. Today the public takes the Frankenstein book and subsequent movies for what they are, fiction. Just like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow; a land filled with munchkins; or a school for witchcraft and wizardry by the name of Hogwarts; the story of Frankenstein's Monster came from the imagination of a talented and gifted writer.

Modern 60s Frankenstein

Find Information on Other Interesting Topics Here

If you enjoy reading about interesting topics, take a look at the following articles. These are just a few of the many thought-provoking works by DebW07 (aka: "Introspective").

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Sep 12, 2011 5:41pm
I have always loved Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I'm sure she never imagined how her tale would live on!
Sep 15, 2011 1:47pm
As did I, she was a very gifted author.
Oct 5, 2011 11:55am
This article is as well written as Mary Shelley's works. Wonderful background on how the story came about... and how it has lived on in other forms. One of my favorites is Mel Brooks' film, Young Frankenstein. Wonderful performances from top comics like Marty Feldman, Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr - and can we forget Madeline Kahn singing "Oh Sweet Mystery Of Life"? Anyone who enjoyed the film should go to IMDB.com. In the search window key in quotes, then type in Young Frankenstein for a huge and hilarious collection of the best dialogue from the movie.
Oct 8, 2011 12:00pm
Young Frankenstein is also one of my favorites! Thanks once again for your kind words and for the info on IMDB.com.
Oct 9, 2011 7:38am
This is great article -- Thanks for putting it all together!
Oct 9, 2011 8:48am
Wonderful history of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the horror movies it prompted.
Oct 12, 2011 11:36pm
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a must read book for all. Great write up!
Oct 18, 2011 6:42pm
Great article! I love Mary Shelley's Frenkenstein!
Oct 18, 2011 6:42pm
Oops - Frankenstein! :)
Oct 25, 2011 12:08pm
Great Frankenstein history!
Oct 30, 2011 11:10am
You have written a captivating article outlining some very interesting information! I bet not too many people know about the controversy surrounding the first Frankenstein movie or the difference between how the monster was "made" in the book and first movie to how current movies depict the story. Excellent article!
Oct 30, 2011 7:41pm
What a great article! I remember reading this in high school. Congrats on being a featured article!
Nov 12, 2011 12:39pm
Thanks for all the comments!
Jan 31, 2012 1:10pm
I'm an affirmed horror buff, and it was Frankenstein that basically introduced me to the literary horror world. BTW, I have a rather large tattoo of Karloff's version of the monster...bolts and all...LOL
Jan 31, 2012 2:44pm
You can find anything from interesting to the truly bazar in the literary horror stories genre. The types of fables created are amazing and so many of these authors are extremely talented, as was the case with Mary Shelley. Thanks for the comment! As for your Frankenstein tattoo...if you ever decide to write an article on tattoos perhaps you could include a photo of it, "bolts and all." :o)
Mar 31, 2012 1:35am
A fantastic article - I can see why Mary Shelley still provokes so much interest and debate!
Mar 31, 2012 2:08pm
Thanks so much, Aleo!
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  1. Mary Shelley Frankenstein. New York: New American Library, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc., 2000.
  2. Edison Films. Dearborn, Mich., Publication: Kinetogram, 1910.
  3. "Frankenstein Published." History.com. 9/09/2011 <Web >
  4. "Frankenstein (1910) Trivia." IMDb.com. 9/09/2011 <Web >
  5. "Frankenstein (1910) Full Movie." YouTube.com. 9/09/2011 <Web >
  6. "Celebrating 100 years of Frankenstein on Film." FrankensteinFilms.com. 9/09/2011 <Web >

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