“IT’S ALIVE!” And with those words, the monster began its 200-year rampage.
Though Mary Shelley never actually wrote those words, they come from the 1931 Universal movie starring Boris Karloff as the Monster. It’s interesting to think about what Lord Byron would feel to realize that while he is little remembered outside of English classes, the wife of his friend Percy Bysshe Shelley (another English poet), challenged to write a ghost story, would create one of the world’s most enduring characters: the Frankenstein monster.
Since the publication of her novel in 1818, Mary Shelley’s creation has been featured in over 60 films starting in 1910 and continuing to this day (the upcoming Bride of Frankenstein). As well as many TV shows. Authors from Brian Aldriss to Fred Saberhagen and Dean Koontz and many others have retold Shelley’s story, created sequels, or added their own interpretations. The monster has been portrayed as terrifying, tragic, and even comedic. Even Japan’s Toho Studio (the home of Godzilla) has created their own gigantic version.
What’s interesting is that the name Frankenstein (originally a 13th century German castle) conjures up images of the monster in our minds that are likely straight from the silver screen: the classic version of Frankenstein played by Boris Karloff, Peter Boyle as Frankenstein in Mel Brook’s film, or Robert De Niro’s more recent portrayal in the 1994 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Yet, Mary Shelley wrote her novel about Victor Frankenstein, the creator, rather than his creation. In her novel, the monster only appears in a few pages. And her monster is not the growling creature we’re used to, but a talking, emotional one who just wants to belong.
But Frankenstein, whether the man or the monster lives on in literature, on film, and on television. Now celebrated with not one but two unofficial holidays. Other classic monsters such as Dracula and Godzilla only get one, and the Wolfman doesn’t get any. Frankenstein Day is celebrated on August 30th (Mary Shelley’s birthday) and Frankenstein Friday on the last Friday in October, this year on the 26th.
To help set the mood for Frankenstein Friday, Laramie County Community College’s High Plains Register and the Campus Activities Board (CAB) will host free Frankenstein cookie decorating in the LCCC Student Lounge (Cheyenne campus) on Monday, October 22.
Then, on Tuesday, October 23, a showing of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (starring Robert De Niro and directed by Kenneth Branagh). BONUS: the first 50 people at the movie will receive a free copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein!
200 years and still going strong. Maybe it’s time to dig that old Frankenstein mask out of the closet and get your Frank-on for Halloween.
Contributed by Huntly Rinck, Senior HPR Staff
Photo (left): Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster, 1931.