Victor Frankenstein and the creature he created against all natural laws of life have become staples of the horror genre since their own creation by Mary Shelly. Being public domain figures, they’ve appeared in too many movies, TV shows, and stories to count. It makes sense that over such a long time, the tale and characters have been reinterpreted into forms totally different than their original incarnations. With the release of I, Frankenstein, revolving around a centuries old Frankenstein’s monster caught in a war between Gargoyles and Demons, I thought it would be best to go over five other Frankenstein films that took the mythos into totally different directions. For the best and for the weird!
Bride Of Frankenstein
Possibly the quintessential Frankenstein film next to the original Universal movie and Mary Shelly’s A Modern Day Prometheus tale, and with good cause, being the first ever sequel made. The original Universal Frankenstein movie was a massive financial success, and proving that the more things change the more they stay the same, they wanted a sequel. The first’s director, James Whale, was adamant. Believing there wasn’t much else to tell of the story, especially considering there was little material left in the original novel to use. But he proved himself wrong, creating a sequel that many today see superior even to his original film version. The openly gay James Whale notoriously coming to blows with the censors and raising the camp level to then unseen levels. The plot continues directly from the first. A recovering Henry Frankenstein is reunited with his mentor/master alchemist, Dr. Septimus Pretorius, who wishes to create a mate for the Creature, also surviving the attack by the unruly mob. This is perhaps the most important entry on this list, if only because this is the one that set the precedent. The Frankenstein mythos can, and has been re-interpreted and continued in any number of ways, living on well past it’s creators, and into the future.
One of the more recent interpretations, and perhaps one of the most unusual. A World War II found footage style film concerning a platoon of Russian soldiers making propaganda behind enemy lines and investigating a mysterious German base. Only to find a legion of undead horrors, created by a direct descendent of Victor Frankenstein, working with the Nazis to continue his experiments. The biggest highlight of the film beyond its archaic version of found footage is the monster menagerie made by Viktor and brought to life by the film’s creator and director, Richard Raaphorst. Like snowflakes stitched from dead body parts and power tools, each creation is unique and fits its fascist overlords thematics. Perhaps the most iconic being the gas masked, drill faced, gestapo nightmare that is The Mosquito Man. A Bride like Nurse is later seen assisting the good doctor, having turned re-animation into an mass production like industrial process. A parallel to the horrors of modern warfare. The story does show its roots in the origin, with the ambiguous nature of good and evil between Frankenstein, his creations, and the soldiers, who occasionally prove themselves to be just as monstrous as the undead.
The classic horror-comedy from Mel Brooks that also acts as a heavily canon based continuation of the story. Starring Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, a direct descendent of the original, and ashamed of his ancestor’s mad science experiment gone awry. He’s called to the family castle in Transylvania where he’s quickly drawn to his grandfather’s work. The film is a parody of Universal’s Frankenstein movies in particular, with many scenes direct spoofs of the original Boris Karloff classic. Such as when Frederick’s creature encounters a rather safety prone blind man. There are plenty of laughs to be had, but what makes Young Frankenstein so unique to the Frankenstein mythology is that as opposed to many tales that had negative connotations to science and progress, this one portrays the positive advances and fixes science can provide. Realizing that due to his hunchbacked assistant Igor (Eye-Gore!) his creature has an abnormal brain, Frederick vows to fix his creation’s violent tendencies, and managing to succeed! Showing that understanding, and human progress can prevail. The genuinely good doctor getting something in return form his creation…
Frankenstein Conquers The World
The Frankenstein movie that truly brought the creature to gigantic proportions… At the height of World War II, Nazi Scientists have transported the still beating heart of Frankenstein’s Monster to their Japanese allies in Hiroshima, which is shortly bombed, ending the war. Decades later, a team of scientists, hearing reports of a strange feral child in the region find a boy. The wild kid steadily growing larger and larger until he escapes, growing to Kaiju proportions. A novel idea to scale up a classic monster into a sparring partner for the likes of King-Kong or Godzilla. Unfortunately, the creature doesn’t get to tangle with the heavy hitters, though he does meet his match in the giant subterranean lizard beast Baragon. Another interesting note being that the creature is mostly referred to as Frankenstein, adding more fuel to the very popular misconception between creator and creation. The movie has a surprising basis with the original story and film through several scenes, such as the creature chained up and being well meaning, and only accidentally causing harm, simply not knowing any better. But proving himself to being a heroic beast, fighting the destructive Baragon in a final battle.
The House By The Cemetery
An unusual film, very loose in it’s inspiration, and surreal, but the soul of Frankenstein lives within. Historian Norman Boyle, along with his wife Lucy and son, Bob, move from New York to New Whitby, Massachusetts. A deceased colleague of Norman’s was conducting research on a house formerly belonging to a mad scientist by the name of Dr. Jacob Freudstein. The story plays more like a haunted house story rather than a tale of science gone wrong. Directed by horror maestro Lucio Fulci, the film incorporates different elements of horror, from, Shelly, to Poe, to Lovecraft, as well as the then recent The Shining mixed together. Making something bizarrely different, yet related all the same. By the end, the ghoulish Freudstein himself is revealed to be ‘alive’ and behind most of the madness. Having kept himself alive as a deranged living corpse, by murdering others for their blood and body parts. Perhaps one of the few movies where the creator has turned himself into his own living dead creation. The genre then shifts into slasher territory as the Boyles try to fend off the zombie doctor, trapped in the titular house, ending on a bizarre finale of David Lynch-esque proportions. Another fine example that even stretched into it’s most bizarre possibilities, Frankenstein as a mythos can and will continue to permeate in pop culture and cinema.