Contents Index

Production and Reproduction: The Case of Frankenstein

??? O'Flinn

From Popular Fictions: Essays in Literature and History, (London: Methuen, 1986), pp. 194-213

{194} Mary Shelley's Gothic novel Frankenstein was published anonymously in 1818. In the same year, a couple of other novels -- Peacock's Nightmare Abbey and Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey -- also appeared and their derisive use of Gothic conventions suggested that the form, fashionable for fifty years, was sliding into decline and disrepute. There seemed good reason to suppose that Frankenstein, an adolescent's first effort at fiction, would fade from view before its print-run was sold out.

Yet several generations later Mary Shelley's monster, having resisted his creator's attempts to eliminate him in the book, is able to reproduce himself with the variety and fertility that Frankenstein had feared. Apart from steady sales in Penguin, Everyman and OUP editions, there have been over a hundred film adaptations and there have been the Charles Addams cartoons in the New Yorker; Frankie Stein blunders about in the pages of Whoopee and Monster Fun comics, and approximate versions of the monster glare out from chewing gum wrappers and crisp bags. In the USA he forged a chain of restaurants; in South Africa in 1955 the work was banned as indecent and objectionable.1

None of these facts are new and some of them are obvious to anyone walking into a newsagent's with one eye open. They are worth setting out briefly here because Frankenstein seems to me to be a case where some recent debates in critical theory about cultural production and reproduction might usefully be centred, a work whose history can be used to test the claims that theory makes.2 That history demonstrates clearly the futility of a search for the 'real' 'true' meaning of a work. There is no such thing as Frankenstein, there are only Frankensteins, as the text is ceaselessly rewritten, reproduced, refilmed and redesigned. The fact that many people call the monster Frankenstein and thus confuse the pair betrays the extent of that restructuring. What I would like to offer is neither a naive deconstructionist delight at the endless plurality of meanings the text has been able to afford nor a gesture of cultural despair at the failure of the Philistines to read the original and get it right. Instead I'd like to argue that at its moment of production Frankenstein, in an oblique way, was in touch with central tensions and contradictions in industrial society and only by seeing it in those terms can the prodigious efforts made over the last century and a half to alter and realign the work and its meanings be understood -- a work that lacked that touch and that address could safely be left, as Marx said in another context, to the gnawing criticism of the mice.

Frankenstein is a particularly good example of three of the major ways in which alteration and realignment of this sort happens: firstly, through the operations of criticism; secondly, as a function of the shift from one medium to another; and thirdly as a result of the unfolding of history itself. The operations of criticism on this text are at present more vigorous than usual. When I was a student twenty years ago I picked up the Pelican Guide to English Literature to find the novel more or less wiped out in a direly condescending half-sentence as 'one of those second-rate works, written under the influence of more distinguished minds, that sometimes display in conveniently simple form the preoccupations of a coterie.'3 Frankenstein may have been on T.V. but it wasn't on {195} the syllabus. A generation and a lot of feminist criticism later and Mary Shelley is no longer a kind of half-witted secretary to Byron and Shelley but a woman writer whose text articulates and has been convincingly shown to articulate elements of woman's experience of patriarchy, the family and the trauma of giving birth.4

The second instance -- the way a text's meaning alters as it moves from one medium to another -- is something I'd like to look at in more detail in Sections IV and V by examining the two classic screen versions: Universal's movie directed in 1931 by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff, and Terence Fisher's picture for Hammer Films in 1957 with Peter Cushing. Literary criticism only metaphorically rewrites texts: the words on the page remain the same but the meanings they are encouraged to release differ. But a shift of medium means the literal rewriting of a text as novel becomes script becomes film. Scope for the ideological wrenching and reversing of a work and its way of seeing is here therefore even larger; some sense of the extent such changes can reach was evident not long ago in the BBC television serial of Malcolm Bradbury's The History Man, a novel set in 1972 and written in 1975. Its aggrieved author complained:

By the time (the television adaptation) appeared in 1981, instead of being a needling critique of what exists, it is a satirical attack on what has already passed -- and can therefore be misused by people who want to take it over from the Right, in order to turn it into an attack on sociology, universities, radicalism, in ways I deeply resented and disapproved of. If I'd known where 1981 was leading I might have doubted whether it should be turned into a television series.5
Bradbury's comment leads into the third category I suggested earlier -- namely the way in which the movement of history itself refocuses a text and reorders its elements. Frankenstein, I'd like to argue, meant certain things in 1818 but meant and could be made to mean different things in 1931 and 1957, irrespective of authorial 'intention'. Brecht noted a similar effect in the case of his play Life of Galileo:
My intention was, among others, to give an unvarnished picture of a new age -- a strenuous undertaking since all those around me were convinced that our own era lacked every attribute of a new age. Nothing of this aspect had changed when, years later, I began together with Charles Laughton to prepare an American version of the play. The 'atomic' age made its debut at Hiroshima in the middle of our work. Overnight the biography of the founder of the new system of physics read differently. The infernal effect of the great bomb placed the conflict between Galileo and the authorities of his day in a new, sharper light.6
Mary Shelley's monster, in short, is ripped apart by one or more of at least three processes in each generation and then put together again as crudely as Victor Frankenstein constructed the original in his apartment. Faced with these processes traditional literary criticism can either, with a familiar gesture, pretend not to notice and insist instead that Frankenstein 'spanned time' with 'timeless and universal themes' that 'live beyond literary fashion.'7 Or it can {196} pay attention to those changes but slip past the power and the politics that they imply, so that shifts in the work's presentation become a plain mirror of human evolution: 'the Monster . . . is no longer separate, he is quite simply ourselves'8; 'it is a magnified image of ourselves.'9 Capitalism creates and recreates monsters; capitalist ideology then invites us to behold ourselves. I'd like to try to do something else.


First I'd like to argue that much of the strength in the text that continues to be released derives from certain issues in the decade of its composition, issues that the text addresses itself to in oblique, imaginative terms and that remain central and unresolved in industrial society. In that decade those issues erupted more turbulently than ever before: they were, briefly, the impact of technological developments on people's lives and the possibility of working-class revolution. Those issues fuel the Luddite disturbances of 1811-17 and the Pentridge rising of 1817.

There had been instances of machine-breaking before in British history but never with the same frequency and intensity. The size of the army marshalled to squash the Luddites -- six times as big as any used previously for internal conflicts in the estimate of one historian10 -- is a measure of the extent to which the new technologies, in the first generation of the industrial revolution threatened traditional livelihoods and provoked violent resistance. There is the same sort of new and disruptive energy evident in the Pentridge rising of June 1817, when 300 men marched towards Nottingham on the expectation of similar marches, designed to overthrow the Government, occurring across the country. The group was soon rounded up by Hussars and three of its leaders executed in November. The revolt ended in shambles and failure but its significance for E. P. Thompson is epochal -- it was 'one of the first attempts in history to mount a wholly proletarian insurrection, without any middle-class support.'11

The composition of Frankenstein needs to be seen in the context of these deep changes in the nature of British society. Mary began work on the novel in June 1816 at the Maison Chapuis, Montalegre, near Geneva, where she was living with Shelley. Byron lived nearby at the Villa Diodati and the book's impetus came from Byron's challenge -- 'We will each write a ghost story' [Introduction 6] -- during one of their regular evening visits. The point is that as Mary set about writing her first novel she was working alongside two men who had responded publicly and politically to the Luddite crisis. Byron's magnificent maiden speech in the House of Lords in February 1812 had attacked Tory proposals to extend the death penalty for machine-breaking, denouncing a process whereby men were sacrificed to improvements in mechanism.' And then in January 1813, when fourteen men were executed at York for Luddite activities, Harriet Shelley had written to the radical London bookseller Thomas Hookham on Shelley's behalf: 'I see by the Papers that those poor men who were executed at York have left a great many children. Do you think a subscription would be attended to for their relief? If you think it would, pray put down our names and advertise it in the Papers.'12 Mary and Percy returned to England from Geneva in September 1816 and Luddites were still being hanged in April 1817 as Mary made the last revisions to her manuscript. Before Frankenstein's {197} publication in March 1818, Shelley reacted to the execution of the leaders of the Pentridge rising with An Address to the People on the Death of Princes Charlotte, a forceful political pamphlet published in November 1817 and eagerly read by Mary, as she noted in her journal. The pamphlet lamented the 'national calamity' of a country torn between abortive revolt and despotic revenge -- 'the alternatives of anarchy and oppression."13

What was Mary Shelley's own response to these events and reactions? To try to pass Frankenstein off as a conservative riposte to the politics of Godwin and Shelley, as Muriel Spark has done,14 is to ignore the book's brave dedication to the unpopular Godwin as well as Mary's own correct anticipation that a 'courtly bookseller' like John Murray would refuse to publish it when the manuscript was offered to him.15 (It is also, as we shall see in a moment, to ignore most of the book's contents.) Similarly, to describe her politics at the time she wrote Frankenstein as 'innately conservative', as Jane Dunn does,16 is to muddle her views in middle age with those she held at eighteen -- often a mistake with Romantic writers and particularly so in Mary Shelley's case. Her letters around the time of Frankenstein reveal a woman who shared the radicalism of Byron and Shelley. The result was a politics shaped by a passion for reform, a powerful hatred of Tory despotism with its 'grinding & pounding & hanging and taxing'17 and a nervousness about the chance of the revolutionary violence such despotism might provoke. Thus, for example, she wrote to Shelley in September 1817 between the completion of Frankenstein in May and its publication the following March:

Have you seen Cobbett's 23 No. to the Borough mongers -- Why, he appears to be making out a list for proscription -- I actually shudder to read it -- a revolution in this country would (not?) be bloodless if that man has any power in it. . . He encourages in the multitude the worst possible human passion revenge or as he would probably give it that abominable Christian name retribution.18
Her politics here in short are those of a radical liberal agonizing in the face of the apparent alternatives of 'anarchy and oppression', to use the phrase which, as we have already seen, Shelley was to deploy six weeks later in his Princess Charlotte pamphlet.

That politics also addressed itself to contemporary scientific and technological developments and their social implications. Discussion and speculation at the Villa Diodati ranged across galvanism and Darwin's experiments, as Mary carefully notes in her 1831 Introduction to the novel. In the autumn of 1816, as she completed her manuscript, she read Davy's Elements of Chemical Philosophy.

It is out of these politics and this way of seeing that Frankenstein emerges. It is a multi-layered work; it includes odds and ends like her passing interest in recent British and Russian polar expeditions, and it is padded in parts with wads of her tourist's diary of a trip to Chamonix.19 What I would like to show by turning to the text itself in the next two sections is that one of these layers, a layer that accounts for a lot of the story's vigourous, protean life, is an imaginative rendering of the two issues -- scientific-technological developments and working-class revolt -- which as we have seen asserted themselves violently in the half-dozen years preceding the text's production. It is a layer whose {198} boundaries are drawn by the author's politics.


Mary Shelley's interest in scientific questions has been well documented20 and this interest is built into the very narrative structure of her novel. Frankenstein's story is itself framed by the story of Walton, the polar explorer whom Frankenstein meets and to whom he tells his tale. Through the twin narratives of Walton and Frankenstein Mary Shelley presents two models of scientific progress. Both men are obsessed by the urge to discover and both pursue that obsession, enticed by the possibility of 'immortality and power' [1.2.5] that success would bring. In the end, the pursuit kills Frankenstein whereas Walton survives. What is the difference?

The difference is the sailors on Walton's expedition ship. Frankenstein works alone but Walton works with a crew and it is the crew who force Walton to turn back when they realise that the reckless drive through the polar ice will cost everyone's lives. Several things are worth noting at this point. Firstly Frankenstein makes a forceful speech aimed at changing the sailor's minds by reminding them of the honour that even failure will bring and still holding out the dream of heroic success. Secondly, Walton turns back not, as has been argued, for altruistic reasons or for the sake of his sister,21 but simply because he is forced to by the threat of mutiny, to his own fury and frustration:

The die is cast; I have consented to return, if we are not destroyed. Thus are my hopes blasted by cowardice and indecision; I come back ignorant and disappointed. It requires more philosophy than I possess, to bear this injustice with patience. (p. 215)
And thirdly Mary Shelley takes care to distance her reader's sympathies from both Frankenstein's pleas and Walton's anger by pushing those sympathies towards the sailors. Details about the crew must inevitably be few if the text is not to become overloaded and unbalanced but nonetheless she deliberately makes space to insert near the start of the novel in Letter II an otherwise pointless anecdote designed to illustrate the 'kindliness of heart' of the ship's master. The anecdote portrays him as 'generous' and 'wholly uneducated', a man of 'integrity and dauntless courage' and 'gentleness' [Letter 2.4]. The anecdote's purpose can only be to enlist reader support for the master and his crew at the sole moment when they have any part to play in the plot -- namely their threat of mutiny in Chapter 24, which is presented to Walton by a delegation of sailors elected by the crew.

What the text then appears to offer is a straightforward contrast. Scientific development subject to some form of strong democratic control -- even in the violent form of mutiny -- can avert the dangers its researchers encounter and save human beings from the possibly fatal consequences of those researches. That is Walton's story. But scientific advance pursued for private motives and with no reining and directing social control or sense of social responsibility leas directly to catastrophe. That is Frankenstein's story. The text does not, contrary to Christoper Small's claim, offer us hand-wringing about some abstract and reified "irresponsibility of science."22 Rather it sees scientific development as neutral, its results tolerable or disastrous entirely depending on the circumstances in which they are produced.

Seen from this angle, the function of certain elements in the text becomes {199} clearer -- in particular those elements which emphasize the dangers of acting alone and illustrate the help that can be provided by other people. Walton's project is especially perilous because it 'hurries me out of the common pathways of men, even to the wild sea and unvisited regions I am about to explore' (p. 22) but he has to go with a crew and they save him as we have seen. From the start he is aware of the need of a colleague 'to approve or amend my plans' (p. 19) and hence his delight on meeting Frankenstein. The latter, by contrast, works deliberately alone. His move to Ingolstadt where he begins his research cuts him off from Geneva where he had 'ever been surrounded by amiable companions' (p. 45) and he stays away from them for two years. He constructs the monster 'in a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house . . . separated from all the other apartments' (p. 55), just as later he goes to 'the remotest of the Orkneys' (p. 163) to begin building the monster's mate.

Studded through the text as miniatures of its central message are moments when disaster, threatening a lone individual, is avoided by the interventions of others. The ship's master provides the solution to the tangled affairs of the young Russian Lady, Frankenstein's father rescues Caroline Beaufort from a life of beggary and she in turn pulls Elizabeth Lavenza and Justine Moritz out of similar misery. Frankenstein's life is saved when he appears to be mortally ill by the ministrations of his friend Clerval, and then there is the complex story, told by the monster, of Felix who liberates the Turk facing execution. The text's thrust on a series of levels is naively clear: for people together, problems can be solved; for the man alone, they can overwhelm.


The monster describes a crucial part of his education as follows:
Every conversation of the cottagers now opened new wonders to me. When I listened to the instructions which Felix bestowed upon the Arabian, the strange system of human society was explained to me. I heard of the division of property, of immense wealth and squalid poverty; of rank, descent, and noble blood.

The words induced me to turn towards myself. I learned that the possessions most esteemed by your fellow-creatures were high and unsullied descent united with riches. A man might be respected with only one of these advantages; but, without either, he was considered, except in very rare instances, as a vagabond and a slave, doomed to waste his powers for the profits of the chosen few! And what was I? Of my creation and creator I was absolutely ignorant; but I knew that I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property. (pp. 119-20)

Looking at that passage, it is perhaps worth remembering that the first person to offer the text as a straightforward allegory of the class struggle is not some vulgar Marxist in the twentieth century but one of the book's protagonists. Read as the monster suggests, the novel argues that, just as Frankenstein's creation drives him through exhausting and unstinting conflicts to his death, so too a class called into being by the bourgeoisie and yet rejected and frustrated by it will in the end turn on that class in fury and vengeance and destroy it.

This way of seeing the work, as well as being overtly stated by the work itself, {200} is rendered more likely if we look again for a moment at the text's context. Lee Sterrenburg has documented the extent to which the populace as a monster, bent on the destruction of the ruling class and its property, figures as a standard trope in conservative journalism in the generation after the French Revolution.23 During the Luddite years, the monster appeared to some to be on the loose. Factories in Yorkshire were fired in January and April 1812 and in March and April in Lancashire; there were murders, attempted assassinations and executions again and again between 1812 and 1817. During the most famous attack, on Rawfolds mill in the Spen Valley in April 1812, two of the Luddites were killed and 'Vengeance for the Blood of the Innocent' appeared chalked on walls and doors in Halifax after one of the funerals.

In the midst of this crisis, Mary Shelley picks up a way of seeing -- the populace as a destructive monster -- provided by Tory journalism and tries to re-think it in her own radical-liberal terms. And so in the novel the monster remains a monster -- alien, frightening, violent -- but is drenched with middle-class sympathy and given central space in the text to exercise the primary liberal right of free speech which he uses to appeal for the reader's pity and understanding. The caricatured people-monster that haunts the dominant ideology is reproduced through Mary Shelley's politics and becomes a contradictory figure, still ugly, vengeful and terrifying but now also human and intelligent and abused.

In addition, incidents in the class struggles of the 1810s are projected into the text. The monster too turns on the De Lacey family he has worked for and, in Chapter 16, burns their property to the ground [2.8.4]. That pattern of murders and reprisals that characterize the history of the decade also constitutes much of the plot of the novel. The demand for vengeance flared on the walls of Halifax in 1812 and again and again the terms 'vengeance' and 'revenge' erupt in the text to describe the relations of Frankenstein and monster -- on, for example, pages 92, 136, 138, 142, 145, 168, 202 and 220. It is of course precisely a violent class politics fuelled principally by 'the worst possible human passion revenge' that Mary wrote in fear of to Shelley, as we saw earlier in Section I, shortly before the publication of Frankenstein.

To see the text in these terms is not, as I have argued already, a daft left-wing distortion but a reading suggested by the text itself and one that is also apparent if we turn to the way the text was taken up in the nineteenth century. In 1848, for example, the year of revolutions and of the Communist Manifesto, Elizabeth Gaskell published Mary Barton, the first English novel with a Communist as its protagonist. Describing John Barton she writes at one point:

And so on into the problems and mysteries of life, until bewildered and lost, unhappy and suffering, the only feeling that remained clear and undisturbed in the tumult of his heart, was hatred to the one class, and keen sympathy with the other.

But what availed his sympathy. No education had given him wisdom; and without wisdom, even love, with all its effects, too often works but harm. He acted to the best of his judgment, but it was a widely-erring judgment. The actions of the uneducated seem to me typified in those of Frankenstein, that monster of many human qualities, ungifted with a soul, a knowledge of the difference between good and evil.

{201} The people rise up to life; they irritate us, they terrify us, and we become their enemies. Then, in the sorrowful moment of our triumphant power, their eyes gaze on us with mute reproach. Why have we made them what they are; a powerful monster, yet without the inner means for peace and happiness?

John Barton became a Chartist, a Communist, all that is commonly called wild and visionary.24

What is intriguing about this reference is that Elizabeth Gaskell obviously hasn't read the book -- she confuses Frankenstein with the monster and she doesn't know that the monster has a very clear knowledge of the difference between good and evil. What she has absorbed instead and passes on is the dominant political reading of the text, the sense that the middle classes are threatened by a monster of their own making. That monster, as we have seen, was manufactured out of the violence and anxieties of the Luddite decade; a generation later, at the peak of the Chartist decade, Elizabeth Gaskell reaches into cultural mythology to find the imaginative terms for her own predicament and that of her class.

It is significant that this political reproduction of the text persists and tends to surface at times of sharpening conflict. The 1961 Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary notes Sidney Webb's use in Fabian Essays, published in 1889 at the height of the socialist revival: 'The landlord and the capitalist are both finding that the steam engine is a Frankenstein which they had better not have raised.' And the 1972 Supplement quotes the Daily Telegraph, 3 May 1971: 'There are now growing indications that the Nationalists in South Africa have created a political Frankenstein which is pointing the way to a non-white political revival.' Again, in both cases, monster and Frankenstein are muddled, indicating a level in ideology at which the text itself has ceased to exist but as a myth and a metaphor torn and twisted from its being strenuously put to work.

This separating of myth and metaphor from text and constructing something entirely new in ideology begins very early. In September 1823, Mary Shelley wrote to Leigh Hunt that she found herself famous -- not for her novel but for a stage adaptation of it called Presumption, or the Fate of Frankenstein by Richard Brinsley Peake that was having a successful run in London. The title betrays the way the work is already being realigned as one idea in the complex structure is pulled out and foregrounded, and this foregrounding is underscored by a statement on the playbills for the opening performance on 28 July at the English Opera House: 'The striking moral exhibited in this story is the fatal consequence of that presumption which attempts to penetrate, beyond prescribed depths, into the mysteries of nature.'25 Frankenstein certainly concludes from his own experience that the pursuit of knowledge ought to be prohibited, but the text does not endorse that kind of obscurantist morality, particularly by its placing of the contrasting Walton story. But the later, more conservative and religious Mary Shelley slides towards this position, so that we find her insisting in the 1831 Introduction: 'supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world' [Introduction 10]. She herself, in fact, is among the first to nudge the text into the space occupied by the dominant ideology, and we can also see that nudging going on in some of the revisions she makes for this third {202} 1831 edition; for example, Elizabeth Lavenza is no longer Frankenstein's cousin, so that the potentially offensive hint of incest is deleted, while the orthodox notion of the family as moral and emotional sanctuary is boosted by the addition of several passages in the early chapters idealizing the domestic harmony of Frankenstein's childhood.26 If ideology has taken hold of Frankenstein and remade it for its own purposes, Mary Shelley led with her own suggestions about how it might be done.


What I would like to do in the rest of this article is look at the two most famous reproductions of Frankenstein in the twentieth century, namely Universal's Frankenstein directed in 1931 by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff as the monster and Hammer Films' The Curse of Frankenstein directed by Terence Fisher with Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein. The constructions and the operations of ideology are complex and within the scope of an article I cannot hope to do more than gesture at what seem to me to be the implications of the content of those two versions; wider questions about, for example, the precise relationship within the movie industry between honest popular entertainment, calculated profit-seeking, capitalist propaganda and painstaking aesthetic practice must inevitably be left to one side. The more I thought about these problems and the deeper into piles of back numbers of Screen I got the more dense and unyielding they seemed, so it was salutary if a bit shaming to go back to Orwell for a good crude blast and a starting point:
Broadcasting is what it is, not because there is something inherently vulgar, silly and dishonest about the whole apparatus of microphone and transmitter, but because all the broadcasting that now happens all over the world is under the control of governments or great monopoly companies which are actively interested in maintaining the status quo and therefore in preventing the common man from becoming too intelligent. Something of the same kind has happened to the cinema, which like the radio, made its appearance during the monopoly stage of capitalism and is fantastically expensive to operate.27
That kind of analysis is a useful place to begin because it reminds us baldly where films come from even if it does skate over a series of important contradictions -- most importantly, the tensions between the overt politics of the owners of film companies on the one hand and, on the other, both their need to make certain populist concessions in order to guarantee profits and also the politics of the hundreds of producers, directors, script-writers, makeup artists, cameramen, actors, advertisers and so on who all stand between, in this case, Hammer/Universal and the woman in the back row of the one-and-nines, (We're talking about old films, remember.)

That said, there seem to me to be at least three different types of shift that need to be borne in mind when looking at the gap between Mary Shelley's book and twentieth-century films; those shifts concern medium, audience and content. In the case of Frankenstein, the shift of medium is particularly important because it must inevitably obliterate and replace what is central to the novel's meaning and structure -- namely the patterned movement through three narrators as the reader is taken by way of Walton's letters into {203} Frankenstein's tale and on to the monster's autobiography before backing out through Frankenstein's conclusions to be left with Walton's last notes. That process cannot be filmed and so the very medium demands changes even before politics and ideology come into play.

The turning of novel into film also involves a change in the nature of the work's audience. David Punter has convincingly argued that the Gothic's novel is pre-eminently a middle-class form in terms of authors and values as well as readership.28 The films in question are middle-class in none of these senses, produced as they are by large businesses in search of mass audiences. That different site of production and area of distribution will again bear down on the work pulling, stretching and clipping it to fit new needs and priorities.

Where this pulling, stretching and clipping appears most obviously in the alterations in the third category mentioned earlier, namely the work's content, and I'd like to detail some of those in a moment. What needs emphasizing here is that the radical change in the class nature of producer and audience hacks away at the content of the original, so that the book is reduced to no more than an approximate skeleton, fleshed out in entirely and deliberately new ways. This makes it quite different from, for example, a BBC serial of a Jane Austen novel, where some attempt is made at a reasonably faithful reproduction of the text. It is therefore a traditional critical strategy in reviewing such serials to ask questions about how 'true' to the text, how 'accurate', is the portrayal of, say, Fitzwilliam Darcy or Emma Woodhouse. It is the failure to see this difference that makes one reviewer's querulous response to the 1931 film quite laughably beside the point:

Mary Shelley's story has artistic interest as an essay in German horrific romanticism and I think that if Frankenstein had been produced by a historically-minded German the result would have been much more interesting . . . What is the object of taking Mary Shelley's story and then removing the whole point of it before starting to make the picture?29
The object, of course, is precisely to remove the whole point of it -- and substitute other ones.

Other ones are necessary for several reasons -- not least because there are no immutable fears in human nature to which horror stories always speak in the same terms. There is not, for all David's Punter's strenuous arguing, 'some inner social and cultural dynamic which makes it necessary for those images to be kept alive'30; rather, those images need to be repeatedly broken up and reconstituted if they are to continue to touch people, which is one of the reasons why horror films that are thirty or forty years old can often seem simply boring or preposterous to a later audience.

The Universal movie was calculated quite precisely to touch the audiences of 1931. At that time Universal was not one of the front-rank Hollywood studios; its rather cautious and unimaginative policies had left it some distance adrift of the giants of the industry at the end of the 1920s, namely Famous Players, Loews and First National.31 But a way out of the second rank seemed to offer itself with the huge box office success of Universal's Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, which opened in February 1931 and soon grossed half a million dollars. In April Universal bought the rights of Peggy Webling's Frankenstein: An Adventure in the Macabre. The play had run in London in 1930 and its title already suggests a tilting of the work away from Mary Shelley's complex {204} scientific and political statement towards those conventional terror terms for which Dracula had indicated a market. Frankenstein, filmed in August and September 1931, was an even bigger profit-maker than Dracula. Costing a quarter of a million dollars to make, it eventually earned Universal twelve million dollars, was voted one of the films of 1931 by the New York Times and confirmed a fashion for horror movies that was soon to include Paramount's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Universal's The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

In looking at the content of this movie I'd like to confine my comments to those three areas where the shifts from the novel seem to me most important in terms of the ideological and political re-jigging that they betray; those areas are the Walton story, the nature of the monster and the ending.

The point about the Walton story is a simple one: it's gone. It's not there in the immediate source of the movie, namely Peggy Webling's play, where its disappearance is partly prompted by the need to cram a novel into the average duration of a play. But the fact is that to take away half of Mary Shelley's statement is to change it. It was argued in Section II that the function of the Walton story within the text's meaning is to offer a different model of scientific and technological progress, one in which human survival is insured as long as that progress in under firm and effective popular control. Remove that narrative and the work collapses in Frankenstein's experience alone which can then be presented as a universal model, replete with the sort of reactionary moralizing about the dangers of meddling with the unknown and the delights of tranquillity which are implicit in that tale and made explicit at more than one point. The film can then more easily slide towards a wider statement about the perils of any kind of progress and change, feeding fears of the unknown that change brings and reinforcing those conservative values that stand in its way.

On the question of the nature of the monster, the most important revision here concerns the creature's brain. The film adds a new episode in which an extra character called Fritz, Frankenstein's assistant, is sent to a laboratory to steal a brain for the monster. In that laboratory are two such pickled organs, in large jars boldly labelled NORMAL BRAIN and ABNORMAL BRAIN. Before the theft, the audience hears an anatomy lecture from Professor Waldman in which he draws attention to various features of the normal brain, 'the most perfect specimen', and contrasts them with the abnormal brain whose defects drive its owner to a life of 'brutality, of violence and murder' because of the 'degenerate characteristics'. Its original owner was in fact, 'a criminal'. The lecture over, Fritz creeps in, grabs the normal brain and then lets it slip so that jar and contents are smashed on the floor. He is forced to take the abnormal brain instead.

The implications for the monster and his story are immense. A central part of Mary Shelley's thesis is to insist that the monster's eventual life of violence and revenge is the direct product of his social circumstances. The monster summarizes his own life in terms that the text endorses:

Every where I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous. (p. 100)
The film deletes this reading of the story through its insistence that the monster's behaviour is not a reaction to its experience but biologically determined, a result of nature, not nurture.

{205} Most commentators on the film are bewildered by this change, one not found in Peggy Webling's play. It has been variously dismissed as an 'absurd and unnecessary sequence . . . a cumbersome attempt at establishing motivation', ridiculous' and 'the main weakness.'32 If seen from Mary Shelley's stance, these comments are true; seen in terms of the film's ideological project, they miss the point. At one level in the text, Mary Shelley was concerned to suggest, in the imaginative terms of fiction, that Luddite violence was not the result of some brute characteristic of the nascent English working class but an understandable response to intolerable treatment. The Universal film, consciously or unconsciously, destroys the ground for such a way of seeing with its radical political implications and instead sees violence as rooted in personal deficiencies, to be viewed with horror and to be labelled, literally, ABNORMAL and so sub-human. Bashing the monster ceases to be the problem but becomes instead the only way that the problem can be met and solved. So it is that Mary Shelley is stood on her head and Frankenstein is forced to produce new meanings for 1931.

This upending of Mary Shelley's book and its meaning explains two other profound changes in the monster's presentation that the film introduces. In the text, the monster spends Chapters 11 to 16 describing his life -- a huge speech that is placed right in the centre of the novel and fills over twenty percent of its pages [2.3.1]. In the film the monster can't speak. Again, in the novel, the monster saves a child from drowning in Chapter 16; in the film, the monster drowns a child. Both reversals are of a piece with the Abnormal Brain scene and flow from it in that both deliberately seek to suppress audience sympathy for the monster. (Hence, when in the 1935 sequel Bride of Frankenstein the monster did speak, Boris Karloff protested that it made him seem 'more human' so that in the second sequel Son of Frankenstein in 1939 he is again wordless.) The changes sharpen a re-focusing which is itself part of the shift from novel to film: reading the book, we hear the monster at eloquent length but we don't see him except vaguely, in imagination, and so reader sympathy is easily evoked; watching the film, we hear nothing from him but instead we see a shambling goon with a forehead like a brick wall and a bolt through his neck, and so audience revulsion is promptly generated. Thus the novel makes him human while the film makes him sub-human, so that in the novel his saving of the drowning child is predictable while equally predictable is his drowning of the child in the film.

The way the film ends flows directly from the drowning of the child and so brings me to the third and last piece of ideological re-structuring in the Universal movie that I'd like to look at. In the novel, Frankenstein dies in his pursuit of the monster [Walton 11] across the icy Arctic while the latter, in the final sentence, is 'borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance' [Walton 17]. In the film, the drowning of the child provokes the villagers to pursue the brute and trap it in an old windmill which is then burnt down; a brief, single-shot coda shows a recovered Frankenstein happily reunited with his fiancée Elizabeth. The politics of the mill-burning scene are overt; as the blaze engulfs the blades they form a gigantic fiery cross that deliberately suggest the Ku Klux Klan, virulently active at the time, and so, as Tropp crudely puts it, 'points up the mob violence that does the monster in.'33 Similarly, another observer sees the {206} film ending 'with what Whale called "the pagan sport of a mountain manhunt"' at the finale, the film's sympathies are with the monster rather than with the lynch mob.'34

These may have been Whale's intentions but there is a wide gap between director's aims and the movie as distributed. In Whale's original version, in the drowning scene, the girl dies because the monster innocently tries to make her float on the water like the flowers they are playing with and then searches frantically for her when she sinks. But these moments were chopped from the print of the film put out for general release: there we simply see the monster reaching out towards the girl and then cut to a grief-stricken father carrying her corpse. Child rape and murder are the obvious assumptions, so that the immediate response of the community in organizing itself to eliminate the savage culprit comes across as a kind of ritual cleansing of that community, the prompt removal of an inhuman threat to civilized life which is comfortably justifiable within routine populist politics and at the same time provides the firm basis for and so receives its sanction from the conventionally romantic final scene of hero and heroine at last happy and free from danger. If Mary Shelley's monster alludes indirectly to working-class insurrection, one answer to that canvassed in the 1930s was counter-revolutionary mob violence.

Political readings of the film tend to see it either in simple reflectionist terms (Tropp, for example, regards the monster as 'a creature of the '30s shaped by shadowy forces beyond its control, wandering the countryside like some disfigured veteran or hideous tramp'35 while another finds 'a world in which manipulations of the stock-market had recoiled on the manipulators; in which human creatures seemed to be abandoned by those who had called them in being and those who might have been though responsible for their welfare'36) or as escapist -- 'Large sections of the public, having difficulty in dealing with the Depression, were glad to spend some time in the company of a monster that could more easily be defeated.'37 Readings of that sort can only be more or a lot less inspired speculation. I'd prefer to look within the film and see it as a practice, as an intervention in its world rather than just a picture of it or a retreat from it, a practice whose extent is marked out by the reconstruction of the text that I have indicated. Certainly it was released in the depths of the Depression, depths which can shock even when seen from Thatcherite Britain. The value of manufactured goods and services produced in the USA in 1929 had stood at 81 billion dollars and output at 119 (1923=100); as the film criss-crossed the nation in 1932, the value of goods and services had more than halved to 40 billion dollars and output was down to 64. There were 14 million unemployed. How the film reflects that catastrophe or seeks to escape from it is less important than what it says to it. As we saw earlier in Section III, it is historically at precisely such moments of crisis that Frankenstein's monster tends to be summoned by ideology and have its arm brutally twisted till it blurts out the statements that ideology demands. What Universal's Frankenstein seeks to say specifically to the mass audience at whom it is aimed concerns above all mass activity in times of crisis: where that activity might be assertive and democratic and beneficial (the Walton story), it is removed and concealed; where it is violent and insurrectionary (the monster's story), it is systematically denigrated; and where it is traditional and reactionary (the mill-burning), it is ambiguously endorsed. The extent to which the film powerfully articulates {207} those familiar stances of the dominant ideology in the 1930s is measured by its box-office success.


The fact that Frankenstein's monster is most urgently hailed at times of crisis perhaps account for the fact that, with the jokey exception of Universal's Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948, the English-speaking movie industry left the brute alone between 1945 (Universal's House of Dracula) and 1957 (Hammer's The Curse of Frankenstein) as the long post-war boom slowly built up. The film marked the end of the lengthiest break in Frankenstein pictures in the past fifty years and was the first attempt by a British studio to reproduce the story.

The relationships between, say, Roderick Random and early capitalism are complex and highly mediated. The links between Hammer Films and late capitalism are less obscure; the executive producer of the The Curse of Frankenstein, Michael Carreras, whose family founded Hammer Film Productions in 1947 and have run it for three generations, has put it simply enough: 'The best film is the one that makes money. Our job is to entertain and promote something that is really exploitable. Exploitation is the thing.'38 Hammer's policy proceeded directly from this philosophy and has been well analyzed by David Pirie.39 It specialized in stories that were already 'pre-sold' to the public by tradition or by radio or television so that public recognition of the product was not a problem -- hence early films like P.C. 49, The Man in Black, Robin Hood, and so on. At the same time, it sought for itself an area of the market left untouched by the dimpled complacencies of Rank and Ealing Studios. These two strands of policy combined to push it towards horror film, first with The Quartermass Experiment in 1955, a spin-off from the 1953 BBC serial Quartermass. The success of both serial and film prompted Hammer to explore the genre further, and the filming of The Curse of Frankenstein began in November 1956.

The result was a cultural phenomenon whose scale and importance has certainly been noted but whose significance has not really been investigated. The Curse of Frankenstein is, it has been claimed, 'the biggest grossing film in the history of the British cinema in relation to cost.'40 When it opened in the West End in May 1957 it at once started breaking box-office records and it did the same across the USA that summer. One consequence was that the connections that Hammer had with the American market were rapidly reinforced; in September, for example, Columbia Pictures put Hammer under contract to make three films a year and by 1968 Hammer found itself a recipient of the Queen's Award to Industry after three years in which they had brought a total of £4.5 million in dollars into Britain -- this at a time, of course, when most of the rest of the British film industry was in a state of vigourous collapse. In the decade and a half after the success of The Curse of Frankenstein Hammer made six sequels, all staring Peter Cushing as the eponymous hero.

In looking at the first of this series, it's Cushing and the part he plays that I'd like to focus on, because it is there that the efforts of ideology in putting the myth to work for fresh purposes are most strenuous. At other points -- the dropping of the Walton framework, for example -- the film simply follows {208} previous practices whose implications have been argued already. It is in the reconstruction of the protagonist that the Hammer film is distinctive, and here the director Terence Fisher was not encumbered by any sense of the original which indeed he had not read. Thus, although Fisher's script (by Jimmy Sangster) was based on the novel, the way was clear for an alignment of the material that was not inhibited by considerations of accuracy, of being 'faithful to the text', but which was free to rework the elements towards those broad Hammer policies of exploitation and money-making.

The singularity of Cushing's role has been spotted by several observers without much attempt being made to see why this should be so.40 The fact that the film is centred on creator rather than monster in this version is signposted by the way that Boris Karloff, the monster in the Universal movie, at once became a star while Colin Clive, who was Frankenstein, remained obscure; conversely, in the Hammer picture, it was Peter Cushing who featured in five of the six sequels whereas Christopher Lee never took the part of the monster again.

Central to the specificity of Cushing's part is the way he makes Frankenstein unambiguously the villain of the story and this shift is produced by at least three major changes in his presentation. First and most obviously there are the crimes he commits which have no basis in the text or in previous film versions: to get a brain for his creature he murders a colleague, Professor Bernstein, and later on he sets up the killing of his servant Justine to conceal the fact that he has got her pregnant from his fiancée Elizabeth. Secondly there is a marked class mutation that takes a tendency that is apparent in earlier versions several stages further. Mary Shelley's hero is a student, the son of a magistrate; in the Universal movie he becomes the son of a baron; in the Hammer film for the first time he himself is styled Baron Frankenstein and is given decadent aristocratic trappings to go with his title -- he becomes, in Pirie's eyes 'a dandy'. And then thirdly there is the change in age: Mary Shelley's youthful student is turned into Peter Cushing's middle-aged professor. The relevance of that emerges if we remember that seventy per cent of the audience for horror movies in the 1950s were aged twelve to twenty-five, a fact of which the commercially alert Hammer were well aware. A film pitched largely at adolescents could evoke hostility towards the protagonist more easily by transforming him from one of their own kind into a standard adult authority figure.

In short, the ambiguity of earlier readings of the story is removed by these revisions and we are given a Frankenstein to hate -- a Frankenstein who, as Martin Tropp points out, is the real monster, a villain who ends the film facing the guillotine and straightforwardly enacting Terence Fisher's own way of seeing: 'If my films reflect my own personal view of the world . . . it is in their showing of the ultimate victory of good over evil, in which I do believe.'42 Peter Cushing's Baron Frankenstein is a lethal nutter, an archetypal mad scientist.

It is here that the break with the Universal version is sharpest. James Whale had worked specifically to avoid a mad scientist reading of the story and had written to actor Colin Clive insisting that Frankenstein is 'an intensely sane person . . . a sane and lovable person.'43 And the one moment in Whale's film when this analysis wavers -- namely Frankenstein's megalomaniac cry of 'Now I {209} know what it feels like to be God' as his creature moves for the first time -- was chopped by pious censors before anybody else got to see it.

What I'd like to argue is that close to the root of this transformation in the reading and reproduction of Frankenstein is a shift in the structure of fears within the dominant ideology. The possibility of working-class insurrection that had concerned Mary Shelley and terrified Universal was no longer a prime source of anxiety in 1956. To take one crude statistical indicator of working-class discontent: the number of working days lost or, rather, won in strikes in Britain in the 1940s and 1950s was the lowest in the twentieth century. But on the other hand the development of atomic and hydrogen bombs created a new and dire nightmare of the risk of world destruction flowing from a single, deranged individual -- a cultural neurosis that the James Bond novels and films, for instance, were to run and run again through the 1960s and beyond. To imagine a universal catastrophe initiated by one mad scientist was a fear that was simply unavailable to Mary Shelley granted the level of scientific capacities in 1818; indeed, the very word 'scientist' was not coined until 1834. The Curse of Frankenstein, by contrast, was made at a time when the processes of science seemed to threaten human survival. As David Pirie points out, six months before filming began, a headline in The Times on 21 May 1956 had read: 'Giant H-Bomb Dropped, Luminosity More Than 500 Suns.' Equally importantly, we need to remember events in the very week that filming began. The cameras turned for the first time on 19 November; two days earlier, the first Hungarian refugees had arrived in Britain driven out by the Russian tanks that smashed their revolution; a fortnight earlier, on 5 November, Anglo-French airborne troops had landed at Port Said at the depths of the fiasco of the Suez invasion.

The Curse of Frankenstein was therefore made at a unique and over-determined conjuncture in world history when, for the first time, both the technology and the crises existed to threaten the very survival of the planet. Once again Mary Shelley's novel was pulled off the shelf and ransacked for the terms of articulate cultural hysteria. In one sense, of course, the movie represents a flight from the politics of Eden and the Kremlin into a spot of escapist Gothic knockabout; but to see it and then dismiss it as no more is to wipe out a series of factors including Fisher's ideology, Hammer's business sense, American investment and contemporary critical responses44, all of which mark out the seriousness of the project at one level. To put it baldly, at a time of genuine and multi-layered public fears, The Curse of Frankenstein addressed itself to a predominantly young audience and locates the source of anxiety in a deranged individual, focusses it down to the point where its basis is seen as one man's psychological problem. Wider systematic and social readings and other possibilities (the Walton story for one) are repressed as a structure whose values go unquestioned is presented as threatened by a loony rather than as being itself at the root of instability. Responsibility for imminent catastrophe is limited to a single intellectual standing outside both ordinary lives and the political establishment, so that the film can flow from and then feed back into a populist politics and a scrubby anti-intellectualism frustrated by Its own impotence. The Curse of Frankenstein is the curse of blocked democracy looking for a scapegoat and being sidetracked from an analysis.

{210} What I have tried to show is that there is no eternal facet of our psyche that horror stories address themselves to. The reworkings of Frankenstein's story in the last century and a half prove that if there are, in Mary Shelley's phrase in the 1831 Introduction, 'mysterious fears of our nature' [Introduction 7] to which her tale seeks to speak, those fears, like our nature itself, are produced and reproduced by the processes of history itself. Elsewhere in the same Introduction Mary Shelley insists that 'invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos; the materials must, in the first place, be afforded; it can give form to dark, shapeless substances but cannot bring into being the substance itself' [Introduction 8] To look for those materials, that chaos, that substance elsewhere in literature alone and so to read Frankenstein simply as shuffling round the themes and structures of earlier Romantic and Gothic texts is to fail to account for the way the novel, ceaselessly reconstituted, vigorously survives while those other fictions are long forgotten -- forgotten, indeed, even by Mary Shelley herself by 1831.45 I suggest that the chaos and the materials were there in the struggles of the Luddite decade, just as other materials and other kinds of chaos were there first in the 1930s and then in the 1950s to produce new meanings in a process that continues. (In 1973, for example, Brian Aldiss took Mary Shelley's book apart and reconstructed it in his novel Frankenstein Unbound around the notion that 'man has power to invent, but not to control.46 This is an idea which, luckily for Walton, would have sounded daft to his crew.)

What conclusions can we draw from all this? First, surely, we need to see that here as in any text there is no 'real', 'true' reading waiting for a sharp academic to nail it down for ever in the pages of a monograph; even for its own ostensible creator, Frankenstein meant certain things in 1818 and began to mean other things by 1831. A historically informed criticism needs to see those meanings not abolish them.

And then what, in the face of those meanings? S. S. Prawer concludes his study of horror movies by calling for 'standards' that will enable us to distinguish the work of the likes of James Whale from those mindlessly misusing the conventions of horror 'for the sake of profit.'47 Such a search is likely to prove futile especially if it begins with the old assumption that somehow Universal weren't trying to make a lot of money. The standards that will distinguish between meanings -- that will struggle for some and that will detect but resist others -- are politically informed ones; standards that are based on a politics that knows where meanings come from and where they lead and is not afraid to fight on the grounds of that knowledge.48


1. Details from W. H. Lyles, Mary Shelley: An Annotated Bibliography (New York 1975), and Peter Haining (ed.), The Frankenstein File (1977).

2. See in particular Tony Bennett, Formalism and Marxism (1979), Chapters 7, 8, and 9; Catherine Belsey, Critical Practice (1980), Chapters 2 and 6; and Terry Eagleton, Walter Benjamin: Or Towards a Revolutionary Criticism (1981), Part II, Chapter 3.

3. D.W. Harding, 'The Character of Literature from Blake to Byron' in Boris Ford (ed.), The Pelican Guide to English Literature: Volume 5 from Blake to Byron (Harmondsworth, 1957), p 45.

4. See, for example, Ellen Moers, Literary Women (1977); Kate Ellis, 'Monsters in the Garden; Mary Shelley and the Bourgeois Family' in George Levine and U. C. Knoepflmacher (eds.), The Endurance of Frankenstein: Essays on Mary Shelley's Novel (Berkeley, 1979); and Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (Yale, 1979).

5. Quoted in Phillip Simpson, 'Presentness Precise: Notes on The History Man', Screen, Vol. 23 no. I (May/June 1982), p 25.

6. Bertolt Brecht, Life of Galileo, tr. John Willett (1980), p 125.

7. Jane Dunn, Moon in Eclipse: A Life of Mary Shelley (1978), pp 131 and 134.

8. Christopher Small, Ariel Like a Harpy: Shelley, Mary and Frankenstein (1972), p 331.

9. Martin Tropp, Mary Shelley's Monster (Boston, 1976), p 156.

10. Malcolm I. Thomis, The Luddites: Machine-Breaking in Regency England (1970), p 144.

11. The Making of the English Working Class (Harmondsworth, 1968), p 733.

12. Frederick L. Jones (ed.), The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, volume 1: Shelley in England (1964), p 351.

13. Roger Ingpen and Walter E. Peck (eds.), The Complete Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley: Volume VI (1965), p 81.

14. See Child of Light: A Reassessment of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1951), Chapter 11.

15. Betty T. Bennett (ed.), The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: Volume I: 'A Part of the Elect' (Baltimore, 1980), p 36.

16. Moon in Eclipse, p 134.

17. The Letter of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: Volume I, p 138.

18. Ibid., p 49.

19. For details, see Appendix C of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, ed. M. K. Joseph (1969). All subsequent references are to the text are to this edition.

20. See Elizabeth Nitchie, Mary Shelley, Author of Frankenstein (Connecticut, 1953), pp 26-33.

21. See, for example, Tropp, p 82, and Mary Poovey, 'My Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley and the Feminization of Romanticism', PMLA, 95 (May 1980).

22. Ariel Like a Harpy p 328.

23. See 'Mary Shelley's Monster Politics and Psyche in Frankenstein' [Lee Sterrenburg] in Levine and Knoepflmacher, op. cit.

24. Mary Barton (Harmondsworth, 1970), pp 219-20.

25. Quoted in Appendix IV, 'The Stage History of Frankenstein', Nitchie, p 221.

26. For details, see Mary Poovey, op. cit.

27. The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell: Volume II: My Country Right or Left 1940-1943, eds. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus (1968), pp 334-35.

28. See the concluding chapter 'Towards a Theory of the Gothic' in Punter, The Literature of Terror, A History of Gothic Fictions from 1765 to the Present Day (1980).

29. New Statesman (30 January 1932), p 120.

30. Punter, p 424.

31. Information from J. Douglas Gomery, 'Writing the History of the American Film Industry: Warner Brothers and Sound', Screen, Vol. 17 no. I (Spring 1976). Facts about the making of the Universal Frankenstein in this Section are derived from Haining, op. cit.; Levine and Knoepflmacher, op. cit.; Paul M. Jensen, Boris Karloff and His Films (New Jersey, 1974); and Donald F. Glut, Classic Movie Monsters (New Jersey, 1978).

32. See, respectively, Tropp, pp 87 and 90; David Pirie, A Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema 1946-1972 (1973), p 69; and Jensen, p 30.

33. Tropp, p 97.

34. Jensen, p 41.

35. Tropp, p 93.

36. S. S. Prawer, Caligari's Children: The Film as Tale of Terror ( 1980), p 22.

37. Jensen, p 44.

38. Quoted in Prawer, p 241.

39. See Pirie, p 26.

40. Allan Eyles, Robert Adkinson and Nicholas Fry (eds.), The House of Horror: The Story of Hammer Films (1973), p 16.

41. See for example, Pirie, pp 69 ff.; Tropp, pp 125 ff.; Donald Glut, 'Peter Cushing: Doctor Frankenstein I Presume' in Haining, op. cit.; and Albert J. LaValley, 'The Stage and Film Children of Frankenstein: A Survey' in Levine and Knoepflmacher, op. cit.

42. Quoted in Eyles et al., p 15.

43. Quoted in Jensen, p 35.

44. Tribune, for example, found the movie 'depressing' and 'degrading', and for C. A. Lejeune in The Observer it was 'among the half-dozen most repulsive films I have encountered'. The inadequacy of a dismissal of horror stories as merely escapist has recently been powerfully argued by Rosemary Jackson, Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion (1981).

45. For evidence of Mary Shelley's forgetfulness of her literary sources, see James Rieger, 'Dr. Polidori and the Genesis of Frankenstein, Studies in English Literature 3 (Autumn 1963), pp 461-72.

46. Frankenstein Unbound (1982 edition), p 77.

47. Prawer, p 279.

48. My thanks are due to my English Literature colleagues in the Department of Humanities at Oxford Polytechnic who discussed and helpfully criticised an early draft of this article.