Contents Index

Movies of Frankenstein

The century-long success of the stage adaptations of Frankenstein made it a natural choice for filmmakers. The list of mvoies based, however indirectly, on Mary Shelley's novel stretches into the hundreds.

The first film treatment of the novel was a seven-minute silent short from the Edison Film Company, entitled simply Frankenstein (1910). It was followed by a number of silent movies, including Life Without Soul (1915) and Il Mostro di Frankenstein (1920).

But the silents were merely preludes to the explosion of cinematic Frankensteins. The tremendous success of the 1931 Frankenstein, directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff and Colin Clive, spawned a host of successors: Steven Jones, in The Illustrated Frankenstein Movie Guide, counts over four hundred film adaptations of the novel.

The hundreds of B-movie adaptations include Universal's Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957), Frankenstein Conquers the World (1964; a Japanese horror film in which a young man eats Frankenstein's radioactive heart and grows to fifty feet), and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1965).

In 1957, Terence Fisher directed the first Frankenstein adaptation for Hammer Films, The Curse of Frankenstein, starring Peter Cushing; it was followed by a long string of successful movie versions.

The "original" movie lent itself not only to further adaptations but to radical mutations of genre. A long tradition of comic films began immediately after the Universal film's opening in 1931 and continued through Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) and Young Frankenstein (1974). Maniac (1934), also released under the title Sex Maniac, was the first explicitly erotic adaptation, and stands in a line including House on Bare Mountain (1962), The Curious Dr. Humpp (1967), Fanny Hill Meets Dr. Erotico (1967), Hollow-My-Weanie, Dr. Frankenstein (1969), Dr. Penetration (1986), and Sex Scientist (1993, featuring Dr. Spankingtime's creation of a nymphomaniac). Woody Allen combined the comic and pornographic traditions in Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972), in which the mad sexologist Dr. Bernardo creates a fifty-foot killer breast.

The "Blaxploitation" fad of the early 1970s brought about Blackenstein (1972), in which Dr. Stein's DNA experimentation on a Vietnam veteran results in an intestine-eating monster sporting a square afro.

Recent years have seen a steady stream of adaptations, including the cable television Frankenstein (1992; directed by David Wickes, starring Patrick Bergen as Frankenstein and Randy Quaid as the Monster) and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994; directed by Kenneth Branagh).

Rhino Video's Frankenstein: A Cinematic Scrapbook (1990) includes the trailers of dozens of movies based on Frankenstein, including all the Universal and Hammer films.