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The Evolution of Frankenstein Movies

Writer: Casey Chong


James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe in "Victor Frankenstein".

Over the last century, Mary Shelley's famous Gothic novel, "Frankenstein" has seen numerous big-screen incarnations that came forth all the way from the silent era to the golden age of black-and-white genre classics by the likes of James Whale's "Frankenstein" and its superior sequel, "Bride Of Frankenstein".

The iconic movie monster subsequently appeared in full colour during the late 50s, and continues to evolve from time to time until today.

This year, the age-old Frankenstein story makes a comeback with Paul McGuigan's "Victor Frankenstein", which stars James McAvoy as the title character and Daniel Radcliffe as the young assistant Igor.

To coincide with "Victor Frankenstein", let's take a look back at some of the key Frankenstein movies of the past.

1. Frankenstein (1931)

Boris Karloff and Marilyn Harris in the legendary scene from "Frankenstein".

Although Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" had already been adapted two decades earlier as a 16-minute short film of the same name, it was James Whale's version that sealed the deal as the granddaddy of all "Frankenstein" movies. Highly regarded as one of the best monster/horror movies of all time, this definitive 1931 black-and-white classic was famously known for the controversial scene where the Monster (Boris Karloff) throws a little girl named Maria (Marilyn Harris) into the lake and accidentally drowns her.

2. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Elsa Lanchester and Boris Karloff in "Bride of Frankenstein".

It's very rare that a horror sequel could top, let alone equal the success of the first movie. But director James Whale did it again in "Bride of Frankenstein", which was highly regarded as one of the greatest sequels ever made in Hollywood history. Once again, Boris Karloff breathes life in reprising his iconic role as the unnamed Monster and he was well-matched with Elsa Lanchester, who played a dual role as the Monster's mate and Mary Shelley. "Bride of Frankenstein" had everything a true horror fan could ask for: it was funny, satirical, campy, surrealistic, tragic and haunting all rolled into one unique piece of work.

3. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

It's Frankenstein vs. The Wolf Man!

Although the reviews were mixed upon the movie's original release back in 1943, it was still noted as a bold, yet creative attempt of combining two of the studio's (Universal) most popular monsters – Frankenstein's monster (Bela Lugosi) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney) – into one movie. Yup, the monster vs. monster smackdown had already long existed way before like-minded horror movies like "Freddy vs. Jason" ruled the cinemas in the modern era. Then, the same decade throughout the 1940s saw an increasing trend of monster movie mashups, including "House of Frankenstein" (1944), "House of Dracula" (1945) and "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948).

4. The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957)

Christopher Lee as the mute Monster in "The Curse of Frankenstein".

A technical breakthrough from the usual black-and-white offering, "The Curse of Frankenstein" marked the first "Frankenstein" movie that featured the iconic movie monster in the full glory of Technicolor! It was also the first "Frankenstein" movie made by Hammer Films, which would dominate the Gothic horror genre over the next 10 years. The movie was notable for Phil Leakey's realistic make-up effect of the monster as well as Christopher Lee's groundbreaking performance as the mute Monster.

5. Young Frankenstein (1974)

Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle in the scene from "Young Frankenstein".

In 1974, writer-director Mel Brooks hit the jackpot with a highly-entertaining western parody, "Blazing Saddles". Then in the same year, Brooks tried his hand on spoofing the horror genre and he did it with flying colours in "Young Frankenstein". The cast, especially Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein and Peter Boyle as the Monster, were both excellent.

6. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)

Robert De Niro as The Creature in the scene from "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein".

Highly regarded as the most faithful movie adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel of the same name, Kenneth Branagh's version saw the director himself playing the role of Victor Frankenstein and Robert De Niro as The Creature. The movie was notable for its Oscar-nominated make-up effects that managed to turn the famous face of Robert De Niro into a hideous-looking movie monster.

7. Van Helsing (2004)

Frankenstein's Monster (Shuler Hensley) in the scene from "Van Helsing".

Although "Van Helsing" wasn't really a Frankenstein movie front and center, it's difficult to ignore this big-budget reimagining of Universal's classic horror characters. Critics may have trashed the movie, but it still managed to make a sizable amount of money at the worldwide box office.

8. Frankenweenie (2012)

Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) and his beloved dog Sparky
in the scene from "Frankenweenie".

A feature-length remake of Tim Burton's 1984 short film of the same name, "Frankenweenie" was a loving tribute to the classic monster movie (in this case, "Frankenstein") made into a unique stop-motion animation. Interestingly enough, Tim Burton was daring enough to shoot his animation in black and white, particularly in today's era where many young generations are so obsessed with vivid colour.

"Victor Frankenstein" opens in cinemas nationwide on 26 November.

Cinema Online, 25 November 2015

Related Movies:
Victor Frankenstein (26 Nov 2015)



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