Movies of Frankenstein

The century-long success of the stage adaptations of Frankenstein made it a natural choice for filmmakers. The list of movies 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: Stephen 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), as well as 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 the 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.

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Directed by J. Searle Dawley, starring Augustus Phillips (Frankenstein), Charles Stanton Ogle (the Creature), and Mary Fuller. Edison Film Company.

In this silent short, the first film version of Frankenstein, Frankenstein creates the Creature from a vat of chemicals in an early use of movie special effects. Edison's version was more faithful to the original story than many subsequent adaptations. The movie's original run went from 16 March to 31 March 1910.

Only one print of the Edison film is known to survive and is not readily available. Edison's Frankenstein (1990), a recent short film, uses stills to reconstruct the original.

This silent movie, the second film version of the novel (after Edison's Frankenstein , 1910), appeared in 1915, and was the first feature-length adaptation of Shelley's story. Life Without Soul was directed by Joseph W. Smiley, and stars Percy Darrell Standing as "the Brute Man" and William A. Cohill as Dr. William Frawley. After the Creature kills Frawley's sister, he pursues it across Europe; at the conclusion, Frawley shoots the Monster immediately before dying of exhaustion. Life Without Soul was later remade as Il Mostro di Frankenstein (1920).

The third silent film adaptation of the novel appeared in 1920, and was based on Joseph Smiley's Life Without Soul (1915). The Monster was played by Umberto Guarracino, Frankenstein by Luciano Albertini.

No prints of the film are known to exist today.

This, the most famous film version of the novel, stars Boris Karloff as the Monster and Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein [sic], with Mae Clarke (Elizabeth), John Boles, Dwight Frye (Frankenstein's hunchback assistant, Fritz), and Edward Van Sloan. Universal Studios and producer Carl Laemmle, following on the success of their Dracula (based on Bram Stoker's novel) the year before, chose director James Whale to bring Mary Shelley's novel to the screen.

The film was based on Peggy Webling's 1927 stage adaptation, with a screenplay by Robert Florey, Richard Schayer, and Garrett Fort. Two well-known actors—Bela Lugosi and John Carradine—turned down the role of the Creature, unhappy that it had no lines. Whale brought in a relative unknown, Boris Karloff, whose career was newly launched with the success of the picture.

The film's budget was $262,000, of which $10,000 was spent on special effects—an exorbitant amount at the time. Karloff made famous the makeup of Jack Pierce. Kenneth Strickfaden's fantastic electrical equipment is also among the most memorable features of the film.

Universal in fact filmed two endings, and in the end chose to release the one with the happy conclusion. The movie was hastily filmed: production began on 24 August 1931, and the movie opened on 4 November of that year. Frankenstein was an immediate sensation; drawing over one million dollars in its first run—more than twice the take of Dracula (1930)—it became one of Universal's most successful productions ever. Universal therefore featured Karloff as the Creature in two more Universal films, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and The Son of Frankenstein (1939).

The fourth Universal Frankenstein movie, following the original Frankenstein (1931), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and The Son of Frankenstein (1942). It was the first Universal movie not to star Boris Karloff as the Monster, substituting a less successful Lon Chaney, Jr.

The movie was directed by Erle C. Kenton, and the cast includes Bela Lugosi (Ygor), Sir Cedric Hardwicke (Ludwig Frankenstein), Ralph Bellamy, Lionel Atwill (Dr. Bohmer), and Evelyn Ankers.

The fifth Universal Frankenstein movie, following The Ghost of Frankenstein (1943), and one of the first to try to combine the monstrous elements of Universal's previous films. It was followed by others in the same vein, including The House of Frankenstein (1944, featuring Frankenstein's monster, the Wolf Man, Dracula, the Hunchback, and a Mad Doctor). In this movie, Lawrence Talbot, the Wolf Man, is accidentally resurrected by grave robbers; he travels to Transylvania to seek for a cure for his condition in Frankenstein's journals. While there, he encounters the Monster; after a battle, the two are swept away in the flooding caused by a burst dam.

The cast includes Bela Lugosi (as the Monster, a role he turned down for the 1931 Frankenstein ), Lon Chaney, Jr. (the Wolf Man), Lionel Atwill (the mayor), Maria Ouspenskaya (Maleva), Dennis Hoey (police investigator), and Ilona Massey (Elsa, Frankenstein's daughter). Roy William Neill directed.

Hammer Films, a British studio, produced a series of Frankenstein movies second in importance only to the Universal series initiated by Frankenstein (1931).

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), the first Frankenstein offering from Hammer Films, was directed by Terence Fisher and starred Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as the Monster. The Curse of Frankenstein grossed $7,000,000, more than any other British film of comparable production costs.

Fisher and Cushing worked together for Hammer in the next year in The Revenge of Frankenstein; Cushing appeared again (without Fisher's direction) in The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), and (once again with Fisher) in Frankenstein Created Woman (1966), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1973).

Universal's last film to include all its classic monsters: Frankenstein's Monster (Glenn Strange), Dracula (Bela Lugosi), the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.), and the Invisible Man (voice of Vincent Price). Directed by Charles Barton.

Dracula and a mad scientist—for the first time, played by a woman (Lenore Aubert)—try to transplant Lou Costello's brain into the Frankenstein Monster; it's up to the Wolf Man to foil their plot.

This movie of 1974, one of the most successful parodies of the horror film genre, was co-written by director Mel Brooks and star Gene Wilder, who plays a brain surgeon and descendant of Victor Frankenstein, Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced Frahnkensteen). It draws on the entire tradition of Frankenstein movies, but especially on the first three Universal movies starring Karloff: Frankenstein (1931), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and The Son of Frankenstein (1939).

Frankenstein, a brain surgeon who scoffs at the activities of his famous ancestor, travels to Transylvania, and there discovers the secret of creating life. Brooks used Kenneth Strickfaden's original electrical equipment from the 1931 Universal Frankenstein . The cast included Wilder, Peter Boyle (the Monster), Marty Feldman (Igor, pronounced Eye-gor), Madeline Kahn (as Elizabeth), Cloris Leachman, Terri Garr (in one of her first major roles), and Kenneth Mars.

Francis Ford Coppola produced and Kenneth Branagh directed and starred in this 1994 adaptation of the novel, a companion to Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), featuring Robert De Niro as the Creature. Though advertised as the most faithful film adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel, Branagh's film nonetheless featured significant discrepancies from the book, as well as homages to previous films, in turning a reconstructed and resurrected Elizabeth into the "Bride of Frankenstein."