Ever since Mary Shelley first cooked up the idea for the Frankenstein Monster we, as a horror-loving public, have been hooked. The apocryphal story of the moaning-one's creation may be as tall of a tale as 'Frankenstein' itself, but it lends to the drama of the story. A dark and stormy night, Mary Shelley hanging out with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron, sipping some drinks, challenging each other to create the perfect horror story. And then, late at night, Mary Shelley dreams of a groaning man made of dead flesh! A long chain from novel to play to films and other media have brought us, today, to the release of I, Frankenstein, a post-apocolyptic thriller starring the hulking monstrosity. No ensuing portrayal of the monster will match the terror of Shelley's first nightmare. But many have followed, and today we're taking a look at a few of our favorite depictions of Frankenstein's Monster.
Charles Stanton Ogle in 'Frankenstein' (1910)
We can't have a list like this without giving a shout-out to the first, and possibly one of the creepiest-looking, depictions of the monster. Though considered lost for many years, the 16 minute silent film Frankenstein has been found, is fantastic, and is the first attempt to film the novel. Though the plot is short and sickly sweet (Frankenstein banishes the monster from reality through his love for his new bride), the monster is a lumbering mess. This is a far cry from the near-handsome Karloff depiction, and its one of the reasons we love Ogle as the monster.
Boris Karloff in 'Frankenstein' (1931)
Imagine what a shock it would have been, sitting in a movie theater late November, 1931. The room goes dark, the film begins, Edward Van Sloan warns audiences that this film might horrify them, and then it begins. At this point in history I can't imagine a world without Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster. It is so ingrained in my cultural landscape, along with Bella Lugosi as Dracula, that it's hard to picture seeing this for the first time. The posters were sensational, the movie was a masterpiece, and Karloff provided more empathy and pathos in his portrayal of the monster than any that have followed. This was like lightning striking: the perfect director, the perfect horror film, the perfect actor for the job.
Koji Furuhata in 'Frankenstein Conquers the World' (1965)
Whoa, what a storyline on this Toho monster movie. This Kaiju film starts during the end of World War II, with Axis forces seizing the "immortal heart of Frankenstein." Years later, we cut to a wild child running around the streets of Hiroshima, growing stronger from food and radiation. Eventually, that kid turns into a giant version of Frankenstein, and just in time, too, as the classic Toho monster Baragon begins to rampage across Japan. In one of the most awesome showdowns in Frankenstein's history, he beats the crap out of Baragon and they both get sucked into a hole in the earth. The End.
Tom Noonan in 'The Monster Squad' (1987)
Sure Noonan's monster may be the lackey to Dracula, but in this late '80's horror/comedy he's one of the best characters in the story. Tom Noonan, a horror and genre mainstay, was perfectly cast of the lumbering hulk with a heart of gold. When Dracula and company return to earth from limbo and attempt to terrorize, it's up to a gang of plucky kids to save the day. And without the help of Frankenstein's monster at the end of the film, we'd all be in pretty big trouble. Look at that adorable Frankenstein face! How can you say no to that big lug?
Robert De Niro in 'Mary Shelley's Frankenstein' (1994)
And the award for fleshiest Frankenstein's monster goes to… Robert De Niro. In this Kenneth Branagh directed adaptation cast and crew strive to be as faithful to the source material as possible. The result, unfortunately, was a crazy monster movie starring an amazing monster. De Niro is irresistible to watch (even though he is disgusting to behold) but the scope of the film is a bit too huge. That being said, if you've never seen this version of the tale you have to check it out. If for the sole reason that Robert De Niro plays Frankenstein's monster. What?
Will I, Frankenstein hold up among these stellar (and weird) entries into the franchise? Will Aaron Eckhart be able to pull compassion from the withered corpse of Frankenstein's monster? Time will tell, and until we see it, we'll just keep watching Monster Squad.