Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Celebrate Mary Shelley’s Birthday: Watch Frankenstein!

posted by Nell Minow

Mary Shelley, daughter of two leading intellectuals and wife of a brilliant poet, was a teenager when she was challenged to write a ghost story and came up with one of the most enduring and often-filmed scary stories of all time, now considered the first true science fiction novel as well. She called it Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. And, as we all now know, it is the story of a scientist who tries to triumph over death by creating life. On screen, Frankenstein and his creation have co-starred with everyone from Abbott and Costello to Alvin the Chipmunk. The monster has been played by Boris Karloff, Robert DeNiro, Randy Quaid, David Warner, Tom Noonan, Peter Boyle, Michael Sarrazin, Lon Chaney, Jr., David Prowse (the actor who played Darth Vader) and John Cleese and inspired the character of Herman Munster, played by Fred Gwynne.

We Belong Dead: Frankenstein On Film is a good resource for the movie versions of Mary Shelley’s story. Some of the best Frankensteins include:

Frankenstein (1931) The James Whale-directed classic starring Boris Karloff is an unquestioned masterpiece of mood and filled with iconic moments.

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) Whale and Karloff returned with this sequel, which many consider even scarier. Elsa Lanchester plays both Mary Shelley and the title character. Whale’s skill at making the story not just horror but tragedy makes this a compelling film that transcends genre.

Gods and Monsters (1998) This is not the story of Frankenstein but the story of James Whale (brilliantly played by Ian McKellan), whose depiction of Shelley’s story would be as influential in the 20th century as her book was in the 19th. The re-creations of the scenes from Whale’s films are meticulous and illuminating.

Young Frankenstein (1974) This loving spoof of Shelley and Whales has a hilarious script by Mel Brooks (who directed) and Gene Wilder (who starred as Dr. Fronk-en-STEEN). As influenced by Whales as by Shelley, this wildly funny film used some of Whale’s original sets and props.

Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) Brook and Wilder were not the first to see the comic possibilities in a monster film. Abbott and Costello run into a whole bunch of movie monsters with a lot of silly, Scooby-Doo-style scares.

And be sure to check out the Frankensteinia blog, which is a tribute to all things Frankenstein.



  • jestrfyl

    I was once told of a Lenten spirituality program that was based on “Frankenstein”. Though I am totally intrigued by the prospect, the person who told me about it could never find the resources used. So once in a while I sit and ponder how Lenten themes can be attached to this simple but amazing novel, and all the adaptations ever since. So far, nothing has worked. So if anyone knows of such a program, I would be very interested to learn about it.
    “Gods and Monsters” is an excellent inclusion in this list!
    When I was a kid Karloff was considered in the same hushed tones of reverence and awe as JFK and Mickey Mantle.

  • Alicia

    “Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein” is a very funny movie. All the movies on this list are great.
    (It’s too bad that the film version of “Arsenic and Old Lace” cast Raymond Massey in the role that should have gone to Karloff!)

  • Droon1

    I like all the Frankenstein film but have to say that I love the book a whole lot more. Nothing beats the original story which a lot of the films don’t in-keep with sadly

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    You’re right, Droon! The book is far more complex and provocative. But as is always the case, you have to think of the book and movie as if they came from separate planets, which in a way they do.

Previous Posts

Does PG-13 Mean Anything Anymore?
The Washington Post has an article about a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, "Parental Desensitization to Violence and Sex in Movies," with some disturbing conclusions about parents' ability to make good decisions about the impact some media may have on their children. This is not

posted 8:00:58am Oct. 25, 2014 | read full post »

Is E-Reading to Kids the Same as Analog Reading?
The New York Times asks, Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time? In a 2013 study, researchers found that children ages 3 to 5 whose parents read to them from an electronic book had lower reading comprehension than children whose parents used traditional books. Part of th

posted 8:00:40am Oct. 25, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Todd and Jedd Wider about the Bullying Documentary "Mentor"
Producers Todd and Jedd Wider generously took time to answer my questions about their documentary, "Mentor," the story of two teenagers who committed suicide following relentless bullying. The film, which received Honorable Mention for Best Documentary Feature at the 2014 Woodstock Film Festival th

posted 3:56:57pm Oct. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Clip: Tinkerbell and the Legend of the NeverBeast
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/ApzHJhZz2JQ" frameborder="0"] The latest in Disney's animated Tinkerbell series adds Ginnifer Goodwin to the cast. Coming in March of 2015, it explores the ancient myth of a mysterious creature whose distant roar sparks the curiosity

posted 1:23:59pm Oct. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: "Avatar" Villain Stephen Lang on Playing a Good Guy Coach in "23 Blast"
Stephen Lang is best known for playing the villain in "Avatar." But in "23 Blast," based on the real-life story of Travis Freeman, a high school football player who lost his vision but stayed on the team, Lang plays a good guy, the coach who encouraged and supported him. I talked to Lang about actin

posted 5:56:30am Oct. 24, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.