The Frankenstein Page
This page was intended to accompany discussion of Mary Wollstonecraft
Shelley's novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818;
revised 1831) in courses I teach. Occupying as it does a bridge between Romanticism and Victorianism, and between "high"
and "popular" art, this novel has reverberated in our consciousness ever
since. It has inspired scores of horror and science fiction films; every
mad scientist probably owes something to desperate Victor Frankenstein in
his ghastly laboratory, and every angst-ridden android or product of
genetic engineering probably echoes the Byronic anguish of Victor's
misbegotten creature. Yet we don't simply regard from a safe distance this
tale of terror concocted on a dare by Percy Shelley's teenaged bride while
the Shelleys, Lord Byron, and John Polidori were visiting Byron's Italian
estate. We talk about cloning, artificial intelligence, mapping the human
genome: contemporary scientists are playing with the building blocks of
life in ways Mary Shelley and her creation Victor Frankenstein probably
couldn't dream of, and with consequences as tragic....? Who can say. This
site will develop over time, to include more commentary and perhaps more
links. If you have any suggestions, please don't hesitate to e-mail me at
email@example.com (you must put G.M. Baxter's Frankenstein Page in the subject line), and thank you!
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Frankenstein at Wikipedia.
For detailed information on all films and personnel listed below, visit
The Internet Movie Database. Both lists
are highly selective, so if you realize that Frankenstein and the
Monster from Hell isn't here, I realize it too (though it is worth
noting that the creature in this one is played by David Prowse, the very
tall British actor who stalked around in Darth Vader's costume in the
Star Wars movies).
This first category is of films based, however loosely, on Shelley's
novel or the story of its production.
- Frankenstein (1931) dir. James Whale; with Boris Karloff as the
creature and Colin Clive as the doctor.
- Frankenstein (1994) dir. Kenneth Branagh; with Robert DeNiro (the
creature), Kenneth Branagh (Victor Frankenstein), Helena Bonham Carter
(Elizabeth), Tom Hulce (Henry Clerval), John Cleese (Professor Waldman),
and Aidan Quinn (Captain Walton).
- Bride of Frankenstein (1935) dir. James Whale; with Boris
Karloff, Colin Clive, Dwight Frye, Valerie Hobson, and Elsa Lanchester as
- The Bride (1985) dir. Frank Roddam; with Sting ("Charles"
Frankenstein), Jennifer Beals (the bride), Clancy Brown ("Viktor," the
creature), Anthony Higgins (Clerval), Geraldine Page and David
- Frankenstein (TV 1973) dir. Jack Smight; written by Don
Bachardy and Christopher Isherwood; with Leonard Whiting (Victor
Frankenstein), David McCallum (Clerval), Tom Baker (Captain), Nicola
Pagett (Elizabeth), Michael Sarrazin (Creature), and John Gielgud.
- Frankenstein (TV 1984) dir. James Omerod; with Robert Powell,
David Warner, Carrie Fisher, John Gielgud.
- Frankenstein (TV 1992) dir. David Wickes; with Patrick Bergin
(Victor Frankenstein), Randy Quaid (the creature), John Mills, Fiona
Gillies, Lambert Wilson.
- Frankenstein Unbound dir. Roger Corman; with Michael Hutchence
(Percy Shelley), John Hurt, Raul Julia, Bridget Fonda, Jason Patric.
- Gothic (1986) dir. Ken Russell; with Gabriel Byrne (Byron),
Julian Sands (Shelley), Natasha Richardson (Mary) and Timothy Spall
- Haunted Summer (1988) dir. Ivan Passer; with Philip Anglim,
Laura Dern, Alice Krige, Eric Stoltz, Alex Winter.
This next list is a motley collection, including TV episodes, more
movies, novels, and so on, not directly inspired by Shelley's novel, but
certainly exploring its themes of ambition, identity, and responsibility.
- Blade Runner (1982); dir. Ridley Scott; with Harrison Ford,
Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Brion James and Joanna
Cassidy. Based on Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric
- Edward Scissorhands (1991) dir. Tim Burton; with Johnny Depp,
Vincent Price, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest and Alan Arkin.
- Gattaca (1997) dir. Andrew Niccol; with Ethan Hawke, Uma
Thurman, Alan Arkin, Jude Law, Loren Dean and Gore Vidal.
- Jurassic Park (1993) dir. Steven Spielberg; with Jeff
Goldblum, Sam Neill and Laura Dern.
- Gods and Monsters (1998); with Ian McKellen as James
Whale. About an episode in the later life of the man who directed the
- The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgement Day
(1991) both dir. James Cameron; with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda
- Star Trek: In both classic and contemporary form, this series
has often been concerned with the creation of life through what we might
call alternative reproduction technologies, and the development of
identity on the part of the resulting life forms. Two sample episodes:
"Requiem for Methuselah" (1966-70 series), a rare gem of the generally
abysmal third season, in which an apparently immortal man, having
witnessed much of human history, retreats to a solitary world and
constructs an android protégé/mate. His attempt to awaken
her emotions through exposure to visitors backfires tragically. "The
Offspring" (Next Generation): The episodes dealing with Data's
creation, and that of his brother, obviously owe something to the
Frankenstein motif; this sensitive tale treats Data's own attempt to
create an android daughter, whom he names Lal, and who ultimately cannot
deal with her difference from others aboard the Enterprise during her
difficult road into sentience.
- The X-Files: "The Postmodern Prometheus," homage both to old
black and white mad-scientist/monster movies, and to contemporary trash
TV, in which Scully and Mulder confront the consequences of a desperate
experiment resulting in a son only a mother (or in this case, a father)
could love. While the frame suggests that the entire story is a fantasy
existing outside the general narrative arc of the series, it does reflect
in interesting ways on the show's preoccupation with the limits of
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Copyright 1999-2008 by Gisèle Baxter. All rights reserved.
This page was last updated on 10 January 2008.