Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

It’s about time to start our module on Science Fiction. The first author I’m going to introduce is Mary Shelley, the writer of Frankenstein.

The first video is a Summary of the novel you have already read 🙂 Just to revise it in a visual form.

The following videoclip is taken from “Frankenstein “the 1931 classic showing the trials and tribulations of the man and his monster, directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff and Colin Clive.

The third video is taken from Kenneth Branagh’s movie Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994 ) and it’s the scene of  The CREATION OF THE MONSTER.  Sticking close to the original novel, Kenneth Branagh guides us through the story of Frankenstein’s quest for knowledge and his creature’s search for his “father”. Director: Kenneth Branagh/Release Date: 4 November 1994starring  Robert de Niro, Kenneth Branagh and Helena Bonham Carter.

  • Assignment 1 After watching the clip answer the following questions IN YOUR NOTEBOOK.
  1. What leads to the creation of the monster?
  2. What does Dr.Frankenstein look like? How does he feel before and after the creation?
  3. What does he say DURING and AFTER his creation?
  4. Does the soundtrack contribute to the atmosphere of the scene?
  • Assignment 2  Leave your comment below answering to the following:
  • Which of the 2 monsters you have seen do you find more impressive and why?

You can also have a look at this presentation I found while surfing the net . It’s incredible how many things you come across … by pure chance!

You can also have a look at this funny website Frankenstein in 60 secondsI find the girl’s voice unbearable but you may like her. It’s a way of making  literature very easy and understandable to everybody. As I see it it’s a way of trivializing great masterpieces, not my cup of tea 😉

FOLLOW UP : watch this video published May 22 2012 & produced by Ridley Scott (director of Blade Runner, the Gladiator, Prometheus to mention just a few) PROPHETS OF SCIENCE FICTION.  You can watch it here full screen (you can adapt the quality of the video HD/High/Low according to your computer speed by clicking QUALITY   or embedded from youtube below:

    • Time required: 50 minutes
    • Do the activities  in the worksheet you’ll receive by email.

After all this work and effort you deserve a treat & a laugh: a clip from the the 1974 comically brilliant movie Frankenstein Junior. It’s a pun on the world “werewolf” (lupo-mannaro) & Where wolf? LOL Nella traduzione italiana il gioco di parole è andato perso 🙁

Last but not least! Frankenweenie (in Italian  theatres since 17 January 2013) is a 3D stop motion fantasy family film directed by Tim Burton. It is a remake of Burton’s 1984 short film of the same name and is a parody of and a homage to the 1931 film Frankenstein based on Mary Shelley’s book of the same name. Like both those films, Frankenweenie is in black and white. It is also the fourth stop-motion film produced by Burton and the first of those four that isn’t a musical. In the film, a boy named Victor loses his dog, named Sparky, and uses the power of science to resurrect him.” (Wikipedia)
Here’s the trailer. I cannot wait to see it!! Burton’s one of my favourite directors 🙂

Hope you’ve enjoyed discovering this gifted & remarkable writer whose dramatic life was so close to the fictional character she created and that was so prophetic and ahead of her time.

35 thoughts on “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

  1. I prefer the 1931 version. Just because thats exactly the Classic image that comes to mind when someone says “Frankenstein”; tall with hollow cheeks, lifeless eyes, slow movements And completely expressionless. I think it is more impressive because the atmosphere is simple. The clip is black and white with minimal music and just An utterly slow scene. Yet somehow the ignorance of how to use his own limbs let alone mind makes him terrifying to me. You have no idea how the scene may end without all the music and spooky setting to tell you in which direction it’s going. If you can scare an audience with so little at your disposal in my opinion you are the better. The newer film just doesn’t seem to fit my idea. There is so much going on so quickly that understand almost nothing of how he was created. And Dr. Frankenstein was a university student…. How on earth would he have such impressive facilities for his personal use…? That throws it off for me.

  2. Dear friends
    Thanks for your punctual 🙂 and interesting comments. I’ll try to answer to all of you at once. There’ s a certain balance in the choice of the first or second movie. Of the old one you seem to have enjoyed the b&w, the figure of the scientist ( more serious and calm, cautious and careful) and the monster seen as a naive & childish almost baby like creature approaching life full of faith and curiosity. Whale’s monster has definitely entered everybody’s imaginary and become an icon. But Kenneth Branagh, director and actor, couldn’t help creating a new updated vision of the creature!
    Of Branagh’s movie instead you have appreciated the energy, the technological impact of the setting and the horrific features of the monster that make him definitely scarier although the doctor, bare-chested and frantic, doesn’t seem to convince you as a doctor or a scientist.
    Well, I must tell you to keep in mind that at the time of Mary Shelley, the scientific experiments weren’t carried out in aseptic laboratories like today; we are talking about parts of corpses dug out at night in cemeteries (!!) and hygienic conditions that were far from the ones you are familiar with 😉 . nothing like the laboratory of Whale’s movie! Therefore Branagh wanted to show you THE HORROR and the absolute state of frenzy ( furia) of Victor who believes he can overcome his human limits but at the same time is terrified at the sight of the monster he’s created. In order to recreate the same level of horror that readers felt when reading Frankenstein’s pages in 1800, today we have to use much stronger images (De Niro’s scarred face is stunning!) music and a faster pace of action in order to shock the audience and above all to create SUSPENCE. Furthermore the doctor is bare-chested because the laboratory must have been very hot to create a life in an artificial womb filled with amniotic fluid; moreover he feels like a demigod!
    I hope you’ll find the documentary of interest and as you’re interested in science and technology, it will give you an insight in the outstanding connection between this novel and the developments of science. Has what was feared and seen as science fiction become reality?

  3. Hi!
    I enjoyed both clips.
    The first clip is the most well-known in the humanity about the creation and the monster. In this clip the monster is identical as i’ve supposed him: so high, ugly and scared of all the things around him. Nowadays this clip in my opinion is a bit anachronistic: firstly because this is a black and white clip, and then because there isn’t any kind of soundtrack.
    The second clip is more up-to-date than the first one: there is a good soundtrack, the sound is clear, it’s more animate and the process of creation is more elaborate!
    Dr. Frankeistein is younger and more good-looking than the first one.
    Finally i found more impressive the second monster because even if the fisrt creature is the ”original” one, i think that the second monster is situated in a setting more involving and more innovative.

  4. Good evening,
    i see all the two videos and i fonded them very similar for certain expects but very different for others. We all know the Frankenstein’s story but we also know her writer story, Mary Shelley. She live a life of suffering and a series of continuous unhappy ending, so i think in her life she feels some like being the poor creature defined as a monster with no place in this earth, with no peace and with a unlimited series of questions and no answers.
    The first video( “Frankenstein” 1931, directed by James Whale) make me feel all this sensations… i feel the deep lonely, the fright of seeing for the first time, the bewilderment of earing something that i haven’t heard.. the alarming sense of doubts that a normal human brain make me and everybody describe it exactly doubts. Because we BEFORE feel sensations and only THEN we give them a name, so also the creature as a child feel the basic things and show them with simple gauche movements and sad lost eyes instill in me the same emotions.
    The silence amplify the audience’s emotions in this particular case, also if it is known, this effect is product by music, but in this story.. the Silence .. is perfect.

    The second video is very similar to modern films, the sountrack give us a rhythmic sense of anxiety and make us concentrate on the mad ambitions of a brilliant scientist that doesn’t stop himself before arriving at his purpose; not to the consequences.. no to the poor creature, not to his future, so i like more the first film.
    it’s all by now, see you soon

  5. Between the two versions of the monsters I prefer the first one from James Whale’s Frankenstein. It’s not cause of the acting or the depth of the character, but mainly cause in Branagh’s clip, I can’t understand much about the monster except he was brought to life in a quite gory way and that his eyes need a night of good sleep.
    I didn’t like much the first one cause the monster was (IMO of course) too slow and it gave only a physical idea of the monster, without going much into details concerning his psychology. Even though it is probably more similar to how Mary Shelley thought of it.
    I think the most important feeling of the monster should be sadness, and none of these two videos pointed it out.

  6. I personally don’t like both of the monsters, neither the first, which seems a kind of stupid zombie, neither the second, which I don’t even saw except the eyes for just two seconds. I find it curios that actually neither of them was as I imagined, while most of the class does. Considered the fact that I’ve never seen him, I imagined him just as the writer’s description in that small paragraph we have read: Mary describes carefully his psychological part, so I figured him as a “mature child” mentally and physically grown, but ignorant and with a lot of questions. In the videos, he just seems a monster, or even a pet. However, I “less dislike” the second one, because I only have seen a small part of the monster, and maybe the film evolves better (even if frankestein doesn’t seem a scientist).
    The monster that I really liked was the one I have seen…. in the summary! That was to me a great video. Only a voice and some pictures, which leaves space to imagination in a plot where imagination is the greatest thing, and it describes the monster even in the deep of his thoughts. So, I prefer keeping this image of the monster, which leaves me more space to the psychological field. None of the monsters of the other videos were impressive in my opinion.

    • You shouldn’t have read only the extract but the whole novel! BUSTED 🙁
      Well you never know on day you’ll make your own version of the novel 🙂

  7. Well, I think that is impossible to choose the most impressive just watching that videos, because they shows different parts of the story; actually for the special effects the choice would goes to the second one but I favour the oldest one, it is absolutley unrealistic but his vintage charm beats all the special effects of the first video. For some people watching to those kind of films that could feel slow is unattractive but I really enjoy them so if I had to choose one of the two films I would prefer to see the black and white one.

  8. The monster in the first video is more impressive for me and well done, because instead of the second video, he has a scary and ugly face and he walks, he moves and it’s very similar to the image i have of Frankenstein. In fact in the second video you see the monster only in the last part and I think it’s less impressive because of you pay more attention to the creation. But if I have to compare the two videos I absolutely choose the second one: it’s seriously well done!
    In the second video of Branagh’s there’s a lot of pathos, that you don’t find in the first one maybe because it’s of a older age, and the soundtrack is great. The only lack is that you see the monster only for a few seconds and so it’s too less time to see what’s the result of a so long and intense creation, rapresented in a so good way.

  9. I find more impressive the monster of the first video because we can see him all.
    I like the first monster because he has the main characteristics that we espect from him. In this video we can’t see his creation but we can have a better idea of his behaviour and his actions. Here the moster looks like an animal from what he do and the doctor treats him like an animal too for example when he invite him to come or to sit. It must be taken into consideration that this film was maked in 1931! This monster represents the idea of the most of people of the moster in Frankenstein.
    The second video describes only the creation of the monster and has a good music and a wonderful scenario because it was done in 1994.
    Unlike the first this video has very fast actions and we can see how the monster comes to life. The thing that I didn’t like watching this video is the monster. In this video it looks like too much to a normal human from what we can see.
    So I prefer the first video for the appearance of the creature.

  10. Actually, I liked both of them, altough I generally don’t like science-fiction movies. The first, the oldest one, is more as Frankenstein’s monster is thought to be in the common imaginary: tall and strapping, slow in movements and in thinking, scared and surprised by everything around him, like a little child, and his face is exactly how Frankenstein’s is supposed to be. However I don’t agree with this version of the creature because I think it follows the stereotype of the monster/zombie, while instead Mary Shelley describes him as ABLE TO THINK, more like a sensitive, deep-minded and smart-thinking creature. I prefer the monster from the Branagha’s version because it was a bit scaring, and definitely more realistic than the other one. Also the creation itself was more realistic, with Frankenstein (by the way… doesn’t he own a shirt???) piercing body (his head!!!! gosh…) with ‘sticks’…. I swear…It made me think about a voodo ritual…a bit impressive, but realistic after all… I could see it for just few seconds but it’s definitely the best to me. For a horror/science-fiction movie I think the scarier the better, don’t you? 😉

    • You got it Gaia. The greatness of the monster is the ability to THINK, a form of artificial intelligence. Exactly what you’ll hear in the documentary. As regards the doctor, you know men ( Branagh being both director and actor) enjoy showing off their body 😉

  11. If I have to choose one of this two different monster I think that I would choose the second one because even if I only saw the face I though it was much more impressive of the first one for some reason.
    First of all the most important reason is the use of the music that in a film, especially if the author wants to make the scene with more suspence, is absolutely necessary.
    This in the first movie is completly absent and the monster that is more similar to an orangutans with his slow movements and the drawling walking makes the scene more fun than scary.
    In the film of Coppola the music is really well used to create the right atmosphere also if I would have preferred lightning to eels because they make the scene seem less credible in my opinion!
    Of the monster we can see just the face for a few second, but I think that a face full of scars is really more convincible than a single bolt in the neck!But I think that I can say that for example in the scene of frankeinstein junior of Mel Brooks everything is more balance and credible even if it wants to be a comedy! A really good and funny comedy! 😀
    So in conclusion I think the second is only a bit better because of the music and the credibility of the monster, and also because I saw a different type of doctor, alternative and certainly much more atletic than usual, a doctor that girls will surely appreciate…

    • yes women must have appreciated a good looking doctor 😉
      Eels are chosen as conductors for electrical experiments instead of frogs, as they are more disgusting to see.

  12. Hello!
    In the first video you see the monster after the completion of its creation and he is lost and follows what Dr: Frankenstein says to do. the beginning, he frightening only visually because it seems harmless. After a while when it starts to fidget and move you see he is more impressive because you see the monster that comes to mind when you think of him: big, strong, with a long face and pal: he is the Frankenstein that we all have in mind. Then the silence of the background makes the scene more strange and unexpected, because you do not know what’s going to happen and then maybe think that everything stays quiet and rather suddenly shake!
    While in the second video the tension and fear is transmitted only by the music and agitation of the doctor who runs and by the machines and lightening … the rest not because the monster is hard to see and you see for a few seconds….
    then the first is the scariest and the white and black view makes him even more disturbing!

  13. I think that the most impressive monster is the once in the second video because of the dark atmosphere and laboratory, the pressing soundtrack, the frenzy situation and the suspance that the situation create, but unfortunately we can see him only for few seconds and only the skin and an arm, and I think that isn’t like the monster that Mary Shelley had imagined.
    Accordingly the video that I like more is the first for a lot of reason:
    -the monster is more like the once I imagine and probably also seems to the once that Mary Shelley wanted to represent;
    -the scientist is more like a real scientist, he isn’t completely crazy like the once in the second video and he observes more what the monster do and try to control him.
    -the monster is more like the once in the Mary’s story, in fact he is like a children who moves carefully, who is amazed by the sun and scared by the fire and needs to try new experiences and want to knew new things.

  14. I always thought that the monster was like the monster of James Whale. I find it so funny in his moviments and also his face is very nice. I think that if Mary Shelley now is with us and wants to say to everybody how she thinks the monster should be created, she woud draw the creature in this way. It seems like a fish out of the water, it doesn’t know what to do and where to go. I think that the scene is very nice and interesting.
    The second video instead is more boring, but I think that the music is guessed and it takes your eyes to continue to watch the video. The actor chosen for the part of the doctor, I think that is wrong, because he seems more a model without the t-shirt and I think that the image of the actor has to follow the image of a crazy guy, with the beard or mustache and uncombed hair, like Einstein or sometimes Riccardo.
    We can watch the moster only for 2 or 3 seconds and I can’t comment a lot it. I find its eyes a bit angry..

    • LOL the mad scientist like Riccardo :)as I said to Gaia, Branagh director and actor is, like most men, a bit narcissistic 😉

  15. In my opinion the first video in more impressive than the second because the creature is very similiar to the stereotype that we have about Frankestein’s creature. In fact the monster is very tall, with a big head, moves his eyes in a strange way and has two bolts in the neck.
    In the second video we can see only for a few seconds the face of the creature, so we couldn’t have an exact idea on his appearence and also on his behaviour.
    In the first, we can also see how is his behaviour: he’s like a child because he must be helped in all what he do, even the easiest actions. I think it’s also like an animal because when he had seen the fire, he immediately was scared and then wanted to move it away also using violence.
    In conclusion I think that the first video make us seen the tipical figure of the creature while the second is a bit different and I think more scarying because of all his scar and his sallow skin.

  16. I think that the monster in the first clip is more common and closed to the typical characteristics of Mary Shelley than the second video. We can also compare the behavior of the monster with a behavior of a infant child who, in his first moment of life, try to walk for the first time, try to keep the moon with his hands and also is scared by the fire.
    I like very much the creation of the monster in the second video where the thunderstorm that give the life to the monster in the original novel is replaced by electrical fishes. I also like the type of soundtrack of the creation that makes suspense, anxiety and create the right atmosphere for that situation. The monster of the second video, in my opinion, doesn’t represent the original monster of Mary but is more impressive then the creature of the first clip, in particular for the scars on his face.

    • When you make a movie you can choose to stick to the original or transfer the desired aim of the novel ( here to scare people and horrify them make them Think about the DANGERS OF A WRONG USE OF SCIENCE) to a contemporary society and thus increase some feature to create the sense of horror.

    • When you make a movie you can choose to stick to the original or transfer the desired aim of the novel ( here to scare people and horrify them make them Think about the DANGERS OF A WRONG USE OF SCIENCE) to a contemporary society and thus increase some features to create the sense of horror.

  17. In the second video I could see the monster only for few seconds and not very well, I saw only a pale skin and a lot of scars. So I found more impressive the monster of the first clip: if you say to me to imagine the figure of Frankenstein’s monster I immediately visualize him like this. In the first video he’s the classical Monster, with a pale skin, a high forehead, black hair and a trimmed short fringe, the hollow eyes and the mouth very sad, with the two famous bolts on his neck and very tall. He seems lost, submissive and looking for the acceptance of his creator, surprised and at the same time frightened by everything that surrounds him. Anyway I found the first video very dull and I liked more the second one, because it was involving, also through the soundtrack.

  18. The first video is dated 1931 and I think there are some inaccuracies: some film shots can be reviewed but most of all the absence of music is a serious lack because music in these scenes is crucial. While the second video for me is too chaotic, there are too many actions connected that sincerely are very hard to believe, I imagined a small laboratory, dark with a few machinery, but also much more rudimentary. The figure of Dr. Frankenstein is very different in the two videos. In the second video it is not credible because he is too handsome and I don’t understand why he is bare chest. The monster is essentially similar in the two scenes. In the second video it is almost absent, you see him only at the end when he opens his eyes; in the first I didn’t find it so impressive because it seemed too out of place. In Frankenstein’s story we can see that the monster is not absolutely stupid but it is very clever and very smart, while in the 1931 scene it is absolutely the opposite. In conclusion, I did not find either of the monster very impressive nos the scientist credible.

  19. I think that the most impressive is the second one.
    Because in the first video there’s not a soundtrack. The monster is shown immediately and you can see all his body. In this way you have not the anxiety to say “what will he do?” or ” what will happen now?”. You can understand easily that is an innocent creature and that he will not do nothing of bad because is too much slow and clumsy.
    Instead, in the second video, firstly have a soundtrack and then you can’t see the monster. During the trailer you see only part of his body, and you can create an image on your head and this contribute to improve the suspense. Then the cables that are connected him and the image of this body into a bathtub create a right atmosphere to impress the viewer. In the end the eyes of the monster are more realistic and also his scars have a scary effect.
    So for this reason in my opinion the second one is more impressive and then interesting to watch.

  20. The two monsters are very different. Firstly i think that the creation of Branagh isn’t useful to understand how is the monster because we can see only his face. While in the other video made by James Whale there is the monster already born and we can see it better. The exterior aspect of the first monster is quite ridiculous, his forehead is huge and his screw in the neck is very funny, he doesn’t look like a true human . He looks stunned, his movements are slow and clusmy, he seems a baby or a drunk man. At the end of the video the monster is scared for the fire like an animals, this thing is great to underline that the monster is just born. The second video is great for the music and the laboratory of Frankestein that is full of amazing things; it’s very engaging and eventful. I appreciate the scene of born, that the eels are electrified and they transfer the electricity to the monster to make the life. The monster of Branagh is more similar than the first one, it looks like a really human only a bit disfigured. Some time ago I watched all the movies and I found it realistic and original and the interpretation of De Niro is perfect. In the end i prefer the monster of Branagh for the realism and also for the film, the other one is really boring!!

  21. I found both clips impressive. In the first one the Creature was exactly like the one that everybody know : really tall, pail with short blak hair, scars all over the body and a big screw screwed thru his head. He’s tremendously ugly and strong and also quite dumb. Anyway I found also a weak side of the Creature which I didn’t expect he’s sceared of fire and people. Dr.Frankenstein in the first clip looks much different from what I thought: he was really young and very done up And in health.
    The second video instead was even more impressive, I enjoyed a lot all the mechanism of the machine, unfortunatly the Creature wasn’t very clear in the clip, but I’m quite sure it wasn’t pretty. The thing that really surprized me was Dr.Frankenstein who was tunned bare-chested with long brown hair And he looked fit and in health, he was more like Robinson Crusoe than Dr.Frankenstein.
    So just to conclude I found more impressive the second clip because I didn’t expect the character of the doctor was like that.

  22. I definitely like more the first monster and in general the first clip: that’s the most common image of the monster, I’ve always imagined the monster with that face and I think it’s the closest to Mary Shelley’s idea.
    It’s not just the face, also the movements are realistic: watching the monster remind me of an infant child, he’s slow, scared, clumsy in the movements and he doesn’t know what’s happening around him. Also when he sees the fire he’s like a child: he’s scared, because he doesn’t know what’s that thing and he tries to stay away from it. Actually he’s a bit stronger than an infant child and so the consequences are different.
    I found interesting the fact that doctor Frankenstein refers to the monster using “it” and not “he”: it’s strange, because it’s true that he’s a monster, but it’s his monster, his creature, and in fact he tries to take care of him, but anyway he calls him with “it”.
    The second clip is completely different, we see the monster just in few frames and so it’s hard to have a clear idea about him. The scene is centred more on the doctor, who by the way I don’t like: he seems more an athlete than a scientist!

  23. After I watched the two clip I have found more impressive the second monster because of his feature(all those scars on his dead body white complexion!!),even if I could notice that just for few seconds!! I think also that the atmosphere made by the dark room full of technology in which the monster comes to life and the pressing soundtrack produces a feel of worrying and disquieting.
    However, the imagine of Dr. Frankenstein given by the second video doesn’t match with my idea of the main character ,which I think it’s also the one of the author. I think of Dr. Frankenstein as a cautious, careful and quiet man who owns a good ability of observation. In fact we can notice these features in the first video and not in the second, in which he runs and jumps without a shirt, exsulting for his success. I also appreciate how the monster is represented in the first clip: he looks like a baby who is amazed by all the inputs that come from the world, like the light and the fire. He tries reacting to them but he doesn’t know how. Just marvelous!!:)

  24. Honestly watching the two videos, I do not have an idea about the monster, because in either he appears only for a few moments.
    In the first the monster appeared just for 1-2 seconds and then the video stopped, and I’m sorry of not seeing it fully!!!
    However, in the second video you can see, at least, part of the steps in the creation of the monster, and see how to give life to the creature can be a little impressive, although personally I was’nt too much impressed .

  25. In the “old” film, in my opinion, Frankenstein is more like the creature invented by Mary Shelley. He is like a newborn body, afraid of his surrowding ( the people, the light, the fire).
    On the other hand, in the modern version of Frankenstein, the monster, the Doctor and the setting isn’t faithful to Mary Shelley’s imagination. But I’d rather have the second video because, even though it doesn’t represent an accurate account of the original story, it’s more exciting with the soundtrack and the action of the two actors.
    However, as part of my studies on English literature, in particular Mary Shelley, I’d like to watch the “old” film too because it’s certainly worth considering for its historical value like Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle, and also because I’m fascinated by black and white movies.

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