Adaptation of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Universal Studios

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Arguably, the two most famous film adaptations of Frankenstein are Frankenstein, directed by James Whale and produced by Universal Studios in 1931, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, directed by Kenneth Branagh and produced by TriStar Pictures in 1994. In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, the Monster’s eloquence and persuasiveness make it easier for the reader to sympathize with him, yet, in most film versions of the story the Monster is portrayed as mute or inarticulate and basically inhuman. Whale’s film completely dehumanizes the Monster, however, it is mostly based on a stage play that was adapted from the novel. Branagh’s version follows the book rather well and the Monster is more accurate than any other film adaptation, but still lacks a certain amount of humanity that inspires sympathy for his plight. While both films display aspects of the novel that lead the viewer to some of the same conclusions that Shelley leads her readers too, they both fail to completely capture the Monster’s humanity.
In the novel, Shelley leaves plenty to the reader’s imagination. This is not surprising, considering it was meant to be a “ghost story” project with Lord Byron and other writers and poets (Shelley, intro). Shelley never goes into detail about how Victor acquires the body and subsequent materials for his creation experiment, just that he went to the graveyard and charnel and slaughter houses (Shelley, intro). A brain is never mentioned in the text of the novel and she never describes the process Victor uses to create the Monster, but there are hints in the introduction and Vol. 1 about galvanism and alchemic processes (Shelley intro). Though Victor denies Captain Walton the secret to creation he discovers, the hints that it is indeed l...

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...tly heartbreaking as the Monster, consumed by grief and anger, desperately swims to the ice raft, torch in hand, to be with his father in death. This stirs up great amounts of sympathy and empathy for the Monster and even shows a glimpse of his humanity at its most painful, but at the same time he is “done with man” (Mary) and becomes an “outsider too grotesque, too freakish to reside in human society” (Snodgrass).
Many critics agree that Frankenstein is, and always will be, a difficult piece to capture on film. Whale’s Frankenstein will always hold a special place in the hearts of film makers and horror fans alike and Branagh’s version still holds the title of “most loyal” to the original novel. Both Whale and Branagh changed Shelley’s vision. Though they did not strive to make the Monster more “monstrous” they simply made him more than a man, but less than human.

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