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Frankenstein Comparisons

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James Whale's Frankenstein is a VERY loose adaptation of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel. The spirit of the film is preserved in its most basic sense, but the vast majority of the story has been entirely left out, which is unfortunate. The monster, for example, who possesses tremendous intellect in the novel and who goes on an epic quest seeking acceptance into the world in which he was created, has been reduced to little more than a lumbering klutz whose communication is limited to unearthly shrieks and grunts. Boris Karloff was understandably branded with the performance after the film was released, because it was undeniably a spectacular performance, but the monster's character was severely diminished from the novel.

James Whale's adaptation of the story of Frankenstein, while it is clearly and deservedly a horror classic, is tremendously less than it could have and SHOULD have been. There are unexplainable deviations from the novel, such as the fact that Dr. Frankenstein's name was, for some reason, changed from Victor in the novel to Henry in the film, and the film itself really only covers about a quarter to a third of one chapter in the book - that's how much has been left out. There was probably only about 5% or 6% of the full story included in this film, and I am willing to guess that the sheer magnitude of ignored material in the original story is at least as much of a reason that there were so many subsequent Frankenstein films (and Re-Animators and whatnot) as was the film's commercial success. This may, in fact, be one of those rare cases where the imitators may have just wanted to do it right, or at least tell the REST of the story.

Despite the fact that there was such a huge amount of material that was sadly left ...

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... difficult to avoid. At any rate, the whole movie has already begun to wind down at this point, and a death for the monster at the hands of the angry mob is invented for the film at the expense of the story. It is tragic that the amazing ending of Shelley's novel was left entirely out of the film, but it is also easy to understand because of budget and production limitations.

This is an ironic and unfortunate example of a film that would have really been considered a lot better than it is if it were not for the book upon which it is based. It is clear that the film is strong and that it is well made, but when compared to Shelley's novel, it's really a pretty sad mess. The film by itself is more than able to captivate and impress, but to someone who knows the original story, it is a weak attempt to bring the story of Frankenstein and his monster to the big screen.