Posts from 25th September 2005

Sep 05

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 367 views

I’m a big believer in reading the classics – not to educate or better myself or anything like that, but because there is often a good reason for their status, and I’ve enjoyed many of them, found them hugely rewarding.

But there are exceptions. This is dreadful, and a big part of the problem is what isn’t in it. It’s James Whale’s magnificent version of the story that is now iconic, and while I have grasped that films are not always perfectly faithful renditions of the books, I hadn’t realised just how vast the difference was in this case. It’s partly the romantic style of the novel, with countless pages of Victor whining on with “Oh how wretched I am! No one in the world can be more miserable than I! I suffer a thousand woes, a million torments for my mistakes!” and the like. It’s also the monster being a highly intelligent and articulate being, with Victor warning people about his cunning and silver tongue more than his might, and the monster taking revenge by planting evidence to implicate innocents in crimes, and being plainly far smarter than his deeply stupid creator. More than that however, it’s what is completely absent from the book. Here are a few things that aren’t in it:
1. Any suggestion of bodysnatching from graveyards, or any idea of whose body or body parts or brain are involved.
2. Any description of how the monster was made or the apparatus involved, if any.
3. Any castle.
4. Lightning, except as pathetic fallacy accompaniment to a few scenes.
5. The monster ever hitting anyone.
6. Bolts through the neck.
7. Inarticulate grunting or lumbering.
8. Any fight scenes.
9. Peasants with flaming torches.
10. Igor.
11. Any kind of proper ending.
12. A sense of drama.

I’ll sum up, with very little editing, the famous creation scenes: “I’m not telling you how, but I created a big creature. It was dead ugly, so I went out for a walk, and when I came back it had gone. ‘Phew,’ I thought.” Cue several months of bugger all happening.