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The words induced me to turn towards myself. I learned that the possessions most esteemed by your fellow creatures were high and unsullied descent united with riches. A man might be respected with only one of these advantages, but without either he was considered, except in very rare instances, as a vagabond and a slave, doomed to waste his powers for the profits of the chosen few! And what was I? Of my creation and creator I was absolutely ignorant, but I knew that I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property. I was, besides, endued with a figure hideously deformed and loathsome; I was not even of the same nature as man. I was more agile than they and could subsist upon coarser diet; I bore the extremes of heat and cold with less injury to my frame; my stature far exceeded theirs. When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?
~ The monster, after giving up on the human race and embracing the fact he cannot be loved and must therefore be feared.

Frankenstein's Monster is a tragic villain in the novel Frankenstein by the late Mary Shelley and many film adaptations. He was created in 1816 and made his debut on January 1, 1818. Although he had immense powers of speech in the original novel, most film versions limit his vocabulary, if not remove it entirely, to enhance how inhuman he is.

History

The Novel

The Monster made his first appearance in the 1818 novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. He is described as having wrinkled skin which barely hid the blood vessels, black lips, black hair, and yellow eyes. He was created on a rainy November night in the late eighteenth century Ingolstadt, Germany, by the medical student Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein is so horrified by his creation that he flees the house, leaving the Monster to his own devices. The Monster takes a jacket to clothe himself, and eventually wanders off into the wild. He spends a lengthy period of time learning to survive. Any humans he comes across are so frightened by his appearance that they run from him, just as Frankenstein had done.

The Monster eventually takes up abode in a small hovel that abuts a cottage. He listens to the inhabitants, the De Lacey family, through a chink in the wall and learns to speak and read from their example. His first reading materials are several books that he finds in a castoff suitcase, including the works of Milton, Plutarch, and Goethe. The Monster also reads a series of papers he found in his jacket, which turn out to be Frankenstein’s notes.

Through these he discovers his origins, and learns that Frankenstein lives in Geneva, Switzerland. The Monster grows to love the De Laceys during his time as their "neighbor", and decides to reveal himself to the blind father while his grown children are out. However, the children return and discover him with their father, and drive him from the house. Enraged at how the whole of humanity has treated him, the Monster sets fire to the cottage, and swears revenge on Frankenstein for bringing him into a world that hates him.

He travels to Geneva, he meets a young boy and tries to befriend him. The boy, who is Frankenstein's brother William, shrieks that he will send his father, Judge Frankenstein, after him. Upon learning that the boy is a Frankenstein, the Monster strangles him to death and takes a wallet, which contains a portrait of Frankenstein's mother. The Monster moves on and finds a young woman, who is asleep in a barn. On an evil impulse, the Monster places the locket in her pocket. It is only after the police arrest her for William's murder that the Monster realizes that she is Justine Moritz, the Frankensteins' servant. Justine is blamed for William's death and hanged for murder.

In order to collect his thoughts, Frankenstein ascends into the Alps. The Monster confronts him there and pressures him into creating a female creature so he can have a mate; he promises that if he is given this, he will disappear and never trouble humanity again. Frankenstein agrees, and travels to Scotland, where he begins the process of creating a female. The Monster follows him and watches with eager anticipation. At last minute, however, Frankenstein decides not to go through with it, and destroys the creature. The enraged Monster swears to Frankenstein that he will be with him on his wedding night. True to his word, the Monster kills Frankenstein's new bride, Elizabeth LaVenza, as well as his best friend, Henry Clerval; he is also indirectly responsible the death of Frankenstein's father, who dies of grief after Elizabeth's body is found.

Now with nothing to live for, Frankenstein swears vengeance and pursues the Monster to the Arctic, where he falls into the freezing waters and is picked up by a ship heading for the North Pole. Frankenstein tells his story to the expedition's leader, then dies of pneumonia. The Monster shows up not long after to gloat over Frankenstein's body, but upon seeing his creator dead it is overcome with remorse, for the only man who knew the creature is now dead and the monster is truly alone in the human world. He announces that he will reach the Pole and destroy himself on a funeral pyre. He jumps from the ship, and disappears into the distance.

Biography

The Universal Series

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Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein Monster.

It was the series of films made by Universal Studios in the 1930s and 1940s that created the version of the Monster that most people know. The Universal Monster has a flat topped head, electrodes in both sides of his neck, a heavy brow ridge, and drooping eyelids. His body was sewn together by Henry Frankenstein from pieces of dead bodies and brought to life using electricity. However, Dr. Frankenstein's assistant Fritz retrieved an abnormal "criminal" brain instead of a normal one. This was intended as an "explanation" of the Monster's homicidal and destructive actions later in the film.

In the first two films, the Monster turns to violence only after being abused by Fritz and rejected by others. In the third film, Son of Frankenstein, the Monster lost the powers of speech he had gained in the previous entry, and had gained a companion named Ygor. Ygor used the Monster as a tool in his plan of revenge against the eight villagers who voted for his execution, which was botched. This plan was thwarted by Wolf von Frankenstein. In the next film, Ygor manipulated Wolf's brother Ludwig into placing his brain into the Monster's body.

However, Ygor's blood type did not match that of the Monster, and he went blind. The Monster was intended to speak in Ygor's voice in Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman, but studio executives, who did not like the effect, cut all of the Monster's lines. For the rest of the series, the Monster was depicted as a shambling and mute idiot by former stuntman Glenn Strange. The Monster met its apparent death in Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, when the dock he is standing on is set on fire.

The Hammer Series

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Christopher Lee in the first Hammer film.

After Universal ended its series of Frankenstein films, no major efforts were made until Hammer, an English studio, gained the rights and started producing its own series. The series revolved around Dr. Frankenstein, played by the late Peter Cushing, trying to create life. In each film he created a new monster which is then destroyed after it commits a series of murders.

Most variations of the character are portrayed as entirely monstrous. A notable exception was in the second film, The Revenge of Frankenstein, in which the Monster character is handsome, but loses control of his body. The Baron himself undergoes several characterizations. In some films he exhibits heroic qualities, in others he is undeniably evil, even going so far as to commit rape in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. As multiple monsters are featured throughout the series, the look of the Monster changed continuously.

Saberhagen's Monster

In his 1986 novel The Frankenstein Papers, Fred Saberhagen dealt with a wholly unique take on the Monster. The book is a reinterpretation of the original novel, and takes that concept to an extreme. In this conception, Victor Frankenstein's experiments were funded by the wealthy and immoral Robert Saville (who was responsible for the bulk of the murders attributed to the Monster), who is interested in using Dr. Frankenstein's science in order to produce a more durable form of slave for use in American and Caribbean plantations.

However, the science is far from sound, and fails to produce results. The Monster was in fact an extraterrestrial named Osak Larkas, who was covertly observing Earth's advancing civilization. The electrical signals given off by Frankenstein's apparatus caught Larkas's attention, so he stealthily hid his conveyance and approached the laboratory. Once inside, lightning struck the house, and Larkas was knocked unconscious. When he came to, he was suffering from amnesia and stumbled out into the night.

Young Frankenstein

Young-frankenstein Peter Boyle

Frankenstein's Monster, played by Peter Boyle, also appeared Mel Brooks' parody of the classic horror villain in the film Young Frankenstein.  He is brought to life by Victor Frankenstein's grandson Frederick, who initially dismisses his grandfather as "a famous cuckoo". Like the original monster, he is afraid of fire, and wants to be loved, but decides to inspire terror instead when his creator and the townsfolk turn against him.  He also kidnaps and sleeps with Frederick's fiance, who later marries him instead.  In the end, Frederick transfers some of his brain into the monster, making him less antisocial and violent and more sophisticated.

The "Faithfulness" Trend

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Robert De Niro as the Frankenstein Monster.

Of late it has become the fashion to produce films that are more dependable and faithful to Mary Shelley's novel. Two of these are particularly important. The first was a 1993 made-for-TV movie starring Patrick Bergin as Victor and Randy Quaid as the Monster. Taking advantage of the novel's vague description of the creation scene, the film has Dr. Frankenstein create the Monster through some sort of particle generator, using himself as the model. This method results in the two characters sharing a psychic link. The Monster cannot die while Frankenstein lives, so they commit suicide together by leaping into the Arctic Ocean at the film's conclusion.

Also of interest was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, directed by Kenneth Branagh (who also portrayed Iago, Viktor Cherevin, Gilderoy Lockhart and Dr. Arliss Loveless). In this version, the Monster was played by Robert De Niro, who also portrayed Max Cady, Ace, Fearless Leader, Jimmy Conway, Travis Bickle, Gil Renard, Don Lino and the young Vito Corleone. While the traditional electricity was used in the creation sequence, many of the details were highly original.

The Monster is suspended in a tank filled with amniotic fluid, and has needles inserted into a combination of acupuncture points on his body. These are attracted to electric awires. Another important difference is that here, Frankenstein tries and succeeds to resurrect Elizabeth, but she destroys herself upon seeing her hideous reflection.

Personality

The monster has appeared in various adaptations, and to simplify things, here are a few discriptions of these variations.

Novel: In the novel, contrary to later interpritations, the creature actually develops a strong mind and succesfully manages to gain something of an Education. Although he begins his life as an infantile being, driven by raw impulses and instinctive behaviors, he later becomes eloquent, sophisticated, and cunning. He later learns the dual nature of fire, develops an apitite for cheese, bread, and raw berries, but, like many human children, he detests alcohol, and even when matured, he never learned to enjoy it. He had little to no understanding of what or who he was, but very quickly realized he is indeed a misfit. What pushed him over the edge was Felix and his family, whom he had secretely helped, turning against him, and the family of a little girl he saved from drowning shooting him in the arm, changing him into a killer. He saw the good in humanity, but despised his creator when he found out who he was, and happily murdered innocent bystanders, just to cause him pain. Due to his isolation, he suffered chronic depression, and frankenstein failing to furfil his promise of creating a female monster as his companion only worsened his depression. When he destroyed frankenstein's life, he suffered such an intense pang of remorse, he ultimately decided to destroy himself atop a pyre.

Hollywood/Boris Karloff cannon: In direct contrast to his novel counterpart, the creature is much more sympathetic and childlike. He was not evil, but behaved like an animal who was dangerous in special circumstances. He was prone to tantrums, and had no understanding of what he was or how to behave among humans. He was highly defensive and easily startled, and could cause distruction while provoked. Despite this, while he was too dangerous to be trusted around children due to his mental retardation paired with brute strength, he was safe around adults as long as they treated him decently. Despite his low intelligence, he was capable of forming frienodships and even receptive to training. In one incident, a friendship he had formed with a blind hermit warranted him to shed tears of joy for adding joy to his miserable life. He also wanted to display affection but didn't know how, as a friendly little girl played a game of throwing flowers into a lake, he mistook the girl for a giant flower, tossed her into the lake, but was distraught and guilt-ridden when she died. He also had a nasty side, as he attempted to kill or possibly rape Elizabeth, and when he demanded a female monster, arrogantly assumed she would be receptive to his advances. He too was depressed severely and was generally unhappy about life in general.

1994 Kenneth Branergh cannon: Strikingly similar to the sorce material, although there where a few differences. The monster this time was played by Robert deniro, and noticable differences where the fact he had attributed his learning capacity to trace memories in the brain tissue he had from dead victims, enabling him to play the flute and learn faster than regular humans. He was sympathetic at first, but took his revenge too far, murdering children, mutilating and torturing Elizabeth by ripping out her heart and showing it to her, and slaughteting dogs, though they may have been attacking him.

Van Helsing(2004): The monster is a capable talker, but constant hunting by humans and count dracula has taken a big toll on his mental health. He exhibits paranoia, an intense hatred of humans, seeing them as disgusting monsters, and is violent to an almost sadistic extent. Despite this, he values his life and doesn't seek death. He has no interest in companionship from humans or monstrers, and only seeks a remote place where he can safely live away from people. However, Van and Anna's friendly attitude softened his mysanthropy, and he cherished them. Despite this, he still found the prospect of solitude alluring, and sailed out to sea, never to be seen or heard of again.

Powers, Abilities, and Weaknesses

Depending on the adaptation, the Monster is said to be far stronger than a human, in the Kenneth Branagh movie, he could tip over huge carts filled with goods, throw a grown man through the air, pull up 100 lbs of turnips in one night, kill six huskies who attacked him and tear out Elizabeth's heart from her chest. He could also leap several feet through the air. In the novel and 1998 film, he could learn two languages, and read and write at an age of six weeks. He also learned English later in life. The novel also granted him the power to run at incredible speeds, swim the English channel and the gap between Scotland's mainland and the Orkney Isles.

Many times, it is shown to be either more resilient to or seemingly immune to starvation, thirst and/or exposure, especially to extreme temperatures, which in many adaptions allowed it to live without a home despite weather conditions and survive the northern cold. In the Boris Karloff portrayal, he was flame retardant and could survive explosions. However, he was afraid of fire and his own reflection, but only depending on the portrayal of him. Some portraits depict him as mentally unstable and poorly coordinated, unlike the novel and 1998 film.

Gallery

Images

Trivia

  • In Mary Shelly's novel, Frankenstein's Monster was described to have brownish-yellow skin that barely concealed the blood vessels and organs inside the creature. But over many different retold adaptions of the story, it has been made many different colors, with it's most well known color being green.