"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?"
- A part of the Monster's sad story.
Frankenstein's Monster is a tragic villain in the novel Frankenstein by the late Mary Shelley and many film adaptations. Although he had immense powers of speech in the original novel, most film versions remove this, making him a mute and robotic character.
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 flee in terror.
The Monster eventually takes up abode in a small hovel that abuts a cottage. He listens to the inhabitants, called the De Laceys, 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 Dr. Frankenstein's notes. Through these he discovers his origins and that Frankenstein leaves in Geneva, Switzerland. The Monster largely ignores this, as he is focused on the De Laceys, whom he has grown to love in his tenure as their "neighbor". The Monster 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 determines to seek his revenge on Frankenstein and heads for Geneva. Shortly after he arrives their, he comes across 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 comes across 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 hanged for murder not long after.
In order to collect his thoughts, Frankenstein ascends into the Alps. The Monster confronts him there and pressures him into creating a mate. The Monster promises that if he is given this, he will never be seen by 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, Frankenstein recants and destroys the mate before it is given life. The enraged Monster swears to Frankenstein that he will be with him on his wedding night. The Monster then kills, in fairly rapid succession, both Henry Clerval, Frankenstein's best friend, and Elizabeth Lavenza, his new bride.
Now with nothing to lose, Frankenstein swears vengeance and pursues the Monster to the Arctic, where he is picked up by a ship heading for the North Pole. Frankenstein tells his story to the expedition's leader, then dies of exhaustion. The Monster shows up not long after to gloat over Frankenstein's body, but can only express remorse for his father's death. He announces his attention to reach the Pole, then destroy himself on a funeral pyre. He jumps from the ship, and disappears into the distance.
The Universal Series
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
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 Peter Cushing, trying to create life. In each film he created a new monster which is then destroyed after a series of murders. Most are portrayed as entirely monstrous. A notable exception was in the second film, The Revenge of Frankenstein, where 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 rape one of the characters in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. As multiple monsters are featured throughout the series, the look of the Monster changed continuously.
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.
Frankenstein's Monster, played by Peter Boyle, was 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 Fredrick, 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 Fredrick's fiance, who later marries him instead. In the end, Fredrick transfers some of his brain into the monster, making him less antisocial and violent and more sophisticated.
The "Faithfulness" Trend
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, 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 grotesque and hideous reflection.
The personality of this misunderstood outcast is very variable, depending on the adaptations. In the novel, the monster has intelligence that rivals, and possibly exceeds that of humans, as he is portrayed as a deeply sensitive and receptive being, beginning his life with nothing but love and kindness in his heart. This incredibly intelligent being also cared for people in need, saved a girl from drowning, and fed a starving familty. He also learned ro read quickly, and learned to speak in three different languages. The very first thing he saw was his creator reviling from him in horror when he approached, seeking consolation and a role model to imprint on. Later, he noticed nearby humans wore clothing, and soon dressed himself to be like the happy people. After that, the monster still was hopeful of finding a warm and loving home, yet as every human he met reviled, or even attacked and tried to drive him away the wretched creature became bitter, angry, obnoxious, argumentative, and misanthropic. This was worsened when Victor Frankenstein refused to build him a companion, cutting off what he deemed his only chance at have any good left. Soon the sad and lonely monster became a cold, vengeful killer, seething with hatred and happy to murder Frankenstein's loved ones to make his creator feel as isolated and alone as he did. After Victor died, however, the monster became remorseful, and destroyed himself in a fire. This intelligent version of the monster was seen in I, Frankenstein, and in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
The van helsing movie portrayed him as being fairly smart, downtrodden, but optimistic creature, who also said he was accustomed to being in pain. He was willing to be cruel, violent, aggressive, and dangerous towards humans since they all seemed to wish him dead despite having done anything wrong, to the point where he considered them "monsters" as they viewed him own. Despite this passionate anger and resentment towards humans, he had redeemable traits, as he was truly commonsensical and observent, and he had both morality and a conscience unlike his counterpart from the novel and 1994 film. As he simply wanted to be left alone and in peace, he left humanity to explore the world.
In the famous Boris Karloff cannon, the Monster is a simple, emotionally unstable, and childlike creature. This famous monster also wandered the world in hopes of finding a companion. Happily, a female was made for him, but depressingly, she reviled in horror at the sight of the male monster. Heartbroken, the original monster stated that he and the female "belong dead'" and attempted suicide by blowing up the lab and killing everyone inside, though it survived.
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.