Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Through The Years

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus is quite possibly one of the most continuously adapted texts of all time. Since its publication in 1818, Shelley’s text has been adapted for the stage, countless movies, other books and texts, graphic novels, television shows and even songs.

Man and CreatureFrankenstein (1931) Bride of Frankenstein 1935 Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Boyle’s Frankenstein (2011) I, Frankenstein I, Frankenstein (2014)

Some of the more famous adaptations would have to include Universal’s 1931 movie simply titled Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Young Frankenstein (1975). The 1931 Frankenstein is most definitely the film on which all other adaptations are compared with. Although the story does not follow Shelley’s novel very closely, Boris Karloff’s portrayal of the creature definitely is the one that sticks with most people when thinking of Frankenstein’s monster. Not only did Karloff’s portrayal leave a legacy, but Colin Clive’s Dr. Frankenstein performance set the standard for the “mad scientist” role for future generations, not to mention is iconic “It’s alive! It’s alive!” quote. The sequel to Frankenstein came in 1935 as The Bride of Frankenstein. This movie proved to be one of the greatest sequels of all time. Again, the movie only somewhat plays off of Shelley’s novel, but ends up being one of the best Frankenstein adaptations to date. As for Young Frankenstein, while it is made as more of a spoof of the originals, it also shows the love that the writers had for the original story line.

Two more recent adaptations of Shelley’s novel with not quite as much buzz include Danny Boyle’s 2011 stage adaptation Frankenstein, and the upcoming 2014 film I, Frankenstein. Danny Boyle’s adaptation starred Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating the roles of Frankenstein and the creature to show the similarities between the two characters. This adaptation followed the creature from his “birth” as he learns language, motor control, etc. through him as basically a recovering stroke victim. The play mostly follows the events of the novel, it does embellish more of the smaller pieces, like The Bride of Frankenstein. The upcoming movie, I, Frankenstein, has the creature (named Adam) caught in the middle of a battle between gargoyles and demons as they try and discover his secret for immortality.

Shelley’s novel does also play smaller roles in other television shows and movies, such as Frankenweenie (2012), Van Helsing (2004), Hotel Transylvania (2012), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and Weird Science (1985). Most of these simply either show a version of Frankenstein’s monster or a creature being created through scientific means.

The problem with most of these depictions is that they simply do not follow the story that Shelley told. Some do a good job and come close to her story, but most just take the creation part of her tale and make a new story around that. However, were Shelley able to look on all of these adaptations I think that she would not be unhappy. I think that just seeing her story still adapted and retold 200 years after she published it would please her, and be an incredible accomplishment.

List of Frankenstein movies from:

Wikipedia, . N.p.. Web. 14 Nov 2013. <;.