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Adaptation Of Frankenstein By Mary Shelley And Universal Studios

2244 words - 9 pages

Arguably, the two most famous film adaptations of Frankenstein are Frankenstein, directed by James Whale and produced by Universal Studios in 1931, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, directed by Kenneth Branagh and produced by TriStar Pictures in 1994. In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, the Monster’s eloquence and persuasiveness make it easier for the reader to sympathize with him, yet, in most film versions of the story the Monster is portrayed as mute or inarticulate and basically inhuman. Whale’s film completely dehumanizes the Monster, however, it is mostly based on a stage play that was adapted from the novel. Branagh’s version follows the book rather well and the Monster is more accurate than any other film adaptation, but still lacks a certain amount of humanity that inspires sympathy for his plight. While both films display aspects of the novel that lead the viewer to some of the same conclusions that Shelley leads her readers too, they both fail to completely capture the Monster’s humanity.
In the novel, Shelley leaves plenty to the reader’s imagination. This is not surprising, considering it was meant to be a “ghost story” project with Lord Byron and other writers and poets (Shelley, intro). Shelley never goes into detail about how Victor acquires the body and subsequent materials for his creation experiment, just that he went to the graveyard and charnel and slaughter houses (Shelley, intro). A brain is never mentioned in the text of the novel and she never describes the process Victor uses to create the Monster, but there are hints in the introduction and Vol. 1 about galvanism and alchemic processes (Shelley intro). Though Victor denies Captain Walton the secret to creation he discovers, the hints that it is indeed lightning or some form of electricity are evident in his description of the rainy and “dreary” night that he decides to “infuse a spark of being” into the creature (Shelley, ch. 4). After the Monster comes to life, Frankenstein is “unable to endure the aspect of the being” and runs away pretending it never happened (Shelley, ch. 5). In both film versions the Monster is created with electricity and rejected by his creator, however, the visions of each director cannot be more different.
Whale’s 1931 Frankenstein film is based on the 1920s play by Peggy Webling and not Shelley’s original text (Rohrmosser), which explains why the characters have different names and there are new characters and plot lines. In this particular film, Frankenstein has an assistant, Fritz, who basically does all the dirty work; he digs up the bodies and steals a brain from the university. The film takes full visual advantage at this point creating a tense atmosphere with rain pouring down, thunder and lightning threatening, and electrical equipment crackling and flaring. As the Monster’s hand moves, Frankenstein says, several times, “It’s alive,” and, “Now I know what it feels like to be God” (Frankenstein). Since, Shelley leaves so much to the...

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