Frankenstein. Years ago the story’s classic monster could have caused young kids to run to their moms and grown adults to sleep with the lights on. Today however, Frankenstein’s reputation for terror and chaos has been replaced by a bumbling fool.
Frankenstein’s character was first introduced to the public in 1818, when it was published anonymously. It wasn’t until the second edition was released in France in 1823 that the author’s name, Mary Shelley, was included on the cover. Because many modern editions have dropped the novel’s subtitle, most don’t know that the whole title of the novel wasn’t “Frankenstein.” Older editions of the novel were actually titled Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus.
Reception of the novel was mixed when it was first released, partially because of the dark nature of the story and the unknown identify of the author. The book didn’t gain proper recognition until decades after its release. Over 100 years later however, film allowed more to become familiar with the grizzly monster. But through all it’s adaptations, Frankenstein (the mad scientist in the novel), soon became synonymous with the monster itself, instead of referring to his creator.
The novel inspired dozens of movies—from horror classics like 1931’s Frankenstein, and 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein, to comedies like 1974’s Young Frankenstein, and action-adventure films like 2014’s I, Frankenstein. While early films represented the creature as Shelley had originally intended, over the years, the comedy representations have softened Frankenstein’s appearance.
Adding to the change in perception, some of the comedies have even been turned into live theatre plays. Mel Brooks’ satire Young Frankenstein just premiered at the Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto, California.
But perhaps the media most responsible for Frankenstein’s image change was The Munsters, a sitcom from the 1960s where the Frankenstein character, (Herman Munster, played by Fred Gwynne) more closely represented “Lenny” from Of Mice and Men, than the horrific monster from the novel.
While production companies may have been eager to reinvent the Frankenstein storyline for cinema over the years, game developers have been less enthusiastic. Although there have been some games created—including the low-rated Frankenstein, Through the Eyes of the Monster, and the little known SEGA Genesis game, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein—none have been very successful. However, as action games take a backseat, online gaming has continued to have success using the fun, light-hearted image of the Frankenstein character. Betfair’s Arcade site just released a new game, Dr. Frantic and the Lab of Loot, a slot title wi
th a cartoon Frankenstein theme. It may not inflict terror into the hearts of players like the original character was supposed to, but fans of the novel can at least be happy that the character is living on in some form through modern entertainment.
It has been almost 200 years since Frankenstein frightened readers all over the world. His character might be more goof than gore nowadays, but at least fans looking for a scare can revisit the classic novel and relish in the fact that at least that will never change.