The Frankenstein monster is an iconic horror film monster first popularly recognised in the 1931 film by Universal Pictures, Frankenstein but since has been the most successful monster ever to grace the silver screen, it has even been more successful than the other extremely popular classic Universal monsters Dracula and The Wolf Man. And also for years it has been a popular misconception that Frankenstein is the name of the monster, that name in fact is given to the monster's creator, Henry Frankenstein.
The Frankenstein monster was first shown to he world through the novel written by Mary Shelley in 1818, subtitled The Modern Prometheus where he was described as a creature that was intellectual and athletic. However none of these qualities would pass over in the subsequent films based around the creation of Frankenstein.
The most well-known image of Frankenstein's monster in popular culture derives from Boris Karloff's portrayal in the 1931 movie Frankenstein, with makeup created by Jack Pierce from possibly crucial sketched suggestions by director James Whale (credit for Karloff's look remains controversial). Karloff played the monster in two more Universal films, Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein. Lon Chaney, Jr. took over the part from Karloff in The Ghost of Frankenstein, Bela Lugosi portrayed the role in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, and Glenn Strange played the monster in the last three Universal Studios films to feature the character (House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein); but their makeup replicated the iconic look first worn by Karloff. To this day, the image of Karloff's face is owned by his daughter's company, Karloff Enterprises, which is the reason Universal replaced Karloff's features with Glenn Strange's in most of their marketing.
Since Boris Karloff's portrayal, the creature almost always appears as a bulky, startling, grotesque and gruesome figure, about seven feet (213 centimeters) tall, having broad shoulders and back; a hideously stitched and bolted-together body; a bulky flat square-shaped head with boxy forehead; a placid, gaunt, and elongated face; hooded eyelids over deep-set sunken eyes; neck-spikes or bolts to serve as electrical connectors or grotesque electrodes on his neck (by which he is presumed to have been animated); enormous long arms having long, huge, open, corpse-like, scarred hands with black nails; jagged surgical scars around his jaws; and a matted wig of black hair. He wears a dark suit having shortened coat sleeves and thick, heavy boots, causing him to walk with an awkward, stiff-legged, crude gait. This image has been used as the basis for several other fictional characters.
In 1985, Fred Saberhagen wrote an unofficial sequel called The Frankenstein Papers, which followed the events of Shelley's novel.
The 2007 pop-opera, "Frankenstein - A New Musical" returned to the original novel, portraying The Creature (not "The Monster") as an articulate and intelligent being, capable of love and kindness.
As written by Shelley, there are two specific sentences shortly after the monster coming to life valuable for a comparison between appearance and reaction. These include “The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature” and “Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room, and continued a long time traversing my bedchamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep.” The immediate thought that comes to mind is that the creator of this new life is having second thoughts immediately upon the realization of what he has done. Accidents are generally accepted as incidents that are visible and affect our lives directly. These are unintended events and usually undesirable. Was Victor’s use of the words, “accidents of life” a reflection that his creation was an accident, an unintended result? Or, is Victor simply stating that the feelings of human nature are more changeable than accidents? This would be great contrast considering accidents can’t be changed. Could Victor be stating that his many hours of labor and careful formation of parts be an accident? Could we do this without careful consideration of the result and yet call it an accident? Perhaps Victor was so enthralled with the act of creating; he failed to consider the potential result both immediately after the act of bringing to life and the unknown future with the creature. Perhaps Victor’s feelings for the monster changed from what this new life could do for him and a life that he would gather enjoyment and advancement to a feeling of disgust simply based on appearance. Appearance was all that Victor took opportunity to experience before immediately concluding an accident had occurred and finding himself troubled. This trouble that filled his mind was of such force, that he rushed to his bedchamber. Bedrooms can be a place of solitude and a feeling of both privacy and protection. For Victor, this was the only place within his laboratory that he felt an escape. He may have escaped the physical presence of the monster but not one of us can escape our mind and its thoughts. He tried and tried to compose his thoughts to a point of sleep. The use of the word “compose” tells that Victor was beginning to understand what he had created and as much as he tried to reason within himself, he could not come to grips. Did he think it would not work? What if it did? What will happen when the monster is seen by others? What will happen to his reputation? The racing thoughts and questions were likely endless. The scientific mind works through all these factors before experimenting, doesn’t it? They must do this to some extent. These two sentences bring this conclusion to mind. Victor has at this time concluded that his creature has come to life in a form somewhat unexpected, was terribly unappealing to the typical human eye, and changed completely Victor’s feelings of human nature, perhaps even his own nature. He had created something viewed as an accident, something terrible, and something that could not be taken back or fixed. These statements and thoughts grab the reader’s attention to what the rest of the book could describe about the interactions that may occur.
As the monster learned more and grew more intelligent he became more aware of his own sorrow and pain. After the creature finds Victor Frankenstein dead aboard a ship it decides to commit suicide to end its human suffering that began when Victor created him. Victor had a crippling effect on the monster because he had a maddening desire for approval and acceptance. Mary Shelley uses the monster Frankenstein to explain the theme of man's cruelty and injustice. Even though the monster is not human it has the intelligence of a human. We can respect its conclusions about humanity, because it has journeyed the average humans life cycle of longing to be a companion to escape loneliness.
Mary Shelley's initial concept of the monster would never be truly depicted on screen but it created the first imprint on the minds of people of the first Frankenstein monster.