September 5, 2011

“No, it’s pronounced “Fronkensteen”

Filed under: Sci-Fi —— will @ 11:21 pm

The story of Frankenstein is one that has been told over and over again in film.  Whether the story is given a serious spin or taken on as a comedy, it always proves to be a story that Hollywood is willing to tell on screen.  The only problem with that is Hollywood does not always stay true to its source material.  While most cinematic versions keep the framework intact, the more minor scenes are either removed or given a spectacular approach that does not happen in the book.  For me, no scene is a more obvious example of the latter than the creation of the monster.  I could have misread the scene in the book and if I have, please correct me, but in the book the creation scene is a minor detail at best.  Victor gathers his “instruments of life”, does some work, and boom! his creation comes to life. He is at first amazed, then disgusted, and runs away. This is a far different version than what we often see in the film versions of this story.  In film versions of Frankenstein, the creation scene is always much grander.  We see Victor in a well-stocked laboratory surrounded by all sorts of electrical nodes and other instruments.  There is always a great storm occurring outside since in the film versions, Victor always uses lightning to re-animate the monster.  The lightning always strikes at the right time and boom! the monster is created while Victor usually stares maniacally at his work.  He does not flee or become disgusted with the monster and, correct me if I’m wrong, he never flees. It has been a long time since I have seen the film, but I remember the monster having to escape Victor, not just vanishing as Victor avoids going home.  How this minor scene in the book took on such a grand importance in the film version is anyone’s guess but I will go out on a limb and venture my own guess.  I would think that the producers knew how powerful this scene could be if it was given a larger platform.  It would be a scene that would create a buzz for the movie and have people coming to see the film in droves.  People would talk about it and convince others to see it just for that scene alone.  It seems to have worked since I will admit that when I hear Frankenstein I tend to automatically go to that scene in my head.  It has become, at least for me, one of, if not the, signature scene with Frankenstein.  I could of course be wrong about all this and maybe they made the scene longer to fill time so they could have an 80 minute movie.  Whatever the reason, we definitely do not get Victor clenching his fists and screaming into the air “It’s Alive!” in the book version but I believe most of us think about that scene when we hear “Frankenstein”.

3 Responses to ““No, it’s pronounced “Fronkensteen””

  1.   angrymurmurs  Says:

    I think part of the reason most movies extend that scene is because of people’s natural curiosity about the impossible made possible through science. I think a lot of the appeal is the drama of the moment but also that immortality and controlling life itself are recurring themes in the psyche of mankind.

    But maybe I’m reading into it too much.

  2.   Josh Ambrose  Says:

    Good observations here. Like you, I was amazed how quickly Frankenstein distances himself from his creation in the book.

    Obviously, the movie sustains a very different tension between the two–a much slower descent into horror, as it were. I’m interested to hear what you think of Shelley’s pacing in contrast as we read the rest of the book. What is the impact of her narrative choices as we read a long story where the monster has already been unveiled and judged abhorrent?

  3.   Christina  Says:

    Hollywood by nature is sensationalistic so it is no surprise in each Frankenstein movie the focus has been so grievously misplaced. It’s playing to the expectations of the public, not so much setting them. The public is morbidly curious (just look how traffic stops when there is an accident)about things that are extraordinary (usually not in a good way). In the Frankenstein movies I’ve seen, the tension rests mainly on moments that play on our morbid curiosity or ability to take us somewhere we have not been before. I don’t even think this is a question of interpretation, “artistic” or otherwise, but interpretation as to what will yield the most money (and the lack of the author’s input).

    In response to your comment about Victor not fleeing, if he fled, the movie is pretty much over in the eyes of Hollywood. After all, who would want to see an 80-90 minute drama of a man struggling with moral and ethical choices and the consequences of such? It would certainly be a much slower paced movie. How would such a movie be made and cast? Can you think of a movie that stayed pretty true to the book? The only recent series I can think of that stayed true to the book(s) is the Game of Throne series. I suspect this is so because Martin had a heavy hand in it (there are direct quotes from the book).

    In case you are wondering how many Frankenstein movies, there are at least 42

    But fear not, I found a graphic motion comic that stays true in the It’s Alive scene:

    On another note and distinction, the book allows us to judge the creature abhorrent (I found him abhorred but not abhorrent) whereas the movie has already judged, for us, the creature abhorrent.

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