Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Feed My Frankenstein

One of the things i find fascinating about Frankenstein and it's adaptations into film is the spectacle of the birth of the monster, the would-be-Adam.

It's adorable when the skeleton waves.

Apparently it's not Karloff in this scene, as he was terrified of being electrocuted.

Beef :3

Oddly enough, I couldn't find a video of Rocky's birth.

Oh Kenneth, how did this ever seem like a good idea.

Let's compare those to the scene in Mary Shelley's book:
It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.
The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bed-chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep.

Now, while it does mention a spark of life, i never took it literally. It's important to remember Frankenstein was a chemist, he idolized alchemists, if anything the birth of the monster was done chemically.
The 1910 film is contains a chemical vat, a bit too much of a spectacle but still has the right reaction of Frankenstein anyway. The 1931 film is obviously playing off the idea of Tesla and the mad scientist, and if wikipedia is to be believed they even used a Tesla Coil built by Nikola himself. As for the Phantom of the Paradise, while obviously taking influence from the 1931 film, it at least realizes that the monster is the spectacle, and not the means of animation. The lyrics nicely reflect Frakenstein's reaction, and it's paralleled in story as "Life at Last" sung by Beef isn't what Winslow had intended to create at all. In the Rocky Horror Picture Show, our dear Dr. Frank-N-Furter animates Rocky through chemical means, also rainbows.
As for Branagh's version, electric eels, really?
If anything Lovecraft was likely the closest with Herbert West and his reanimating injections.

In the story Frankenstein never reveals his process, as he doesn't wish for something like this to happen again, but Mary Shelly didn't include it because it doesn't matter, the fact that the monster exists matters, the exact details of how he came to be don't. If you try to come up with something plausible you end up with vats of amniotic goo and eels, some random magic serum and you leave the audience disappointed. It's why Lovecraft wrote most of his terrors as indescribable, they're vague notions of crawling horrors, the more you define them the less interesting they become. Take Aliens for example, it changes the terror of the creatures, they become a defined living, insect type species, now put that up against the original Alien in which this unknown terror lurks in the shadows and Oh my god, it's going to violate everyone on the ship!
But i digress.

Personally, i envision a body on the slab, some various beakers, test tubes, retorts, and other such things, perhaps something relating to alchemy for inspiration, or just a supernatural tint. The pale and sickly Victor finishes a stitch and the creature opens it yellow eyes.
Just something low key, some mundane final touch. i do find Frankenstein running and hiding in his room quite interesting, it's a far cry from "Now I know what it feels like to be God!"
It's also interesting how often the monster has been portrayed as something evil through .
Truly the monster must be frightening to behold, more human than human, his translucent skin a constant reminder that we are meat, that we are mortal, that we are weak. But the monster is kind, it's mankind that treats him terribly. It's like believing the asshole at the end of King Kong "It was beauty that killed the beast." Yeah, fuck you Carl.

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