Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley's classic novel Frankenstein


So this year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley's classic novel Frankenstein which was first printed on the 1st of January 1818. This book is obviously one very close to my heart for a great many reasons, one the fact that its a horror book which inspired one of my favourite films and also because I have a lot of sympathy for the monster of the piece.

One of the things that is fantastic about the book is that Shelley came up with the idea at the age of 18 after being challenged by the poet Lord Byron who happens to be buried not to far away from where I sit typing this right now. It sounds quiet amazing that at such a young age she could come up with such a deep and riveting piece of fiction but then when you remember that back then the world in which she did it was very different its writing becomes an even more impressive feat. I read very few books more than once, some of the exceptions being The Lord of the Rings, Water Ship down and Frankenstein they all hold one thing in common and that is that there is a lot more to them than what is on the surface and with every time I pick them up I peel an extra layer back and see something that I didnt see before. As far as I am concerned this book is one of the true classics not just a classic of a particular age or genre but a bonifide classic overall.

The novel was originally published without Shelley's name and suprisingly it received what could best be described as mixed reviews. What would start out with humble beginnings though would go on to be loved by a great many. First it was picked up by theatre companies and then it really took of when it started to be adapted into film. I wonder what Mary Shelley would make of it now, what she would think about the way in which her story has been remade and adapted the ways in which it has touched so many different peoples lives? Nothing can ever take away from the brilliance of her novel but it is debatable if it would have touched half as many people if not for a certain actor.

The first film adaptation was made in 1910 but since then there have been not only more films than you can count but also TV series's cartoons comics and well pretty much anything you can think of featuring the monster from Frankenstein.

The Frankenstein film made in 1910 was a 16-minute short film produced for the Thomas Edison Film Company made in the very early days of cinema, this was almost 20 years before the advent of sound in film and although I would strongly recommend people to give it a watch for me the first real proper Frankenstein film worthy of the book wouldn't come for another 21 years.

If you think of Universal studios Frankenstein which was released in 1931 one of the first things you might think of is the cry of "It's alive, it's alive!" Not only this but this film gave us the image of Frankenstein's monster which has stayed with the character ever since, any time someone tries to draw a picture of the monster or describe the monster this is the one they will describe if asked what noises the monster makes or how the monster walks most people will instantly think of the way the monster was portrayed here by  the actor Boris Karloff. The way the monster looks here would go on to be replicated in shows such as The Munsters, The Addams Family and in cartoons like Scooby-Doo. Some people forget though that Karloff brought more to the monster than just groaning he brought a certain innocence and wonder to the monster, the monster wasn't really a monster he was just a creature that had been brought to life who didn't know who or what he was, why he was there or what to do, to be honest in a lot of ways he was more frightened than anyone else in the film, he wasn't really the Villain of the piece he was a Victim of his creators thirst for knowledge and power and in the hands of a lesser actor I doubt I would feel the sympathy for the character that I do. I think Karloff was very aware of the real guts of the part, no sound or movement from him was a wasted one, every single thing he did had purpose and brought life to the part he was playing and this is one of the reasons I hold the deepest of respect for him.

I could write all day about Frankenstein, I could go on to write about one of my other heroes who filled the role the wonderful Christopher Lee, but I think that is a post for another day. Right now I just want to say a huge thank you to Mary Shelley for giving the world such a fantastic book and thank you to everyone else who has kept the monster alive.

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