Mary Shelley's 19th century creation has demonstrated remarkable staying power, inspiring a raft of filmmakers to make their own versions of the monster. How has the monster changed over the past 80 years?
By Peter Martin
The first cinematic version in the sound era featured Boris Karloff as the Monster, although the credits kept his identity a secret in order to heighten the intrigue of the picture. Jack Pierce is credited for the make-up, which include a flat-top head and neck bolts. Karloff removed a dental bridge to achieve the "sunken cheeks" look.
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The hairstyle of the bride (Elsa Lanchester) is, quite rightly, what we remember most, but makeup artist Jack Pierce also modified the look of Frankenstein, both to acknowledge the scars he received in the first film and to shorten the time needed to apply the makeup to Boris Karloff.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
By the mid-1940s, the classic Universal monsters were teamed up in a variety of off-shoots, such as this surprisingly good version starring the comedy duo of Abbott and Costello. This was the third and final outing for Glenn Strange as the Monster; his makeup was created by Bud Westmore and Jack Kevan, who used new, redesigned rubber sponge masks that were much easier and quicker to apply.
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Universal held the copyright to the makeup designs for their Frankenstein, so when British company Hammer decided to make a new version, makeup artist Phil Leakey designed an entirely different look for the creature, played by Christopher Lee in his breakout role.
Frankenstein 1970 (1958)
Boris Karloff made the leap from monster to mad scientist, playing the grandson of the "original" creator. The film supposes that Baron Von Frankenstein needs an atomic reactor to kick-start his creature to life. And, in a move possibly intended to sidestep any possible legal repercussion, this Monster ... looks more like the Mummy, all wrapped up in bandages until a final reveal shows a strange resemblance to a certain creature turned creator.
Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)
An insanely silly variation on the concept, the Japanese-American co-production starts with Nazis sending the still-beating immortal heart of Frankenstein's Monster to Hiroshima, where it arrives just in time for the dropping of the atomic bomb. Fifteen years later, a boy who stands 100 feet tall emerges, with a very familiar-looking flat head...
Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974)
Hammer's final Frankenstein film finds the good doctor (Peter Cushing) locked up in an insane asylum, where he continues his experiments. The Monster is assembled from various body parts, most notably an inmate who closely resembles an ape, which gives the creature a very different look. He's played by David Prowse, who later gained fame for his body work as Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
A wonderful collaboration between writer and star Gene Wilder and director Mel Brooks, this loving parody recreates the look of the classic Universal monster pictures without slavishly imitating them. Peter Boyle brought great empathy to the role of the Monster -- and also demonstrated previously unknown creature talents, such as dancing!
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)
Long before Thor or Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Kenneth Branagh directed himself as Victor Frankenstein, who creates a Monster (Robert DeNiro) that learns to read and write, much as in Mary Shelley's novel. But Victor rejects his creation, leading to a vengeful series of tragic events. The makeup earned an Academy Award nomination.
Tim Burton's feature-length version of his short film merges his love of classic monsters with the love of a boy for his dog. Young Victor Frankenstein mourns the death of his beloved canine companion Sparky until he manages to reanimate him. Victor's continuing experiments lead to disaster, although Sparky remains as beloved as ever. Why, he's not a monster at all!
I, Frankenstein (2014)
Based on a graphic novel, the latest movie version finds Dr. Frankenstein's creature, named Adam, still walking the earth 200 years after The Big Experiment that brought him to life. He looks more like a scarred superhero than a monster, which is good, since he finds himself in the middle of a battle between gargoyles and demons.