27 Oct
2017

My Buddy, Frank

The last Friday of every October is reserved to honor one of and, in my opinion, the greatest of, Great Monsters. You know who The Greats are: Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Mummy, and The Wolfman. But who am I talking about? I'm talking, of course, about Frankenstein. Okay, okay, I KNOW, Frankenstein's monster. For this post, don't hate me, I'm going to call him Frankenstein. It's just easier that way, since Frankenstein's monster is a pain to type every time.

Look at how much emotion is in this still frame alone. Are any of the other great monsters so well-developed? No.

I really liked monster stories when I was little. The Monster at the End of the Book with loveable Grover was my favorite as a tot. Long before I should have been rebelling, I would sneak out after lights out while my parents were watching X-Files and watch from behind the couch, spooking myself with the supernatural. Now going for my MFA in Creative Writing, my very first stab at writing, in elementary school, was a picture book about a haunted house, the monsters who lived there, and how they weren't actually all that bad once you got to know them.

But what really encouraged my monster mania was the 1987 film, The Monster Squad. About a gang of young horror movie fans who learn that their town is being overrun by monsters (and of course the grownups won't believe them), they decide to take the matter into their own hands.

What the trailer doesn't really show, though, is how Frankenstein's role plays out in the film. The children befriend Frank, and, for a kids' movie, does a lot to explore just what it means to be human and what it means to be monster (it even has a subtle reference to the Holocaust, further muddling the line). The "monster" in the film resembles Boris Karloff's Frankenstein a bit more than Mary Shelley's (more on that later), and even plays on the famous scene in the 1931 film with the little girl near the river, but he is very human. The youngest member of the squad (the annoying younger sister, my favorite, since I was essentially this girl in my neighborhood) forces the older boys to see Frank in a new way. He is not scary. He is not evil. He is not a monster. He protects the children, essentially turning his back on the actual monsters that the world has grouped him with based on appearance alone.

This movie is one of the few movies that makes me cry.  Every time. Every. Time. The scene involves Frankenstein. It's sadder than what you're picturing. I'll pretend, though, that everyone lives happily ever after, and that this is the final shot of the movie:

Frankenstein is such a wonderful monster because he is so very human. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein set the bar for this way back in 1818. Shelley's monster is much more human-looking than Boris Karloff's. Tall, yes, misshapen and scarred, yes, but human. And, unlike some re-imaginings, he is intelligent. He is aware that his creator's disgust for him is wrong. That he shouldn't be judged by his appearance alone. I wrote a paper once about society's propensity toward 'othering' those whose appearances don't fit within societal norm. Shelley's Frankenstein was inextricable from my argument. Shelley makes the reader aware of just how deeply the so-called creature (as in, not human) feels, and how it's society that turns him into the actual monster he becomes. The novel has some of the most haunting lines I've ever read in literature.

He is so utterly alone he even envies the devil himself:

'Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even YOU turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.' Chapter 15.

I mean, come on. How can you not sympathize with this guy? Interestingly enough, one of the most-oft quoted lines on the internet is not, in fact, from the book, but from the 1994 Kenneth Branagh film, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein:

But, man, is it a fine piece of writing (notice satisfy versus indulge). And that's the thing with Frankenstein, I've yet to see a reincarnation that lacks heart (ok, or at least is really fun to watch). So, if you are like me, and love all things Frankenstein, here are a few more ways to get your fix.

Books:

Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley. The beloved classic. (Book Riot did a really awesome post       of the best covers printed, if you're interested in such nerdy things. It's here.)

The Frankenstein Series, Dean Koontz. A modern re-working of the tale focusing on a mysterious tattooed man who    teams with detectives to solve crimes.

Television:

Penny Dreadful, Showtime. This three-season show features both Dr. Frankenstein and his creation as main                   characters. It is gory, graphic, and incredibly engaging. My mom and I watched this show together. If you're                  familiar with the show, you'll probably know why it should have been more awkward than it actually was.

Films:

All of the Frankenstein adaptations: Boris Karloff's 1931 film, plus 1935's Bride of Frankenstein and '39's Son of              Frankenstein. More recently we've seen the Kenneth Branagh film and 2014's I, Frankenstein.

Young Frankenstein. The classic laugh-your-patootie-off comedic reinterpretation from Mel Brooks.

Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. An even older comedic movie, part of a series in which the bumbling duo run    into monsters.

The Monster Squad. Not about Frankenstein's monster, per se, but super seriously worth a watch, anyway. Seriously.

So, what do you think?