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Frankenstein's Monster



The Novel
Victor Frankenstein, eldest son of Alphonse and Caroline Beaufort Frankenstein, builds the creature in his laboratory through methods of science (he was a chemistry student at University of Ingolstadt) and alchemy (largely based on the writings of Paracelsus, Albertus Magnus, and Cornelius Agrippa) which are not clearly described. Immediately upon bringing the creature to life, however, Frankenstein flees from it in horror and disavows his experiment. Abandoned, frightened, and completely unaware of his own identity, the monster wanders through the wilderness searching for someone who would understand and shelter him.

He finds brief solace by hiding out in the woodshed of a remote cottage inhabited by the DeLaceys, a family of peasants. While they are unaware of his existence, he learns every part of their lives by eavesdropping on their conversations and comes to think of them as his own family, calling them his 'protectors'. He develops the power of speech from listening to the family teach their language to an Arabian daughter-in-law, and very quickly becomes eloquent, educated, and well-mannered.

One day, the creature musters the courage to finally make his presence known. He introduces himself to the family's patriarch, their blind father, and experiences kindness and acceptance for the first (and last) time. The blind man can not see his "accursed ugliness" and so treats him as a friend. When the rest of the family returns, they are terrified of the creature and drive him away. Bewildered but still hopeful, he rescues a peasant girl from a river, but is shot in the shoulder by a man who claims her. Heartbroken, the creature renounces all of humankind and swears revenge on his creator, Frankenstein, for bringing him into the world.

The monster searches for Frankenstein relentlessly, guided by some papers which were in the pocket of the clothing he took from his creator's rooms. From these he discovers Frankenstein's whereabouts, but also discovers the horrific details of his own birth. Upon arriving near Frankenstein's village, he meets and tries to befriend a small boy, William, hoping that the innocent youth will not be prejudiced against him. The boy is instantly frightened and threatens to call for his father, Monsieur Frankenstein, revealing to the creature that the boy is related to his enemy. The creature kills him, and, in a further gesture of hatred against humanity, frames for the murder a girl named Justine Moritz, who is the Frankensteins' maid servant. Justine Moritz is sent to the gallows because Frankenstein decides it would be futile to confess his experiment, as no one would believe him.

Intent on his own revenge, Frankenstein hunts the creature and finds him in a remote ice cave. Here the monster tells Frankenstein his story and pleads with him to create a female equivalent to himself so that he can hide from humanity with one of his own kind. Frankenstein agrees, but relents just before finishing the mate, aghast at the possibility of creating a race of monsters. Enraged, the creature swears he will destroy everything Frankenstein holds dear. The creature's final words before fleeing are "I will be with you on your wedding night!".

He later fulfills his promise by killing Frankenstein's best friend, Henry Clerval, and his bride, Elizabeth Lavenza. Victor Frankenstein's father, Alphonse, then dies of grief. With nothing left to live for, Frankenstein dedicates his life to hunting his creation down and destroying him. The search ends in the Arctic Circle when Frankenstein loses control of his dogsled and falls into ice-cold water, contracting severe pneumonia. He is rescued by a ship exploring the region and relates the entire story to its captain, Robert Walton, before succumbing to his illness and dying. The creature later boards the ship, intent on taking his final revenge, but is overcome with grief upon finding Frankenstein dead, having lost the only family he has ever known. He pledges to travel to "the Northernmost extremity of the globe" and there burn his body to ashes, so that no man can ever create another like him. He leaps from the boat and is never seen again.

Universal Movies
Perhaps the longest-lasting and most memorable image of Frankenstein and his Monster was created in 1931, when Universal Pictures released what is now often praised as the definitive horror film: Frankenstein. The image of Boris Karloff in the flat-head monster mask with bolts in his neck and in undersized clothes has become part of popular culture; even little children are familiar with it and by today Boris Karloff's iconic impersonation of the Monster has become synonymous with the word "Frankenstein".

But before filming began on 24 August 1931 a long period of pre-production preceded. At the end of the 1920s Universal Pictures, which was founded in 1912 by Carl Laemmle Sr, a Jewish German immigrant, was still a small studio. Nevertheless Universal had achieved a reputation as the sole creator of the horror film genre. Low-budget productions like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera and Dracula had established it as the leading studio of the genre and had made actors like Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi famous. In 1930 French-born director Robert Florey was hired by Universal to develop a new horror film as a follow-up to the highly successful Dracula. The studio had acquired the rights to Peggy Webling's theatre adaptation Frankenstein: An Adventure in the Macabre, which had become a huge success in London in the late 1920s. Bela Lugosi, star of Universal's Dracula, was cast as the Monster, but later turned down the role because he did not want to play a character that did not utter a single word. First test screenings with Lugosi did not satisfy producer Carl Laemmle Jr and director James Whale was hired to replace Florey. Whale, an acclaimed director, chose 44-year old Boris Karloff as the Monster and together with make-up specialist Jack Pierce they created the most influential horror image of all times.