‘Simple Creature’, the new movie directed by Andrew Finnigan, is the latest reworking of Mary Shelley’s basilar book. But who really is the “monster”?
First of all, the question of the name is very important in the novel and in all the subsequent versions (especially the movies) of the legend of Frankenstein. It is an idea linked to the ancient European-Asian religions that a creature (or even a subject) has a life because it has a name.
By not giving the creature a name, Doctor Victor Frankenstein, is not really able to be similar to the gods as he would have liked, nor is he able to defeat death. And not giving a name to the creature indicates that the creation made by human and not divine hands is bound to remain a simple imitation of perfection and cannot be but a monstrous creature.
Written as a series of letters, the original novel ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley is published for the first time in 1818, giving rise to great surprise and criticisms. The creature of the novel is an assembly of anatomical parts of cadavers that Doctor Frankenstein creates secretly in his laboratory in Switzerland using electrical energy and the alchemic theories of Paracelsus and Alberto Magno. The bodies were taken from cemeteries and belong to criminals and other human relics nobody cares about.
Doctor Frankenstein doesn’t worry about the personality of the creature, thinking it has the psychological features of a newborn. On the other hand, the mind of the creature remembers past events and is terrified by fire. The creature is incredibly strong and immediately escapes from the laboratory and hides in the surrounding fields. At first the creature is taken in by a family of immigrants (the De Laceys) but is soon sent away due to a series of equivocal situations determined by his monstrous shapes. Furious and uncontrollable he spreads terror and fear everywhere and is responsible for horrible murders.
When the creature finally meets Doctor Frankenstein, he asks him to create a female creature to run away with and live in forgotten places. At first the Doctor accepts but half way through he destroys the creature. Revenge takes place the night of Frankenstein’s wedding when his future bride is killed. After this event Doctor Frankenstein decides to follow his creature to destroy it.
Frankenstein was a successful theatre piece all throughout the 800s and it reached movie theatres in 1931, thanks to the film ‘Frankenstein – The Man Who Made A Monster’ by James Whale, where the creature is interpreted by the incredible British actor Boris Karloff (real name William Henry Pratt) who gave the creature its final shape, the one that is still used today.
This icon of Frankenstein was never changed even after hundreds of films and theatre plays. Two more films were made that contributed to define the character of the legend even better: ‘The Bride Of Frankenstein’ (1935, with the incredible interpretation of Elas Lanchester) and ‘Son Of Frankenstein’ (1939). To date 50 films were made on Frankenstein without counting the short films and TV productions, and the re-prints of the original novel by Mary Shelley and all the theatre and literary adaptations that were produced over the years.