A Frankenstein for All: How Pop Culture Has Celebrated The Monster

Posted by David Winnick

“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.” – The Monster

August 30th is the birthday of one of the greatest horror fiction writers of all time, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. I am a big fan of Frankenstein and I know that I am not alone. A simple look at pop culture will reveal Dr. Frankenstein and his Monster all over the place. The novel Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, was written as part of a competition created by Mary, her husband Percy, Lord John Byron and John Polidori.

It is interesting to consider that a simple competition produced a novel which has permeated nearly every aspect of American culture.

FILM: The most obvious place to find Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his monster is in the world of film. The best known film version of Frankenstein is the Universal release which starred Boris Karloff as the monster. The film is relatively inaccurate to the book, turning the monster into an inarticulate goon and adding Igor, a character who never existed in the first place.

The monster has been played by multiple actors since the 1931 film. Lon Chaney Jr., Shuler Hensley and Robert De Niro have all taken a crack at playing the reanimated corpse. My personal favorite version of the monster was played by Peter Boyle who tap danced to “Puttin on the Ritz” in the Mel Brooks classic, Young Frankenstein.

Film is just the tip of the iceberg. Television has seen more than its fair share of Frankenstein like shenanigans. In “Weird Science,” two nerds design the perfect woman on their computer who suddenly comes to life during a freak lightening storm. Buffy the Vampire Slayer encountered at least two of Frankenstein’s monsters in her time as earth’s protector. First up was Daryl Epps, a jock, reanimated by his nerd brother. Then there was season four’s “big bad,” Adam. A mish mesh of robot and human parts, Adam was a lab experiment gone horribly wrong. He was one of Buffy’s toughest opponents.

I could list television appearances for days but I think I will finish with the most beloved version, the sweet, childlike Herman Munster who lead his family on all kinds of wacky adventures in The Munsters.

In novels and comics, the monster is everywhere. Dean Koontz has created a whole series of books which bring the Frankenstein story to modern day New Orleans. All sorts of stories draw from Shelley’s novel. Even the science fiction works of authors like Arthur C. Clark, Philip Dick and Isaac Asimov are borrowing from the Victorian era tale of a creature turning on its creator. Think of Roy from “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” or Hal from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

The monster has appeared in all sorts of comic books and even has his own series over at DC, “Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

Not enough? Let’s take a look at music. Here comes a play list to blow your mind.

Teenage Frankenstein – Alice Cooper

Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Pickett

Frankenstein – Edgar Winter Group

Some Kind of Monster – Metallica

Science Fiction Double Feature – Rocky Horror Picture Show

Jesus Frankenstein – Rob Zombie

Another Saturday Night – Sam Cooke

Happy Frankenstein Day everyone.