Before the Hulk smashed his way into the pop culture zeitgeist, there was another big, green monster who wasn’t much of a talker and wasn’t as “bad” as he appeared – the original big green movie monster Frankenstein. Or more accurately, Frankenstein’s monster since the story also includes the creature’s creator/mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein.

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The first celluloid version of Mary Shelley’s classic gothic horror masterpiece hit the screen in 1910 by Edison Studios (yes, that Edison) but the most famous movie adaptation was Universal’s 1931 classic FRANKENSTEIN. Starring Boris Karloff as the monster, this version is the default image that most of us conjure up when we hear the name.

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Karloff reprised his role in two 1930’s sequels, including BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, which gave future Halloweeners a go-to women’s costume and is considered by many to be not only superior to the original, but one of the finest examples of Gothic horror ever. BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN was named by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time and the Boston Herald named it the second greatest horror film. While FRANKENSTEIN (1931) was named the 87th greatest movie of all time on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years… 100 Movies and the line “It’s alive! It’s alive!” was ranked as the 49th greatest movie quote in American cinema.

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Flash forward a couple of decades to the 1950’s and 60’s to the height of the B-movie creature feature craze. Dozens of Frankenstein movies were made including the first Asian take on the classic monster with the Japanese release FRANKENSTEN CONQUERS THE WORLD (“Furankenshutain tai chitei kaijû Baragon”), which had two sequels. Then came the 70’s and the trippy experimentation that marked that decade of cinema gave us Andy Warhol’s weird FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN.

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While Frankenstein was being portrayed in various serious and increasingly graphic films during the 60’s and 70’s, comedic versions have popped up over the years starting with ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948). But the big guy’s real comedic chapter started on TV with “The Munsters” in 1964. Featuring a funny, bumbling married version of Frankenstein played with great humor by the late Fred Gwynne, Herman Munster became a cult classic for generations of rerun kids. For those who missed it, you can check out the series on Amazon Prime or iTunes.

Taking the comedy to a new level, Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) was a smash critical and box office hit and is arguably, one of the legendary director’s best/funniest films. It currently ranks No. 28 on Total Film magazine’s readers’ “List of the 50 Greatest Comedy Films of All Time” and No. 13 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 funniest American movies. In 2003, it was deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” by the United States National Film Preservation Board, and selected for preservation in the Library of Congress National Film Registry joining the original 1931 film and the BRIDE sequel that it was spoofing.

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The 90’s and early 2000’s saw a variety of “new takes” on the classic tale including MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN starring Robert De Niro as the monster and Kenneth Branagh as the doctor; right up to 2014’s I, FRANKENSTEIN, and the upcoming VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN, starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe. Proving that the Frankenstein story is so universal and fun that after 100 years of telling it, young filmmakers are still using it today.

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Happy Frankenstein Day!

Proving Frank’s global appeal, August 30th has been declared Frankenstein Day around the world – set on the birthday of the Monster’s true creator – British author Mary Shelley – who published “Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus” anonymously in 1818 (women weren’t supposed to be writing horror fiction in Victorian England), the day is a chance to explore the many onscreen versions of Mary’s monster.

  1. FRANKENSTEIN (1931) – maybe not the first, but it’s the one every film after is either copying, parodying or trying to be different from…
  2. BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) – the sequel that is largely considered to be not only the better movie, but the best of Universal’s classic horror films…
  3. SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) – sequel to the sequel and Karloff’s last turn as the big guy in a Universal flick, which veer into B-movie territory after this one…
  4. ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948) – Silly, slapstick and sidesplitting, one of the greatest comedy duos come face-to-face with a horde of classic Hollywood monsters…
  5. CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) – the first of Hammer Films’ Frankenstein movies featuring two of the screen’s great evil character actors – Peter Cushing as the Doctor and Christopher Lee as the Monster…
  6. THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) – follow-up to CURSE and the second “Hammer Horror” film; lauded for its brilliant and frightening use of color and gore effects…
  7. FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (1965) – Japan’s Toho makes Frank a giant that fights other giant monsters smashing Tokyo in the process, what’s not to love?
  8. YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) – comedy gold and homage to classic horror films…so many great lines… “Goodnight, Frau Blücher…[horses whinny]”…
  9. THE BRIDE (1985) – This adaptation of the novel features Sting as the good doctor and Jennifer Beals as his unholy creation…this one is so bad, it’s good – plus we love watching Sting try to act!
  10. THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987) – horror-comedy fun for the family…DMG Trivia: written by IRON MAN 3 director Shane Black