Last week, mystery writer, Victoria Thompson, talked about Frankenstein’s creature. The discussion primarily focused on the literary take of the creature. This week will look at Thompson’s take on movie-versions of Frankenstein’s Creation.
As a reminder, if you don’t want to read over last week’s interview, Thompson believes that the creature is incredibly sympathetic because he was not a monster until humans made him so. She discussed how it was human’s reactions to him, because he was ugly and the other, which caused his change. The movie versions, especially the classic ones, always start out with the creature as a monster.
“This is another tragedy of the Creature,” Thompson says of the Universal version of the creature, “because the book isn’t read nearly as much as the movies are seen, so people always think of the Creature as the horrible, disfigured being that Boris Karloff portrayed.” She says that the movie give a hat tip to the source material, Mary Shelley’s novel, by having the villagers afraid of the creature because of his looks. “All anyone remembers . . . is the horrible, ugly Creature killing people.”
Thompson acknowledges the difficulty of making books into movies. “It’s frustrating,” she says, “important things get left out or lost, and frequently are.” This means, in her opinion, that if people only know Frankenstein’s creation from the movies they are missing an important part of the creature. Thompson specifically says that these people “lack” an important “frame of reference.”
One of the major changes that many of the classic movie versions of Frankenstein’s creature made was removing his ability to speak. In Universal’s Frankenstein, the creature only grunts and growls, but by The Bride of Frankenstein, he can use a few words. His vocal abilities vary across other films in the Universal pantheon and the Hammer Films. Thompson says that removing the creature’s ability to speak removes his ability to effectively communicate his thoughts and feelings. She says, “When humans are robbed of the ability to communicate misunderstandings are inevitable and often fearfully violent.” This is what happens to the creature. Without his ability to express himself, the characters that populate the movies misunderstand his intentions and act toward him with fear and violence. Thompson says because he is unable to express himself the characters assume “he is a monster,” and he becomes “the ugly being” even to the viewer.
Thompson holds a very sympathetic view of Frankenstein’s creature, as she should. The movie portrayals take him a long way from his original form in Shelley’s classic novel. Parody versions often take it even farther away. “Nothing is truly a Classic until it’s been parodied,” she says of the creature and the movies made about him. Young Frankenstein is a movie Thompson loves. One of the reasons is because it twists the original themes of the movies. That particular movie makes the creature sympathetic again, even if in a humorous way. “Anything that makes people think about Shelley’s message is good, I think,” Thompson says.
Although she has some problems with the cinematic portrayal of Frankenstein’s creature, Thompson loves the movies. She isn’t a fan of films that “give me nightmares,” but she says she loves psychological horror movies like Get Out and of course, Frankenstein.
Besides writing two successful mystery series, Thompson is an instructor in Seton Hill University’s writing popular fiction master’s degree program. She also serves on her local library’s Board of Trustees. Her books are available at all major bookstores and online.