The good, the bad and the ugly of Frankenstein films down the years

A number of filmmakers have breathed celluloid life into Mary Shelley’s creature ... with differing results

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 November, 2015, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 November, 2015, 11:18am

James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe are playing god and monster in Victor Frankenstein, the latest – but very far from the first – screen rendition of Mary Shelley’s 1818 gothic tale. Ahead of the film’s release, we look back at some of the most notable adaptations that have captured popular imagination over the decades.

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1. The classic: Frankenstein (1931)

The film version that indisputably displaced Mary Shelley’s novel in the pop culture consciousness, British director James Whale’s definitive adaptation set the prototype of a sorrowful non-speaking monster (played by the inimitable Boris Karloff) who feels misunderstood by the entire world.

2. The greatest: The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

James Whale turned the blessing of Universal Studios into a superior sequel – and one of the greatest horror movies ever made. Swinging between the serious and the cleverly ironic, this wild ride is further elevated by Ernest Thesiger’s nutty Dr Septimus Pretorius, as well as his roster of homunculi.

3. The disappointment: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)

When you had the audacity to cast Robert De Niro as The Creature, you’d better make it a watchable movie at least. But for director Kenneth Branagh, who also starred as Victor Frankenstein, the task proved too much and we’re left with a bizarre romantic fable that barely even frightens.

4. The arty-farty: Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)

It doesn’t get crazier than this gross-out oddity, which saw Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey temporarily depart from their ennui-infused experimental films for an elaborate spectacle of sex and gore. Udo Kier played the demented Baron Frankenstein, intent to create a new zombie race through mating.

5. The animated: Frankenweenie (2012)

Expanding from the live-action short he made for Disney in 1984, Tim Burton’s 3D, black-and-white stop-motion animated film was suitably macabre, but also surprisingly bittersweet. Its story about a lonely boy scientist and the pet dog he brings back to life touched audiences both old and young.