Frankenstein (1818) or the Modern Prometheus is a novel written by a British author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly. She was born on August 30th, 1797 in London, England. Shelly wrote this novel when she was only 18years old. She died in 1851 at the age of fifty three. The first edition came out anonymously in London in 1818. The novel contains two major genres of literature: the gothic and the science fiction. The novel is infused with some qualities of the Gothic novel and some from the Romantic Movement too. The subtitle The Modern Prometheus refers to a figure in the Greek mythology wherein he was responsible for a conflict between mankind and Gods. To save the people Prometheus stole Zeus’s fire from sun for which he was severely punished. Victor Frankenstein can be seen as the modern Prometheus.
It also points to have a warning note to it in the sub title against the over ambition of the modern man and the impacts of Industrial Revolution and French Revolution containing both enormous assurance and potentially recognized horrors. At the time this novel was written a debate between scientific discoveries and traditional religious and metaphysical beliefs was starting to bud and the ethics on how far should men pursue to fulfill their desire of knowledge which was possibly in Shelly’s mind too while writing this science fiction.
Frankenstein is a Gothic novel with a lot of mysterious disappearances and supernatural occurrences. For example, the main protagonist is shown to be a solitary character with egocentric nature. This solitary character of Frankenstein can be applied to both Victor, the doctor and his creation as they both prefer isolation. The title of the novel refers to a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who learns how to create life and creates a being larger than average and more powerful in likeness to a man. In modern popular culture, especially in films since 1931, this creature is mistakenly referred to as Frankenstein, despite this being the name of the scientist.
The novel has arguably spawned a complete genre of horror stories and the first fully realized scientific fiction novel. Early critics greeted the novel with praise and disdain. The critical reception of the book was generally unfavorable with confused speculations about the anonymity of the writer. Despite the reviews it became widely known through its melodramatic theatrical adaptations. Later it supplied popular culture with numerous responses in the form of television serials, children cartoons, commercials, movies etc.
Gothic novels show the darkest side of the human nature and while doing so evoke terror. Mary Shelly has explored the marvels of discovery and achievement some of which were a prospect of future technology at that time. Some of the most recent technologies of that time were used to create Frankenstein. She has replaced the fire of heaven with electricity. Discovery of galvanization is indeed the process which animates Frankenstein’s monster. This can be considered one more reason for the utter popularity of the book.
Young Frankenstein (1974) directed by Mel Brooks is the scariest comedy of all times. The film is an adaptation of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein produced by Universal in 1930s. It is the grand though affectionate parody of the Frankenstein movies. It is surely the best farce with an archetypal monstrous storyline. It had a wonderfully crisp black and white cinematography. He has created an old monster films effect in the film with all scenes shot in spectacular black and white camera work and outdated film ratios. It ranges from slapstick and farce to dirty, bawdy humor to irreverent satire.
Why Mel Brooks thought of formulating a comedy movie out of a serious horror fiction, can only be best answered by Mel Brooks himself but we can assume that he wanted to create a parody on the horror flick of all times. It seems that Mel wanted to create a fun movie under the backdrop of funny horror. The people who must have entered the picture hall with the image of the previous horror flicks of Frankenstein, must have been in for a humorous change. Young Frankenstein (1974) was a hilarious spoof tribute to the classic horror film Frankenstein (1931) of James Whales shot at the same locations and with the same props.
Even the lab equipment was the same as the earlier Frankenstein. Though he pokes fun at movies but it never gets to the limit of hammer hitting. Instead of being portrayed as the mad and evil monster of the novel, Brooks’ monster makes his audience laugh. The story begins with Dr. Fredrick Frankenstein, who is a neurosurgeon, after a long period of living down his family reputation, decides to walk on the footsteps of his grandfather and experiment of creating a new life. The result comes as the Transylvanians wanting to kill this creature despite it being most harmless monster in the world, so much so that there’s a dialogue of him in which he says, “Master, you go first…. There might be danger ahead.” Gene Wilder is Dr. Frankenstein and Peter Boyle has been casted as the monster.
People are also of the opinion that although ‘Young Frankenstein’ takes the appearance of a mad cap horror movie, it is generally thought of to be a parody on soap operas. The movie was well acted and well scripted. Sticking close to the original novel Mel has guided his audience through Frankenstein’s quest for knowledge. It is probably not the most famous work of Mel Brooks but it certainly is his best.
Book: Frankenstein by Mary Shelly.
Movie: Young Frankenstein by Mel Brooks.