Chronicling the links between potential tangents and my slow/rapid? descent into madness.
Listen via YouTube Maybe… If I can work out the bugs.
This is our pilot episode in which Brent and I stumble through the disparate plot points of the 1818 gothic novel Frankenstein or the Modern day Prometheus by Mary Shelley and the 1931 movie Frankenstein directed by James Whale and adapted by James L. Balderston.
The differences between the novel and the movie are so numerous that listing them in detail would take forever.
But here are the 10 most notable differences we touched on in our podcast.
10 Differences Between the Book and the Movie of Frankenstein
1. Victor vs. Henry
The 1931 movie changes the name of Doctor Frankenstein from Victor to Henry. Maybe in an effort to make him more appealing? They take other steps to redeem the mad scientist, Fritz, for example, is the manifestation of some of the traits that don’t make the transition from the Victor of the book to Henry of the film. Because he is animating his creature somewhat in the open in the film he doesn’t need to be as duplicitous as he is in the novel. He also doesn’t sully his hands with a lot of the more gruesome aspects of the creation of his creature and is thus, more acceptable, maybe?
He is, of course, still an awful human being.
2. The Creature vs. The Monster
The movie denies the Creature a voice and denies his the ability to be perceived as an innocent. Whilst the Creature of the novel is depicted sympathetically, with the capacity to learn and love, the Monster of the film still shows some of that potential but as he has no voice and basically no time to develop in any way. The space and time afforded to the creature through his solitude is key to the relatability of Frankenstein’s creation in Shelley’s novel. But James Whale didn’t have the luxury of a whole novel to develop his Monster’s character, but you can see the humanity of Boris Karloff’s bumbling creature in his confusion, fear and desire to understand and explore the world around him.
3. The Fritz Situation
Fritz is the vehicle for all that is distasteful in the creation process. His absence in the novel means that Victor is reliant on his own resources. He also has a bitter and morose internal monologue that would have not translated to screen. An assistant allows him to neatly offload scientific exposition, with the added feature that Fritz is a dislikeable low stakes person for the monster’s first kill.
4. Bad Brains
The movie gives us the brain mix up as an easy out to the dilemma that Shelley sets up… to what extent does Frankenstein harbour responsibility for his creatures actions, and to what extent are the frightened humans of the story culpable for what the creature becomes? If we are to believe that a criminal brain is only capable of criminality as posited by Doctor Waldman then surely the monster was only capable of dangerous or criminal behaviour. In one neat action, Fritz dropping the brain gives us a scapegoat and an excuse for dispatching a creature that is problematic.
Elizabeth still has a limited presence in the film, in the novel she is both an object to be desired and a person Victor can project his mother issues onto. In the movie, however, she is denied even that level of depth. Although Frankenstein does seem to value her more highly than his friend (Victor in the film, Henry in the novel) which is more than I can say for Victor’s respect for her in the novel. Mary Shelley is not unsympathetic to Elizabeth, she advocates for the innocent Justine, despite how deeply affected she is by William’s death. She is loyal, compassionate, intelligent and courageous, all of which seems to be lost on Victor.
6. The Crimes of the Creature
It takes the creature months to kill someone and a lot of awful things have happened to him, pushing him to the edge. The movie has the Creature killing Fritz within the first day of his existence, then Dr Waldman and then little Maria (the girl whose dad left her by the lake with a cat that is very clearly dead as her companion. There is also a slew of violent attacks including his weird predatory attack on Elizabeth and culminating in his attempt destroy his creator. He is painted as violent, but that violence springs from fear rather than hatred. The novel has the space to complicate and problematize the Creature’s crimes further. His first crime is arson as he attempts to gain some impotent vengeance on the DeLacy family who rejected him, this is the point at which the Creature snaps. From here on he carries out the brutal murder of little William Frankenstein, frames the unfortunate and noble Justine and fixates on bringing about a kind of exquisite suffering on Victor. There is a moment of hope, in which the Creature reaches out to Victor to end his isolation and lessen his suffering. He asks for a companion, why he thinks that introducing another creature to the level of suffering he experiences seems like a reasonable thing to him is one of the most unreasonable and illogical expectations the Creature has. But the destruction of his bride breaks this fraught truce and the Creature then kills those closest to Victor, his best friend Henry and his wife Elizabeth. This is his final crime, although Victor will attempt to blame the death of his father and his own suffering through the subsequent chase on the Creature.
7. The Missing Letters
The very effective framing narrative of Walton’s expedition, which sets the tone for the entire novel, is entirely missing from the movie. We come to the movie with only a few minutes of introduction from an announcer giving a monologue or prologue warning of the horror that is about to ensue. This change in framing redirects our attention somewhat away from the ethical dilemma of creation at play and onto the monstrosity of the creature itself. Walton’s doomed expedition primes us for Victor’s obsession, without this framing narrative the focus can be shifted slightly away from the dangerous ambition and self-centred hubris. That is to say that without Walton spend more time beholding the monstrous spectacle of the creature, than the monstrous spectacle of his creator.
8. The Outcome
In the movie, the audience can rest safely knowing that the town and the doctor are safe and that he might have learnt his lesson. The creature appears to be dead and everything seems to be tied up in a neat little bow. Shelley, on the other hand, leaves us with a tragic end. Everyone is dead, doomed or miserable. Walton’s men may get out of the icy wastelands alive but that is as close to a happy ending as we get. The creature remains alive but has no desire to stay that way.
9. The Swiss Landscape
The Switzerland of the film is villages, lakes and windmills. But the novel is able to give us a more complex look at the Swiss landscapes and their surrounds with the Creature and Victor undertaking vast treks, depicted through sweeping descriptive romantic prose. The Swiss are depicted as a noble society in the novel, but unfortunately, the movie only deals in villager stereotypes and class-based stereotypes.
10. The Moral of the Story
If I was to grossly simplify the message of each text into an easy to digest statement it would probably go thus:
The movie: Creation is dangerous, entities can be born evil and it takes a village and a hero to bring down a monster.
The novel: The cruelty and ambition of man are inherently dangerous and should not be left unchecked.
Shelley Wollstonecraft, Mary. “Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus.”
Different editions used listed below
- Project Gutenberg: http://www. gutenberg. org/files/84/84-h/84-h. htm (2008).
- Norton Critical Edition
- Audible Audio book narrated by Dan Stevens
- Gothic Treasury of the Supernatural
Frankenstein (1931), Universal Pictures. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0021884/
Hitchcock, Susan Tyler. Frankenstein: A cultural history. WW Norton & Company, 2007.
And a whole bunch of articles I didn’t write down. I promise I’ll do better
The new series of the eerie Night Vale Presents podcast Alice isn’t Dead is on it’s way. If you haven’t listened to series one yet… well do that, it’s not that long and this article is going to totally fail to do it justice, this is a brief recap and fan worship only and not a comprehensive guide.
I love Alice Isn’t Dead, it took me a while to get through it because I’m a scaredy pants, but it is a beautifully creepy, amazingly unsettling road trip through dystopian America.
Season 1 Recap
Our narrator takes a job with a mysterious shipping company, Bay and Creek, in the hopes that somehow, somewhere she will be able to track down her wife Alice who appears to have faked her own death and dissapeared, for reasons unknown. As the narrator treks across the country she attempts to deal with the betrayal by sending a one way communication of her thoughts and journey out via her 2 way radio. But her travels take a disturbing turn when she encounters the wretched zombie-like Thistlemen, a population of otherworldly serial killers. There is also the ominous threat of something much more sinister going on, something that makes it impossible for Alice to return even after the Thistlemen are apparently defeated.
Which brings us to the series of teasers for the second seasons and the chilling voice at the end of the season 1. After hours of listening to the monologue of the narrator suddenly a new voice, a female voice, a threatening voice lets the audience know that the perilous journey is nowhere near over yet. There is speculation on reddit about the voice so I won’t get into it here but if you are curious have a looksie. In the 2 teasers that have been released the narrator is back on the road, going through more sinister, forgotten towns, this time with potentially cultish occult overtones, but we’ll see.
Season 2 is set to be released on the 4th of April so Australian listeners should be able to download the first episode in their podcast app on the 5th. Episodes will be released fortnightly.
Links to more info
Starring: Jasika Nicole
Music by: Disperition
Written by: Joseph Fink
The night was muggy; hot, with the tantalizing idea of rain in the air. The quiet of the forest was punctuated by frog calls and the faint trickle of a nearby creek. The air smelled of musty earth and the surrounding eucalypts whose spindly branches rustled occasionally in the slight breeze. By dawn the clearing would be abuzz with activity and birdsong as the local wildlife ventured out for their early morning sabbaticals. Magpies would warble, cockatoos would fuzz and wrens would titter and carry out elaborate dances, but for now the space was still, apart from the occasional wombat or possum casually going about their evening.
Suddenly the tranquillity was broken by the rustling undergrowth and snapping of twigs that signified human footsteps fast approaching the clearing.
Twigs caught in his bootlaces as he ran. Branches dragged across his ankles and legs, scratching and drawing blood. He felt nothing. Terror and survival pushed him onwards. Looking over his shoulder every few steps, nearly stumbling as he did so. The moon barely shone, smothered by clouds. The sky was almost totally obscured by the slight outline of the trees. The forest seemed to stretch on forever without relief.
He could hear his own breathing, raspy and panicked. He swallowed trying to calm himself. His heartbeat pulsed in his ears. He continued to run as fast as his legs would carry him, they felt limp and useless as he dragged himself along. His chest was on fire. He couldn’t run anymore.
He came to a clearing and stopped, whirling around, shining his ineffective torch into the scrub. He stopped spinning and tried to breathe more slowly, but his body wouldn’t let him. He bent over, his free hand resting on his knee, letting his guard down for a moment, when a crunching sound came from just outside the clearing.
He fumbled, dropping his torch, it smacked against a rock and went out. He dropped to the ground, scrambling at the dusty earth until he found it. Carefully touching the familiar barrel and running his finger along the plastic thread he tried to work out if it was fixable. Relief washed over him, it had just come apart. Vainly looking around the blackness of his surroundings he managed to screw it back together. The light flickered back on and he frantically moved torchlight along the tree line. He backed towards a sturdy looking tree, staring intently at the direction from which he had come. Slumping against the thick trunk he took another gulp of air. His mind raced as he tried to figure out what the hell he was going to do next. As he scanned the horizon his breathing began to slow and his heart rate began to gradually return to normal. Time passed, it seemed like hours. He couldn’t tell if it was getting closer to dawn or if his eyesight was just adjusting to the dark, but he could see the trees outside of the torch light. There was no sign of his pursuer. His eyelids drooped and he finally allowed his eyes to close.
He awoke to the bright noon sunlight blasting down upon him, the surrounding trees had shaded him from the early rays of the sun and it was just starting to heat up to the point of being uncomfortable. The torch had rolled out of his hand, the battery long since dead. He squinted into the light, and tested his limbs, assessing the damage. His legs hurt, they felt like they had been cut to ribbons and they were caked in blood and dirt. His arms ached He felt the back of his head for the wound, it was bloody and more swollen than he had anticipated, the realisation of the severity of the injury made his stomach lurch. He felt faint and had a slight flash of recollection of the night before. His stomach lurched and changed his train of thought. He scratched at one of the many insect bites that dotted his body. Mosquito bite maybe, hopefully not a spider, possibly ants. There were a few small ants determinedly making their way over the leaves beside his left foot, completely uninterested in this huge interloper, they carried on their day as planned. In fact for the most part the forest seemed completely underwhelmed by the presence of this obvious outsider. A magpie examined him for a few minutes before summarily dismissing is presence as a less than interesting anomaly and hopping away.
He struggled to his feet and tried to gauge how far he was from the nearest road. How far had he run? It felt like forever, but the forest was a finite space, less than 50kms in diameter, so surely a road had to be less than 25kms in one direction or another. He had spent some time here as a kid but he never went in this far. Hopefully he would stumble across something familiar, a rocky outcrop he’d traversed as a kid or a bike trail. He used to blaze along the bumpy tracks in his old dirt bike. He and Ryan would cut school, stock up on supplies and race through the trees until school was over then head back looking suspiciously scruffy for kids who had been at school all day. Ryan? Shit he hadn’t thought about him in years, he was probably his first real crush, and most gentle and ultimately crushing rejection. He smiled sadly as he recalled afternoon spent poking bull ant nests and nearly running over hikers. One particularly disgruntled hiker who was nearly flattened by the boy’s bikes while following a shared trail made signs warning “Bike Riders GIVE WAY TO HIKERS” out of ply wood nailed to trees. Signs that the boys spent a gloriously sunny afternoon defacing with thick permanent marker.
What he wouldn’t give to see one of those signs right now.
He shielded his face and squinted in the direction of the sun, he wished he’d paid more attention to the basic stuff, the stuff that would have aided his survival. He knew that the placid magpies near the entrance to the forest wouldn’t swoop because they had been fed by regular visitors and that the point where the two creeks met was the best place for finding frogs but he couldn’t even remember which direction the sun set in relation to the forest. He patted his pockets vainly, he wasn’t sure what he expected to find, but the content were still disappointing; all he found was a receipt, a phone card a substantial quantity of pocket lint. Useless. At least he could call someone if he reached a payphone.
He decided to set out in the opposite direction to the sun, so that he could at least see where he was going, flawed logic, he knew that, but he was grasping at any semblance of strategy he could think of. Tightening and retying the laces on his boots he briefly examined the wounds on his legs, they weren’t too bad, he could still walk at a reasonable pace, but he would definitely need to go to a hospital or see a doctor. A doctor? Oh no, a sudden wave of recollection and regret washed over him. He was supposed to meet Henry last night. He would be worried or worse angry. Henry would believe him, he would have to, he could show him the scrapes and scratches. Maybe even get him to have a look at his head. If he could convince the young doctor to meet him again, which might be easier said than done, especially if Henry thought this was just another lame excuse.
At least work would be fine, he could file a police report and that documentation would be enough. He tried to arrange the events of the night before into a comprehendible storyline. He knew he drove home from work, or at least he started to. So how did he end up here and where the fuck was his car? He had pulled over, he remembered that much, something happened. He had hit something, or something hit him. The rest was a dizzying blur. He wasn’t sure who, or what had attacked him, a man, he thought. There was the vague memory of a white four wheel drive and a gravelly voice on the edge of his consciousness but he wasn’t sure what was real and what was his traumatized memory filling in the blanks. He had run for ages but surely he couldn’t be that far away from the rest area he had stopped in, if he could just find a road or trail he was sure he could find his way out, hopefully before nightfall.
He vainly tried to wipe some of the grime off his forehead and began to trudge between the close growing gum trees towards to gradually growing sound of trickling water, if he found the creek he could follow it, and maybe splash some water on his face. He was pretty sure it would lead to a road in either direction, though it could be quite a trek. As he walked past a thick gum tree laden with deep red oozing sap he was too distracted to notice the figure leaning against it.
From behind him a familiar gravelly voice boomed “Sleep well?”
He spun around just in time to see the dark metal of the shovel come down on his head.
Kit homes and hard plastic playgrounds had popped up like mushrooms along the peaks and ridges of the valley. A battered and contorted creek ran into a manufactured lake, with cheaply constructed viewing platforms that had little view to offer. Fat contented ducks paddled listlessly through the reeds awaiting the next unsuspecting picnic or enthusiastic toddler with an old loaf of bread. A deliberately rustic path, lined with strips of metal lest the dirt mingle with the lawn, wound through the park. The compacted trail was impossible for scooters and bikes during the muddy winters but luckily for the local kids the summer heat had solidified the path into a smooth , albeit inconsistent surface on which determined children could achieve a satisfyingly terrifying amount of speed.
Stevie and Kate flew past benches awaiting graffiti on scooters that were well worn and well loved, they rattled and squeaked as they bumped over rocks and crevices. Stevie’s scooter was new at Christmas and it was already covered in scratches and stickers. The hastily assembled plastic had gone through it’s share of punishment, but Stevie was unrelenting, testing the very limits of the safety warnings. As they approached Kate’s house their scuffed shoes dragged along the steep curb almost in unison, coming to an abrupt halt just beyond the brick pillar mailbox of the toy strewn yard.
“See you tomorrow” Kate yelled over her shoulder as she walked her scooter up the driveway. Stevie waved and nodded, walking her own scooter past the scaffolding that signalled the impending urbanization of the forest that remained past the estate. Her house was on the very edge of the forest, in fact it had still been forest when her mum and dad bought it. Stevie and her much older brother had collected stick insects and climbed the trees on the block before the foundation had been laid. He was the one who had taught her how to carve worlds into logs and where to find the most interesting bugs. He was her rock, her hero. But now her brother had left her for uni, left her to deal with the full focus of her parents on her own and only a few lonely trees remained. She stopped and walked her scooter across her rocky, dusty backyard. Earlier that week the excavator had dragged away the grassy top soil to flatten out the backyard and the dirt was in piles waiting to be dragged away.
Stevie kicked through the rubble, her mum would flip if she knew she was out here messing around near the tiles and building supplies. She grinned a gap tooth grin, she’d been busting to check out the debris and climb the dirt mounds. As she traversed the lumpy dunes and slid down the steep inclines, coating her school shorts in thick red dirt, a flash of colour caught her eye. She attempted to dust off her hands on the front of her shirt and stooped to pick up the faded plastic artefact. Stevie examined the flaky red plastic, smoothed down through years of weathering, she ran her finger across the slight ripple of where the thread used to be. A tube maybe? Like a container or something, She shook it a corroded battery slid slowly out.
Unbeknownst to the grubby school kid with skun knees her mother had caught sight of her from the laundry window and was not pleased with what she saw. Little did she know how unimpressed she was soon to be when, a few hours from now the local police and forensic services would descend on their already torn apart yard She waited for a moment, intently watching Stevie fumble with whatever gross scavenged item she had found this time. The mother sighed deeply, It was great that the girl was curious and fearless but a slight sense of self preservation would be nice. She reluctantly open the screen door and bellowed in her best mum voice “Stevie put that down and get in here NOW!”