With a new stage adaptation of "Frankenstein" by David Oliver for Road Less Traveled Productions, it's a good time to look back at the many variations of the fabled story.
In the century since “Frankenstein” was birthed by a teenager on a rainy night at Lake Geneva, Switzerland, the story of “The Modern Prometheus” has been fertile ground for the stage, screen and even comic books.
Though Mary Shelley described her “creation” as having yellow skin that “scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath,” lustrous black hair and pearly white teeth, his appearance has varied from the iconic look of a flat head and bolts in his neck in the 1931 film, to having odd green gobs on his face (Hammer movies), wearing guyliner (“I, Frankenstein”), looking like a patchwork quilt (“Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”) and even as an adorable dog (“Frankenweenie”). Road Less Traveled’s creation is more scaled back but works, too.
Here is a brief timeline of some of the noteworthy moments in the life of “Frankenstein.”
1816: “The Modern Prometheus.” When friends challenge each other to write a ghost story, young Mary Shelley, 18, upstages poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron with her tale. Better known as “Frankenstein,” it is published in 1818, written by “Anonymous.”
1823: “Presumption, or the Fate of Frankenstein.” The first stage adaptation of the novel premieres in London. Picketers are outside protesting its amoral theme.
1910: “No. 6604.” Thomas Edison’s 13-minute silent short depicts an odd deformed creature with spindly fingers and crazy hair.
1931: “Frankenstein.” The iconic makeup Jack Pierce created for Boris Karloff remains the face of the creature nearly 90 years later. It’s the first of the Universal monster movies.
1935: “Bride of Frankenstein.” The creature takes an (unwilling) bride in this surprisingly poignant film – and an important one in the Universal canon.
1948: “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” Laughs ensue when the comic duo meets the creature and his friends.
1957: “The Curse of Frankenstein.” Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee meet in the first of seven Hammer “Frankenstein” films.
1964: “The Munsters.” Fred Gwynne played the creature as a lovable, bumbling giant with a hearty laugh and a child’s temperament in this family TV comedy. Three films followed, as well as other spinoffs.
1975: “Young Frankenstein.” Mel Brooks turned the original Universal film into a modern comic masterpiece using the 1931 film set.
1984: “Frankenweenie.” From Tim Burton’s fertile imagination comes the story of a boy named Victor Frankenstein and his (resurrected) dog Sparky. Burton remade the film with stop-motion animation in 2012.
1994: “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” Director and actor Kenneth Branagh sticks
to the original novel with mixed results in the aptly titled film. Robert De Niro is the gruesome patched-together monster.
2011: “Frankenstein.” Film director Danny Boyle created a stunning stage version of the story at the Royal National Theatre in London.
A unique twist had Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch alternating the roles of Frankenstein and the Creature nightly. The actors are “sharing” roles again now in a new way: each stars as Sherlock Holmes on different TV shows.
2014: “I, Frankenstein.” Adaptation of the graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux. Aaron Eckhardt plays an angst-ridden and brawny man/creature fighting centuries-old evil in this dark, modern thriller that’s better than it has any right to be.
2015: “Victor Frankenstein.” Intriguing but flawed film focuses on the title character as a medical student through the eyes of his young assistant, once a hunchbacked circus freak he “cured.” The roles are earnestly played by James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe.