Friday, August 26, 2011

Classic monsters

I find it interesting that there are four monsters which loom far above all others in the Western phyche: Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein's Creature, and the Mummy. And they were all from Universal movies in the thirties (or close enough). You would think that somebody had managed to create a new one since then. Or rather, unearth one, for those characters were already old in myth or literature when they were put on film.

I wonder if the greatness is in the characters themselves, or if they had such impact due to the timing, the great depression and later threat of war giving them background emotional support?

Oh, by the way, the Frankenstein Creature makeup is just an amazing design, not the least in this classic photo. Fantastic. There is just no way this face doesn't smash its way to the back of your skull and stick.
As the Creature, Karloff is just radiating "deadness". Paradoxically, he is alive with deadness.


Jes said...

My guess is cause they were more or less the first real successful portrayals of those characters on screen, so they sort of set the tone for all that followed. As for why there haven't been more memorable monster characters, I think there probably have. But these guys came from the same time period, so they tend to be grouped together. I'm sure people will still remember Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees in decades to come, but they belong to a different time than the Universal monsters.

Timo Lehtinen said...

Let's see. Wolfman is a mythological character (a.k.a. werewolf). Dracula was inspired by Prince Vlad III the Impaler from the 15th century. Mummy is, well, a mummy. Frankenstein's Creature is more recent fiction, originating from the 1800s.

But the “monster” that looms above all else in Western psyche is Pan. For this archetype, a.k.a. Satan, is the official bogeyman of modern Christianity. The horned guy has featured in countless movies over the years, especially animations.

Other iconic monsters in film include: Hannibal Lecter, Leatherface of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre horror-film series, and Alien.

Bruce W. said...

I think part of the appeal is because these monsters tap into some of out primal fears. For example, Dracula, the mummy and Frankenstein's creature tap into fear of death and of the "undead." Wolfman, on the other hand, taps into the fear of the inner animal in us being released, and of that animal's violence. Another good movie on that theme is the 1950's "Forbidden Planet" and its "monsters from the id." (which was based on Shakespeare's "Tempest."

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Bruce, fear of death, yes. Just after writing this post, I actually made another post on my other blog:

Alien, yes, I almost mentioned that one. It's one of the few really visually spectacular and larger-than-life monsters. And scary as heck. (A pity they had to make movies with more than one of them.)

Jo Jo Savard said...

I find it annoying when people insist on calling it "Frankenstein's monster" or creature. Everyone knows that's correct but due to movies referring to the creature as Frankenstein I'd bet that it's everyone's first instinct just to call the monster Frankenstein.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I just like a little precision. Like I don't call orange soda "orange juice", and I don't use "light year" as a unit of time. The book or the movies never called the monster Frankenstein (at least not the first two movies which I saw), there was never any confusion in the movies that Frankenstein was the doctor.

Anonymous said...

You don't seem to give a rat's ass about precision in anything else. All of a sudden you want to be accurate? Where did that come from? Readers of this blog know how slipshod and lazy you are. Not to mention how massively uncurious.

Actually the titles of many Frankenstein movies themselves refer to the monster as Frankenstein:

The Bride of Frankenstein
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein
The Curse of Frankenstein
Terror Frankenstein
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

Is it the doctor who gets married? A bride is created for the monster. Why then is the title not "The Bride of Frankenstein's Monster"? Because that's pedantic and cheeseball.

Face it, it's the grossly unintelligent like you who like to point out that the monster is not called Frankenstein because you're hoping that somehow the person you're talking to won't know that and will think you a brain. Or something. I'm not too sure how such a primitive brain really works. Maybe it's your ADHD? People who suffer from that do have a problem following through on things, which would explain the shallowness with which you tackle every single topic.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

"Is it the doctor who gets married? A bride is created for the monster."

Well, I saw a documentary, and they said that they had half given up re the public calling the monster Frankenstein, so in that one (the second movie) *both* the monster and the doctor got a bride.

It's clear that by the time of the silly "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein", they had fully given up.

Anonymous said...

If you were to stop a hundred people in the street and ask them to draw Frankenstein, chances are none of them would draw a guy in a labcoat. They would assume that you meant the monster because that is the common usage of the name. "Frankenstein" has become an abbreviation of sorts for "Frankensteins' Monster."

While it bothers me a little I'd say it's no worse than the fact that monster in most movies bears little resemblance to the monster in the novel who could do more than grunt and stumble around.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

The creature of the novel was a nasty piece of work! He brutally and with foresight murdered Frankenstein's wife.

The took quite a bit of artistic licence with the movie. But then Hollywood always does, virtually. Often the film barely resembles the book. Like I said, a stupid waste of money to buy rights to a book if you're gonna mutate it beyond recognition anyway.

Anonymous said...

I guess so they won't be sued just in case there is any slight resemblance or something.

Sometimes the movie can be better. I loved Let the Right One In, but reading the book isn't recommended. The movie cut out a lot of stuff the author's editor should have cut out.

99.9% of the time the novel is better. I'd say partly because it just gives you more than even the best made movie can.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

"I guess so they won't be sued just in case there is any slight resemblance"

Very good point, I think you're right. I guess that tells us a lot about the world right there.

Anna said...

I don't know about Mummy... Somthing wrong with me?

Anna said...

Oh, ok, I know the Mummy. I first read Mommy. A terrible female Mum Creature. That would be cool. I think it is missing.

I haven't seen all these films, I am sorry. But I do feel strongly connected to Frankenstein. I take it as the monster's name, sorry, I didn't see the movies. I have seen parts of movies, I have a face I connect to it. I feel connected to it as it is some kind of sick combination of natural parts, technology and a scientist's crazy intelligence to manufacture a being he cannot control, and kills him. I think it is something I can relate to as being me a little bit, and I feel there are things like this around me, all the food with modified genes, all the electronic waves, all that stuff that runs out of control.

I can't relate to the Mummy (am not used to visit museums at night), nor to the Wolfman (I grew up in a city), nor to Drakula (I find it interesting how the legend was made up, but more from an ethnographic point of view.)

But Frankenstein... Yeah. I think it is as deep as the story of Adam and Eve being in Paradise, totally happy, and yet wanting to taste the apple of knowledge, even if the price was to have their paradise fucked up. It really says something true and disturbing about humans in a way I can associate my self with it.

But the others, Mummy, Drakula, Wolfman, I am curious, can you really associate yourself with it, or the fear of it? I would be interested to know why / how. To me, they are kind of boring stories.

But hey, this makes me wanna see a real Frankenstein movie! Which one do you recommend for a beginner?

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

The first two, with the original actor and director, are by far the best in my opinion. (That's "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein".)

A Mommy monster, yeah, haha.

I don't know if any of them really scared me... well, must have, because when I was maybe nine, I read a lot of monster magazines, Dracula and werewolf and such, and I remember once I had high fever, I had nightmares which included some of that.

But I liked the stories. Maybe not the mummy, but visually it's cool. I guess for me that's the prime thing, I'm so dang visual, and all these critters are very, very visually and artistically potent.

Those comics I read, re-published in Danish from the famous American Eerie comics of the fifties, often had *superb* artists drawing them, I'm sure that influenced me a lot.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

And yes, I think Frankenstein's creature speaks to an archetype in us, something about an artificial monster lost in an alien world... why that would be, we would get into deep philosophy and religion, I suspect.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I used to make drawings in series of four, sold as postcards. I'd like to do one of monsters one day, and these are the four it has to be, no question.

Anna said...

> Those comics I read, re-published in Danish from the famous American Eerie comics of the fifties, often had *superb* artists drawing them, I'm sure that influenced me a lot.

I can imagine that. Ok, that's a good reason to like them. :)