Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is not only a classic novel, but it has become the basis of a variety of movie genres, from horror to science fiction. The story of Frankenstein, a scientist who aspires to create life and when he does his creation fumbles out of his own control, has been referenced to and remixed in works of literature, movies, and popular culture. At the time of Mary Shelley, science was about to reach another revolution as the potentials of science weren’t quite realized to a majority of people. It was apparent though that science could intrude upon the beliefs of religion and ethics. Mary Shelley uses the idea of ethics and of the unknown potential of science to fuel the true horror evoked by Frankenstein.
The story of how this novel has gotten to the level of popularity it reaches today starts with the novel itself. The book at first got mixed reviews but over time it gained a following. At the turn of the century, the first film adaptation of it was made by Edison Studios in 1910 as a Silent short film. However, this would not get the reception that the Universal Studios’ version staring Boris Karloff would receive in the 1931 version. This movie solidified and introduced the horror genre to popular culture, while also setting up a kind of archetype for horror movies at the time. The idea of man playing God and the consequences that follow captivated the minds of audiences everywhere. This and the rest of the Frankenstein movies by Universal built upon this idea. These movies helped to build the idea of the mad scientist in the laboratory whose own creation spins out of his own control. Actually, Frankenstein brought the idea of one’s own creation being more than what the creator could handle, which has been an important staple in the science fiction world.
The ideas presented above have influenced a variety of famous movies, from action to science fiction. For example, The Terminator franchise builds upon the idea that man won’t be able to control its own advancements when it comes to robotics and computers. The idea that machines will rise against man creating a skull filled post-apocalyptic world terrified audiences upon being released since at the time in the 1980’s advancements were being made in computers. In Jurassic Park, man tries to play God again by bringing back dinosaurs through modern genetics in order to create an amusement park. In the words of Jeff Goldblum, “Uh…uh…Life finds a way.” Yes, yes it does, as then the dinosaurs escape and terrorize the island. Once again, playing on the potential fears of the time, as in the 1990’s advancements in genetics and cloning brought new scientific ethics to the field. These classic movies, just like in the times of Mary Shelley, is a response to potential fears at the time.
The inception of the movie industry not only invokes a sense of nostalgia but shows the expressive spirit of mankind. In 1912, Carl Laemmle founded Universal Studios, what would be one of the leaders of cinematic innovation for years to come. He set up the entire enterprise from just a few nickelodeons and revolutionized the movie industry. A new medium was introduced, film, and it brought the world to its knees. He encouraged people to explore and innovate, the rest is cinematic history.
Growing up, my father owned a chain of movie theaters and I was very interested in the industry. I would always try to help my father in whatever way I could and frequently watched films in the theater. To this day, one of the most awe inspiring and impressionable things I have seen is the introduction to every single Universal Studios production. Yes, the iconic, trumpeting music playing while the shimmering, radiant Earth revolving while the words “Universal Studios” appear. I always felt it was a testament to the creative nature of man and how the world is our canvas for innovating ideas and to ultimately share them. The success of Universal didn’t just come from luck, it came from the hard work of aspiring individuals. From Steven Spielberg to Ron Howard, innovators have helped to shape not only how cinema has progressed through the years, but how people think. Thinking big. Expressing sentiments and ideas.