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Tony Grist

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Frankenstein [Feb. 27th, 2005|10:57 am]
Tony Grist
Frankenstein is a great book. But it's not a good book.

It's a living force in our culture, but when you go back to the original it's bad in all sorts of ways- badly written, badly constructed, badly plotted. It's a great idea indifferently executed.

Mary Shelley was still in her teens when she wrote it.

I think it's disguised autobiography. Shelley was married to a monster- the supremely egotistical, self-pitying, self-exiled, womanising, junkie poet, Percy Bysshe. Read "Epipsychidion"- in which he openly disses Mary- to discover the full extent of his mawkish, adolescent shittiness. Frankenstein is a depressed and depressing book and no wonder.

Maybe it would be forgotten, or at least pushed to one side, if it hadn't been for James Whale's classic movie (or brace of movies.) The Frankenstein franchise continues to run and run because the movie monster- as created by make-up artist Jack Pierce and actor Boris Karloff- is so compelling- at once terrifying and pathetic. Shelley's conception of the monster (a seven foot, murdering version of her husband) was very different and much less interesting.

We're studying Frankenstein for an Open University course. If I had had to choose a "Gothick" text for study I'd have settled on Beckford's Vathek- stylistically sure-footed and delightfully camp and decadent- or a set of stories by Poe.
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Comments:
From: saskia139
2005-02-27 12:00 pm (UTC)
There was an interesting TV version (not particularly good, but still interesting) in which the monster became a very beautiful young man (shadews of Dorian Gray.) It was written, or partly written, by Christopher Isherwood.

I think I've seen that! It was back when I was a teenager, or at least in puberty. *g* In my case that means around 1978-80, or thereabouts.

I liked Branagh's version also, but I must tell you about Rowing against the Wind, a hilariously stupid pic in which Hugh Grant plays Lord Byron and some other forgettable actors play the Shelleys. It's bad enough to make you hate "Fantasia on a Theme by Tallis", which figures largely in the score.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-27 12:14 pm (UTC)
Hugh Grant as Byron?- No, that wouldn't be my casting choice either.

There's also Ken Russell's Gothic- with Gabriel Byrne as Byron and Timothy Spall as Polidori and I forget who as the Shelleys. I didn't like it- I thought it was very heavy handed- but I believe it has a cult following.
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