True fear and horror can often come from the most cerebral of origins. In 1816, due to the manic behest of an inspired Lord Byron on a late summer evening in Geneva, a challenge was issued to a group of his literary comrades.
Among them were the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his 19 year old soon-to-be wife, Mary Shelley née, Wollstonecraft Godwin. After a sunken downpour and an ominous session of German ghost stories shared round the fire, the group set to work with their given prompts of completing a short horror story of their own.
Mary Shelley, upon waking from a plaguing nightmare, went to work with a horrific concept. She would write of a scientist who becomes a Modern Prometheus: wise and charitable with his knowledge, yet eternally punished for his reckless exploitation of powers beyond his understanding. Thus, we have Victor Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s Monster.
As an added note, Shelley’s ambition for her simple ghost tale was, in her own words, “to make the reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood and quicken the beatings of the heart.” This story has been reiterated, remodeled, and reanimated in so many ways, that like the monster it has taken on a life of its own throughout the centuries.
With the birth of the classic Universal horror cycle, acting legends Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi brought dignity and an in-depth terror to their roles as Frankenstein’s Monster and Dracula, respectively. In fact, Karloff’s misunderstood monstrosity continues to transcend the genre of its creation. 1931’s Frankenstein is highly recommended for any cinephiles or fans of the classically macabre. However, a company that was part of a burgeoning literary medium had also gotten its hands on the Frankenstein story in the 1960s.