Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Legacy of Frankenstein

The image of Frankenstein's monster; what it is that I find so fascinating about the creature that Boris Karloff became some 80 years ago?

I maybe read the Shelley classic while in grade school; I at least knew the storyline to some extent as far back as I can remember.  I recall going to the local used bookstore on Saturdays, searching out another Shelley book with a different cover on it, and buying it with the little, precious cash I had.  I never read the books I purchased, I only bought the book for the cover art.  As time went on, the collection grew so large that my mother made me sell the majority of the books at a rummage sale.  Of course I kept my favorite few.

I think I first saw the 1931 film while I was in middle school.  If I remember correctly, the original film ran on AMC late at night.  I remember scouring the weekly family tv guide for the film and when seeing the date of broadcast, breaking out a VHS to tape the show, setting up the high tech VHS timed recorder, and crossing my fingers that the tape would not run out prior to the end of the film.  Having watched it recently on DVD, the film still has some classic moments; a bit silly at times, but at the heart of the matter, the film always has Karloff looming on screen, always appearing as something ethereal and disturbing; appearing as something that quite didn't fit the screen...something that didn't quite belong to that specific time.

Perhaps that is the attraction to me.  The Karloff monster was a creature born out of time and and out of place; a creature not meant to exist and to only be dragged into reality at the hands of an egotistical maker.  Shunned and persecuted throughout the original book and countless films, the creature has and continues to bear the burden of an unwanted and unwelcome existence.  When Whalen and company designed the famous image years ago, I can't help but think that perhaps they too had tapped into something that all of us feel at some level.  I've begun to read the works of Carl Jung of late.  I don't doubt to think that the imagery of the monster will show up at some point during the reading of his works.

Today, years after my elementary school days, the Karloff incarnation of the monster continues to fascinate me.  I still keep an eye on old film posters for sale on Ebay and on the Web and watch the films when on tv.  I purchased a bust of the Karloff creature after college; today, the lifelike busts sits in my office at my workplace.  As if on queue, the bust both repulses and attracts all who see it on my desk for the first time.  The image, if somehow possible, relates to each and everyone of us at some type of archetypal level; the archetype is either appreciated or despised.  Rarely does a middle, gray type reaction exist to it.  Easily one of the greatest artistic creations of the 20th century, the Frankenstein image of Karloff will be with all of us for the rest of our time.  And I, for one, will forever be a fan. 

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