IT'S ALIVE! FRANKENSTEIN MYTH ENDURES, FSU PROFESSOR SAYS
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-These days, the mad scientist with his laboratory full of horrors in the classic Frankenstein films may provide more laughs than screams, but the crux of the story is one that continues to fascinate and horrify us, according to a Florida State University professor who has written two books on Frankenstein films.
"Frankenstein is an enduring myth because it is so tied up with science and technology, and that's a force that is increasingly shaping our lives,'' said Caroline "Kay" Picart, assistant professor of English and humanities at Florida State. "It's actually one of the most powerful cultural myths we have. It's a story that keeps being retold and revisualized in different ways."
More than a century after Mary Shelley's novel was published in 1818, Frankenstein has become the basis of literally thousands of films. But today's Frankenstein has come a long way from the lumbering but sympathetic monster portrayed by Boris Karloff in 1931's "Frankenstein" and 1935's "Bride of Frankenstein."
In fact, images of Frankenstein and even Dracula have become so familiar and commercialized - Frankenberry and Count Chocula cereals, for example - that they are no longer horrifying, according to Picart, who said the stories are now being refashioned.
Arnold Schwarzenegger in the "Terminator" movies, with his fashionable punk leather and boots, is really a Frankenstein for the current generation, and "Hannibal," with his hypnotic stare and appetite for devouring flesh and souls, is a modern-day Dracula, Picart said. The Frankenstein story has also resulted in some unusual hybrid films. such as the musical horror comedy "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
"The Frankenstein Film Sourcebook," which Picart co-wrote with Frank Smoot and Jayne Blodgett and was published earlier this year, offers a complete guide to all the cinematic incarnations of the Frankenstein story, including cast and creative personnel information, plot summaries, scripts, production history and academic and popular reviews.
Picart's "The Cinematic Rebirths of Frankenstein," which was published this month by Praeger Publishers, critiques the traditional interpretations of the Frankenstein story in terms of its representations of monstrosity, gender, technology and power.
"The theme of monstrosity - the masking and unveiling of our deepest anxieties - in general is what appeals to me," she said. "We are both afraid and drawn to stories about monsters because they are both superhuman and subhuman. We see ourselves in something we regard as alien."
While our interest in monsters and scary things is especially piqued at Halloween, Picart said most people enjoy horror movies because it is a safe release of complex feelings.
"There's a perverse pleasure in allowing someone else to blur boundaries," she said. "We enjoy watching the transgressor, but we punish it in the end."
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