Beyond the Imagination:
Frankenstein, Shelley & Karloff

October 3rd, 2021

It’s not easy making a monster. Just ask Victor Frankenstein who “worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body.” And when he finally succeeds, he steps back, takes a look at what he has done, and flees in horror.

Similarly, author Mary Shelley devoted a year to writing Victor’s story only to have it rejected by publisher Charles Ollier in just three days!

When the manuscript finally found a home, it was with publisher James Lackington, who released it in a paltry run of 500 copies. The reviews were generally unfavorable, with the Quarterly Review dismissing it as a “horrible and disgusting absurdity” and The Monthly Review calling it “an uncouth tale” that “offers no conclusion either moral or philosophical.”

And then there’s Boris Karloff, who spent over a decade trying to make it as an actor.

To supplement his income, he worked as a baggage handler, ditch digger, and delivery man before playing James Whale’s Frankenstein monster at age 43 – a role for which he did not receive on-screen credit.

Of course, we know how everything turns out.

Victor Frankenstein becomes the archetype for numerous mad scientists from Rotwang in Fritz Langs Metropolis (1927) to Dr. Henry Wu in Jurassic World (2015).  Mary Shelley comes to be credited by Brian Aldiss as the mother of the science fiction genre. And Boris Karloff’s portrayal of Shelley’s creature has made him, in the words of one critic, “one of the most iconic actors to have ever lived.”

Indeed, making monsters is a long game.

If you’re interested in exploring these stories in more detail, please consider registering for Beyond the Imagination – A Virtual Discussion on Frankenstein and Karloff. Hosted by Prime Stage Theatre, the event goes live on Monday, October 4, at 7:00 PM (Eastern Time).

Presented as part of Allegheny County’s RADical Days, the discussion will center on Prime Stage’s upcoming productions of Karloff: The Man and the Monster and Frankenstein – both of which will deal with the process of creating the monster that has left an indelible mark on our collective imagination.

Click here for more information. I’ll hope to see you there.

Colin Clive as Victor (aka Henry) Frankenstein in James Whale’s 1931 film.
Elle Fanning as Mary Shelley in Haifaa Al-Mansour 2018 biopic of the author.
Boris Karloff in a promotional photo for Universal Pictures, circa 1931.
RADical Days promo for
Beyond Imagination

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