The Frankenstein monster first lumbered into existence in 1818 in Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus,” a work that many have called the first science-fiction story.

Filled with “grotesque, dreamlike imagery,” according to Jane Yolen in “Horror: 100 Best Books,” “Frankenstein” is a gothic horror yarn as well, relating the tale of a mad scientist who discovers the secret of life, fashions a monster out of spare parts and is cursed by his curious (not to mention hideous) creation.

Shelley’s masterpiece has spawned numerous feature films, the latest of which is “I, Frankenstein,” now in theaters.

Based on the graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux, “I, Frankenstein” stars Aaron Eckhart as Adam, a superpowered, pieced-together being who “gets swept up in a long-running battle between powerful gargoyles and infernal demons who seek the key to his immortality,” says

Like virtually every other “Frankenstein” interpretation, “I, Frankenstein” draws inspiration from Shelley’s Frankenstein but plays fast and loose with the details.

This got us to thinking about the many ways the Frankenstein monster has appeared in popular culture over the years, from food to songs to merchandising to the big and small screens.



You could write a book on “Frankenstein” movies (in fact, several people have), but we’ll only cover the highlights here.

For historical purposes, you can watch the 1910 Edison Studios version of “Frankenstein” on YouTube. After that, pick up (on DVD or Blu-ray) the trio of “Frankenstein” films Universal produced during the 1930s: “Frankenstein” (1931), “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935) and “Son of Frankenstein” (1939), each starring Boris Karloff in his signature role as the sympathetic creature.

Feel free to skip such low-budget turkeys as “Frankenstein 1970” (1958) and “Frankenhooker” (1990), but be sure and check out “The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957), Hammer Film Productions’ first delving into the Frankenstein mythos; “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” (1943), another classic from Universal; “The Evil of Frankenstein” (1964), one of the more entertaining Hammer entries; “Young Frankenstein” (1974), Mel Brooks’ funniest film (yes, even funnier than “Blazing Saddles”); “Frankenweenie” (2012), Tim Burton’s stop-motion animated Disney feature; and “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” (1994), a flawed but compelling adaptation of the novel with none other than Robert De Niro as the creature (he’s actually one of the weaker aspects of the film).

If you’re a B-movie buff with the will to be weird, boot up the 1973 sleazefest “Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein,” which film critic John Stanley (“Creature Features Strikes Again Movie Guide”) calls a “low point in cinema” and a “sickening exercise in black humor.”



In 1973, Dan Curtis, who created the vampire soap opera “Dark Shadows,” produced “Frankenstein,” a made-for-TV movie shown over two nights as part of ABC’s “The Wide World of Mystery” anthology series. The movie felt like a stage play, was shot on video and had a tiny budget, but it adhered fairly closely to Shelley’s novel, with Bo Svenson as the articulate and verbose monster.

Airing later the same year and overshadowing the Curtis picture was the oxymoronically titled “Frankenstein: The True Story,” a superior British production that was shown theatrically in Europe and on television in the United States. The monster, played by Michael Sarrazin, is a handsome creation that deteriorates as the 182-minute film progresses. The star-studded cast includes Leonard Whiting, Jane Seymour, James Mason and Tom Baker (the fourth Doctor Who), who has a brief role as a ship captain.

Modern audiences may enjoy the 2004 made-for-cable movie “Frankenstein,” but there’s more entertainment to be found in the monster’s many TV appearances.

In addition to the obvious — Fred Gwynne’s comedic turn as Herman Munster in “The Munsters” — the classic creature has reared his ugly head in “Tales of Tomorrow,” “Route 66,” “Saturday Night Live,” “The X-Files” and countless other programs.


Mary Shelley, who was only 18 when she began writing Frankenstein, surely had no idea her creepy creation would inspire countless other novels, including “The Frankenstein Wheel” (1972) by Paul W. Fairman, “Frankenstein Lives Again” (1981) by Donald F. Glut, “I Am Frankenstein” (1996) by Dean C. Anderson, “Monster: A Novel of Frankenstein” (2012) by Dave Zeltserman and the five-volume series collectively known as “Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein.”


For those who like pictures with their words, Frankenstein comic books have existed since 1940 with the publication of Prize Comics No. 7, which featured the “New Adventures of Frankenstein.” More attainable comics include Marvel’s The Monster of Frankenstein (1973), DC’s Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (2011) and Image’s Frankenstein Mobster (2003), which features a conflicted creature stitched together from the body parts of one cop and three bad guys.


If you listen to classic rock radio, you’ve probably heard the Edgar Winter Group’s bass-heavy “Frankenstein” many times. Named after the elaborate, piecemeal recording process used in creating the song, which is one of the few rock instrumentals to become a No. 1 hit, “Frankenstein” is also noteworthy for its early use of a synthesizer as a lead instrument.

Shock rocker Alice Cooper cranked out “Teenage Frankenstein” (1986) for “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives,” and “Feed My Frankenstein” (1992), which features guest appearances by noted rockers Joe Satriani, Nikki Sixx and Steve Vai.

One of the best Frankenstein tunes is “Over at the Frankenstein Place,” written and sung by Richard O’Brien for the musical stage play “The Rocky Horror Show” (1973). In the feature-film adaptation, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975), Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon join in.

Other Frankensongs of note include “Frankie Frankenstein” (1959) by the Crickets, “Monster Mash” (1962) by Bobby “Boris” Pickett, “The Siege and Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein’s Castle at Weisseria” (1988) by Blue Oyster Cult and “Jumpstart Your Electric Heart!” (2005) by Kevin Max (of DC Talk fame).


Ringo Starr’s “Back Off Boogaloo” (1972), a single some say was directed at Paul McCartney’s solo work, featured the monster on the picture sleeve.


When guys like Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, owner of one of the largest collections of vintage monster toys in the world, was a youngster during the 1970s, playing with Frankenstein meant putting together an Aurora model kit and then destroying it. As he says in his collector bio, “Too Much Horror Business” (2012), “A lot of the toys I have in my collection are toys I once had as a kid, but either blew them up with firecrackers, set on fire, threw off the roof, drowned, buried or whatever.”

These days, playing with Frankenstein translates to video games, such as the long-running, whip-slashing “Castlevania” series that has appeared on the NES, Xbox 360 and many systems in between.

Games with Frankie in the title include “Frankenstein’s Monster” (1983) for the Atari 2600, “Frankenstein: The Monster Returns” (1991) for the NES, “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” (1994) for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo, and “The Island of Dr. Frankenstein” (2009) for the Wii.



A relatively new cultural moniker, so-called Frankenstein food, is described as being any type of edible that has been genetically modified. According to, big business, farmers and scientists “create strains that can withstand what normal foods and plants can’t; these traits include chemical tolerances, pesticide resistance, heightened nutritional content and the tolerance of extreme environments”

To avoid this type of altered food, which some experts say poses health and environmental risks, experts advise eating organic. To paraphrase Boris Karloff in “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “Frankenstein food: bad!”

Frankenstein food can also refer to unconventional combinations, such as New York chef Dominique Ansel’s cronut, a cross between a croissant and a doughnut, and KFC’s infamous Double Down, a “delicacy” that has bacon, two types of melted cheese, and the Colonel’s secret sauce sandwiched between two fried chicken fillets. You can opt for grilled chicken, but what fun would that be?

In simpler times, Frankenstein food meant sitting down to a bowl of sugary-sweet, strawberry-flavored Franken Berry, which General Mills released in 1971 alongside Count Chocula. Boo Berry followed in 1973. This past Halloween, the company made all five of its monster cereals available at once, including the long-forgotten Fruit Brute (introduced in 1984) and Fruity Yummy Mummy (1987).


Like Hercules, Sherlock Holmes, Superman and Tarzan, the Frankenstein monster is a timeless icon that is open to interpretation and appears to be here to stay. He has appeared on postage stamps (in 1997 and 2002), he haunts our nightmares (or at least tickles our post-modern funny bones), he keeps us entertained, and he’s a friend to anyone with an appreciation for classic horror.

And, like Boris Karloff growled in “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “Friend: good!” 

Brett Weiss is the author of the new eBook “Retro Pop Culture A to Z: From Atari 2600 to Zombie Films” (Dark Dreamers).

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