Don't call me Frankie: Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's Monster

Question: I know that many people — my own sister included — refer to Dr. Frankenstein's monster by the name of his creator. Is this laziness on their part, or is there some basis in any of the Frankenstein movies for calling the creature "Frankenstein"? I read your column every week and know that if anybody would know, it would be you.<P>

 


Answer: Thank you, Jay, for your vote of confidence and for mentioning my bete noir (all right, one of my betes noirs — I'm easily peeved). While I'm sure that somewhere there's a movie in which some character screams, "Hey look, there's Frankenstein," as the monster comes round the corner in full flail, all the canonical movies, from the very first adaptation by the Edison company — Frankenstein (1910) — to the Universal and Hammer multifilm series, distinguish clearly between the monster and the monster maker, calling only the latter "Frankenstein." If only Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley had given her monster a name, confusion between the two might have been avoided altogether (though of course it was precisely her point that Frankenstein's creature wasn't even afforded the decency of a name by his callous creator); it's awkward to have to call so major a character "Frankenstein's Monster," rather than something catchy like Godzilla or King Kong. As far back as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Bud Abbott and Lou Costello actually meet Frankenstein's monster (Glenn Strange), but while credits correctly list "The Monster," I can easily see a kid coming away from that movie believing that the monster's name must have been Frankenstein because that's who Abbott and Costello met. Movies like I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1958) compounded the problem — there is a Dr. Frankenstein, played by the incomparable Whit Bissell, but the titular teenager is the poor, misshapen monster he creates. Again, the credits list "Teenage Monster," not "Teenage Frankenstein," but who hangs around for credits except geeks like me? So feel free to tell your sister (and anyone else you feel like correcting) that they really should be saying "Frankenstein's monster," but prepare to be called pedantic — and worse.