It has become commonplace in the realm of Hollywood films and film production, in general, to bring an audience to the absolute threshold of entertainment and completely push them over the edge of it. This is no exception to movies based on previously published books, which sometimes poses the conflict of alterations the movie crews think make the story better and more thrilling versus staying true to the core concepts and dynamics of the book. Surely, it is not always possible to perform the latter, but in a lot of cases, the movie deviates completely from the book, which could easily upset readers in a tremendous way, but since more people end up seeing the movie rather than reading the book, this sometimes dubious deed is overlooked. The film Frankenstein, directed by James Whale (1931), is one of these movies that does no justice to the book. The core story doesn’t even somewhat follow that of the book, Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley (1818). A substantial difference from the book that appears in the movie is the presence of an extra character, Fritz, who is Frankenstein’s minion in the creation of the monster. His presence has a direct consequence on the developing characters of Frankenstein and the monster that alter drastically from the book giving a completely different perception of the story to the knowing audience.
The development of Frankenstein’s creation from seemingly human to monster is completely essential to character development and the unfolding of the story, but non-existent in the minute growth of the creation in the movie from the time Fritz and Frankenstein work on the creation to the conclusion of the film. Early in the film, Fritz is sent to Dr. Walden’s lab to steal a brain as the final component of the monster. In a clumsy way, Fritz grabs the brain labeled normal on the lab bench and trips over himself allowing it to fall to the floor, shattering the glass container it was in, rendering the brain useless in pieces. He instead grabs the other brain labeled abnormal, which was previously revealed to have come from a person who lived a life of complete brutality as a murderer. This connotation sticks with the brain and subsequently the monster, once awaken, further in the story, rendering the monster truly a violent monster the entirety of the movie. Fritz further confirms this early categorization very shortly after the monster’s creation when Fritz is hanged by the rope the monster was tied up with after he had continually antagonized the monster with fire.
The depiction of the monster in the book has a far more profound evolutionary progression. His monster stature and look made Frankenstein flee his site because, “breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” (Shelly 54) Despite this, the monster progressively shows humanly characteristics of intelligence and speech when able to distinguish sensations and thoughts in his head, then able to vocalize them along with the complex emotional analysis of DeLacey’s farm family. (Shelley 112-117) These developing characteristics give the monster more of a relatable being for the reader to certainly sympathize with, which is never given the chance in the film. This build up is important to completely understand and feel the full destruction of Frankenstein as a person through the acts of the monster when he turns to evil as his commonplace after being outcast by all humans he had come in contact with. After his violent departure from the family, the side of the monster only shown in the movies, is brought to life immediately after saying, “I, like the arch-fiend, bore a hell within me;…wish to tear up the tress, spread havoc and destruction around me, and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin.” (Shelley 152) Just as quickly as the progression of his humanly characteristics gave the reader something good to cherish in the monster, Shelley gives the reader every reason to loathe the monster with the growing evil of his acts. He admits to killing William (Shelley 160), a murder Justine was found guilty of, threatens Frankenstein’s future wedding night (Shelley 192), murders Frankenstein’s best friend, but in worst malice, murders Elizabeth to which he exclaims, “yet when she died!-nay, then I was not miserable…evil henceforth became my good.” (Shelly 255) All of these murders are direct attacks by the monster on the well-being of Frankenstein, which is also not true of the movie. It makes the monster’s entire plan, “death will carry despair to him, and a thousand other miseries shall torment and destroy him” completely absent from the movie, which is almost the entirety of the book. (Shelley 160)
The difference in the attributes of the monster is not only important for the character of the monster himself, but also the story development of Frankenstein, also absent from the movie. The evolution of the monster to evil from aspiring great good, makes the destruction of Frankenstein that much more of a “fall of a great” solely from his own hands, which is also absent from the movie as a consequence of the character of Fritz. Not working on his own as was true in the movie, Frankenstein didn’t start from the man who thought, “no father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs,” putting himself before God. (Shelley 49) This notion of being arrogant and confident beyond belief with relation to God was only brought to the screen once after the being comes to life when Frankenstein says, now I know what it feels like to be God.” This omission is important in the story when Frankenstein’s arrogance and dynamic guilt and innocence is changed by the amassed misery inflicted upon him by the vengeful monster. Frankenstein goes from a self-assured mastermind full of himself to a misery-ridden wretch who, “often endeavored to put an end to the existence I loathed.” (Shelly 210) The highest level of misery in the movie is mentioned in guilt for things that happened being his fault, which completely cuts out the story of how monstrous Frankenstein was in the beginning of the book as well as how monstrous the monster was at the end of the book.
The additional character of Fritz in the movie completely eliminates the dynamic depth of the book, which reads more horrifying than the movie views in the first place. The characters of the monster and Frankenstein himself are no longer the same, or similar in a multitude of ways relative to the text. This deviation changes the audience’s feeling of the monster, the liking of Frankenstein’s character, the attention and opinion of actions, and lessens the ultimate choice of the reader in the analysis of the story and some of the events that occurred. Essentially, the movie is completely different from the book, other than similar character names and the concept of creating a monster of life causing a mass separation of the stories in terms of the most important parts of the book.