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Many horror films refer to the monster as Frankenstein—an often misconception—but along with the wrench, other creatures populate the cinematic pantheon of horror. The most popular of course are Count Dracula, the mummy, and the werewolf.  Frankenstein and Dracula are based on eponymous novels that were published in the late 19th Century, way before horror was really established as a genre.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel is hardly horrific. Albeit referring to the monster as hideous, hard to look at, we never really have a detailed account of his looks. The image of a large gray monster with the nuts protruding from the neck and the flattop head entered the popular consciousness through the movies, not the novel. 

The original novel deals more with the feelings of Dr. Frankenstein, his reasoning for creating life, then his horror at his own creation, that made him despise the monster. The ironic part is that the monster, when created, was essentially good, he didn’t turn bad until after being harmed and insulted by humans. Yet, the monster learned to think, and to speak two languages that we know of.

On the other hand, we have Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a true monster. The creature terrorized London, killed for pleasure, and had his sights set on the beautiful Lucy Westenra. She’s to become one of his half-dead brides. Except a group of brave men led by lawyer Johnathan Harker and Professor Abraham Van Helsing hunt down Dracula and chase him away to his native land in Transylvania where the climax of the book occurs. 

For some unknown reason, the best adaptations of the novels happen to be the most underrated of movies. Kenneth Branagh not only plays Dr. Frankenstein but directs the movie as well. The monster’s played by Oscar winner actor Robert De Niro; Tom Hulce, Helena Bonham Carter, Ian Holm, John Cleese, and Aidan Quinn complete the cast. Hollywood legend Francis Ford Coppola directed Dracula with an ensemble of young actors included Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Cary Elwes, Robert E. Grant, while Oscar award winner Anthony Hopkins plays Van Helsing and consumed actor extraordinaire Gary Oldman plays Count Dracula. 

Although the pitting of the two monsters have occurred regularly in different films, too many to list here, they are versions that deviate from the source materials and many quirks acquired from the previous movies that have made into pop culture keep coming back. The most notorious example of this is complete absence of hunchback Igor in the Mary Shelly’s novel, but that didn’t impede Daniel Radcliff from putting a new spin on the tale providing poor deformed creature with a Pygmalion arc in the recent film I, Frankenstein. You know what else is absent from the book? Doctor Frankenstein shouting “It’s alive!” In fact, the whole creation process of the monster is summarized into a couple of paragraphs. 

Both novels are now public domain, and getting free digital copies, or even affordable paperbacks should make a great addition to any household library.

 

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist; however, he ironically prefers to write fiction. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he enjoys to throw in a twist of romance on occasion. He has published three acclaimed novels and is a member of The Crime Writers Association, the Short Fiction Writers Guild, and the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor for their official e-zine The Big Thrill.