July 16, 2008

Frankenstein Connections

Anyone reading this blog will allow that Frankenstein themes — and particularly the James Whale/Boris Karloff version — permeate pop culture. Case in point, there are clear Frankenstein references found in two current films.

No spoilers here, but a Frankenstein reference is a pivotal plot point in the revisionist superhero movie Hancock, written by Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan, directed by Peter Berg, and starring Will Smith.

Critics have been split on the film’s merits. Australian ABC North Queensland reviewer Michael Clarke is among the unimpressed, using the Frankenstein handle to illustrate his point: “There are a number of references in the film Hancock to the classic horror Frankenstein. It's a very apt reference, because in many ways, this movie is a lot like the famous creation. It certainly is a monster, lumbering, hideous and not in control of its own strength… And there's also something rather affecting and compelling about the wretched beast. But while the Frankenstein monster is one of the most enduring fictional characters, I think poor old Hancock will simply be a footnote in the history of misguided Hollywood blockbusters…

John P. Meyer of the Dallas/Forth Worth Pegasus News is much kinder to the film, stating, “There's something to be said for a super hero film that concentrates on characterizations as much as it does on sfx - and that something is ‘bravo!’.” He also acknowledges the Frankenstein reference: His review is entitled “The Curse of Frankenstein”.

The Hancock billboard pictured here overlooks Dundas Square in the heart of downtown Toronto.

The other Frankenstein reference appears in the excellent Hellboy II: The Golden Army. If you pay attention, you’ll notice Universal monster classics popping up on screens in Hellboy’s digs. In one scene, the interaction between Big Red and his fiery girlfriend Liz is assisted by a scene from The Bride of Frankenstein. Nice touch, nicely done.

Incidentally, the Hellboy movie features once and future Frankenstein actors. There’s Luke Goss, as the dark-hearted elf prince Nuada, who played the noble Creature in the Hallmark TV Frankenstein of 2004, and then there’s Doug Jones, the soulful Abe Sapiens, recently singled out by director Guillermo del Toro as his choice to play The Monster in an eventual adaptation of the novel (previously mentioned here). We’ll have to wait on that one as del Toro has hired on to direct Tolkien’s The Hobbit for producer Peter Jackson.

Meanwhile, we can enjoy Doug Jones’ extraordinary work in Hellboy II, in no less than three different parts. In addition to the heroic amphibian, Jones plays brief scenes as a curious box-headed Chamberlain, and an unforgettable Angel of Death (see photo).

Hancock trailers and website.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army trailers, and website.

Luke Goss website.

Doug Jones’s website. Check the photo pages for a Jones’ numerous monster and fantasy makeup performances.

With thanks to Frankensteinia reader David Dill.


rob! said...

oh man, can't GDT switch Hobbit and Frankenstein around on his schedule???

John W. Morehead said...

It's amazing to me to see how these monsters have become iconic and archetypal in our culture, touching something deep in our psyches and social structures. Thanks for pointing out current references.

Rozum said...

In Hellboy II there was also that scene where BPRD Director Tom Manning tries to bribe Hellboy into being discreet by offering him Cuban Cigars. Their exchange was very reminiscent of the blind hermit teaches the monster "good" and "bad" in "Bride of Frankenstein" or perhaps "Young Frankenstein."

Danél Griffin said...

Now there's a third film out this summer dealing with Frankenstein themes: X-Files: I Want to Believe. Without giving too much away, the good doctor is referenced by name, and the villain's experiments bear more than a passing resemblance.