Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie hits theaters Friday, telling the age-old story of a boy and his dog. Except this time, the dog’s dead…or, undead. In the movie, Little Victor Frankenstein’s beloved dog Sparky gets hit by a car; distraught, Victor, who fancies himself a scientist, decides to resurrect his deceased pup. All seems well until Victor realizes that bringing the dead back to life has serious, unforeseen consequences.
This stop-motion flick is the latest in a long line of films based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel. And with those adaptations come many, many iterations of her iconic monster. So, after a thorough investigation, we’ve selected our five favorite big-screen versions of Frankenstein’s monster. Check out the full list after the jump.
1. Boris Karloff, Frankenstein (1931)
Why we love him: The first screen version of Frankenstein’s monster was technically played by Charles Ogle in a silent short film in 1910. But it was Boris Karloff’s lumbering, brutish 1931 performance that cemented the beast in the public consciousness. Despite straying pretty far from the book’s portrayal – in which he was thoughtful and articulate, not a groaning, shrieking mute – Karloff is still the first image that flashes to mind whenever someone says, “Frankenstein.” He will forever be the definitive monster.
2. Christopher Lee, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Why we love him: If you’ve seen Lord of the Rings, the new Star Wars trilogy, or, I don’t know, any of Christopher Lee’s movies, you know that he’s one scary dude. In The Curse of Frankenstein, the first major production in Hammer Films’ influential horror series, he brings to the role his singular deep-voiced menace. Though the film deviates from the original story a great deal – the titular doctor is now a fame-obsessed sociopath – it works due to Lee’s ferocious, decaying presence.
3. Srdjan Zelenovic, Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)
Why we love him: Billed as Andy Warhol‘s Frankenstein, this gory, schlocky update is essentially just B-movie quasi-porn. Set in Serbia, a deranged Baron attempts to engineer a super-race by mating two reanimated physical specimens. To his dismay, though, it turns out the male (Zelenovic) used to be a celibate monk-to-be with no libido to speak of. Gruesome, sexy, campy hijinks ensue, and Zelenovic plays it straight as the Baron’s asexual would-be heartthrob. Definitely not one to watch with the kids.
4. Peter Boyle, Young Frankenstein (1974)
Why we love him: Before he played the curmudgeonly Frank Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond, Peter Boyle played the equally curmudgeonly monster in Mel Brooks’ revisionist classic. Placed alongside zany Brooks regulars like Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn, Boyle totally hams it up with bestial flair. And in the film’s most memorable scene, he delivers what would become one of the signature lines of 1974: Puttin’ on the ritz (or rather, PUUUNNNNN ONNNNAAA RIIIIIIIZZZ).
5. Robert De Niro, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)
Why we love him: This may be the only adaptation of Frankenstein that faithfully portrays the monster as an eloquent, rational being. De Niro, playing the mangled creature with intelligence and intensity, proves more than capable of matching wits with Kenneth Branagh’s protagonist. Unfortunately the film is almost laughably opulent as a result of Branagh’s directorial histrionics, but De Niro’s performance still packs a disturbing, and thought-provoking, wallop.
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