[Home] [About Us] [What's New] [Site Map] [Contact Us] [Search]
[Watershed Online: Literature]
[Frankenstein and Dracula - continued]

[House of Frankenstein poster]During the 1940s, Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster began to appear together in movies such as House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). This trend continued for decades. Both of them ventured into the Wild West in the 1960s with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter and Billy the Kid vs Dracula. The inevitable confrontation between them occurred in 1970 with Dracula vs Frankenstein. Sequels and spin-offs continued with an endless parade of sons, daughters, ghosts, resurrections and revenges. We were bombarded by Blacula and Blackenstein, as well as Spermula and Frankenhooker (the latter being billed as “A terrifying tale of sluts and bolts”). The trend continued into the 1990s, when Mel Brooks followed his classic parody, Young Frankenstein (1979) with Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1996), and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) was followed by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994). In some cases, the boundaries between the novels have been blurred: Young Frankenstein is set in Transylvania; the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show features Frank N. Furter from “transsexual Transylvania”; and in Transylvania 6-5000, the Frankenstein Monster is tracked down in Dracula’s homeland.

Not surprisingly, the same actors have often appeared as both the monster and the vampire. Bela Lugosi was asked to play the Frankenstein monster but, according to David Skal in Hollywood Gothic, he turned down the offer: “He objected to the makeup, and to dialogue which consisted of nothing but grunts” (184). (However, he did later appear as Igor in Son of Frankenstein.) One year after playing the Frankenstein Monster in The Curse of Frankenstein, Christopher Lee accepted his most famous role -- that of the Count in Horror of Dracula. Dwight Frye was cast as both Renfield and Fritz, while Peter Cushing played both the monster’s creator and the vampire’s nemesis. Other actors who have appeared in both types of movies include Lionel Atwill, Evelyn Aikens, John Carradine, Lon Chaney, Jr., Valerie Gaunt, Donald Pleasance and Edward Van Sloan.

The pairing of Frankenstein and Dracula is not confined to the movies. It occurs everywhere, from novels to comic books and T-shirts. Both monsters shared the spotlight in Forrest Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland which debuted in 1958, and were popular items in Aurora’s Model Series. Both were spoofed in The Munsters. Both had breakfast cereals named after them: “Count Chocula” and “Frankenberry.” They even appeared together in children’s books, such as Dracula’s Cat and Frankenstein’s Dog by Jan Wahl (1990). The two novels have been adapted as comic books, and both Frankenstein and Dracula have enjoyed their own comic-book series. Marvel Comics’ The Frankenstein Monster (1973-4) includes a battle scene in which the Monster is clearly the favourite. In the finale, he uses a crucifix and a wooden stake (and a little help from the sun) to destroy the Count. In contrast, Topps three-part series, The Frankenstein/Dracula War (1995) sees them battle to a draw.

The two fiends often accompany each other on bookshelves. Donald Glut’s Frankenstein Meets Dracula (1977) is intended as a sequel to both novels. As befits their portrayals in the original works, the Frankenstein Monster is a more sympathetic character than the diabolical Count. Brian Aldiss followed Frankenstein Unbound (1973) in which the Monster, his creator and the author interact, with Dracula Unbound (1991) featuring the Count and Bram Stoker. Novels such as Stephen King’s Salem's Lot (1975) contain numerous allusions to both monsters, while The Ultimate Frankenstein and The Ultimate Dracula (1991) are collections of stories which focus on the respective characters. A similar pairing has occurred in scholarly publications: Florescu and McNally’s In Search of Dracula (1972) was followed by Florescu's study of the Frankenstein legend; Glut’s non-fictional works include The Frankenstein Legend and The Dracula Book; and Leonard Wolf has prepared annotated editions of both texts.

[In Search of Frankenstein poster]Both Count Dracula and Victor Frankenstein may owe their names to historical figures. Though the theory that Dracula is based on Vlad the Impaler is shaky at best, we do know that the historical figure was the source of the name. Radu Florescu, one of the co-authors of In Search of Dracula, has also suggested a historical precedent for Victor Frankenstein. In Search of Frankenstein (1975) begins with the revelation that there was a Frankenstein family. Florescu believes that Shelley may have visited Castle Frankenstein during her trip down the Rhine in the summer of 1814. If so, she probably heard local stories about the eighteenth-century alchemist Konrad Dippel who lived at Castle Frankenstein and was rumoured to have carried out experiments with human body parts.

Frankenstein and Dracula both deal with the issues of death and resurrection, creation and transgression, and the blurring of the boundaries between life and death. This raises the question of whether any links be found between the two texts. There is little doubt that Stoker had read Frankenstein by the time he wrote Dracula. After his death in 1912 his library, which was auctioned at Sotheby’s, included a copy of Mary Shelley’s novel. Indeed, in a letter to her son soon after the publication of his masterpiece, his mother said, “No book since Mrs. Shelley’s Frankenstein ... has come near yours in originality, or terror.” But was Dracula influenced by Frankenstein in any way? While there is no evidence to suggest a deliberate, conscious influence, it can be argued that Stoker’s novel contains numerous resonances of Frankenstein, for they both draw upon a common stock of narrative and thematic conventions. Scholars point to a “family resemblance” which includes a concern with transcending the limits of what is scientifically possible (the boundaries between life and death), a portrayal of the monsters as both dignified and pitiable, a suspenseful final chase, and the structure of multiple narrations. Like dark twins, they embody “the war between science and superstition -- Apollo and Dionysus at the Saturday matinee” ( David Skal, The Monster Show, 351).

On the surface, both works are horror novels which revolve around the necessity of destroying a monster. A closer examination shows that many of the qualities which define the monsters are a consequence of the way in which their stories have been passed on to us. Both authors filter their antagonist’s stories through the narratives of characters whose biases are readily apparent.

Frankenstein is constructed from three different narrations. Victor’s story includes the Monster’s narrative, while both of these viewpoints are enclosed in Walton’s letters to Margaret. The most important consequence of this textual appropriation is that, with the exception of the closing remarks over Victor’s corpse, the Monster’s story is embedded in Victor’s text. Thus, Victor asserts his authority over the Monster’s side of the story. While Victor’s text comes to us through Walton, there are crucial differences in how their stories are filtered. Victor has editorial authority over Walton’s notes. At one point, he “asked to see them, and then himself corrected and augmented them in many places” (175). A second major difference is that Victor is speaking to a kindred spirit who has embraced him as friend and who shares a similar Promethean ambition. In contrast, Victor is a reluctant listener to the Monster’s tale, and has formed various conclusions about the speaker before hearing his story. Victor also attempts to control Walton’s response to the Monster’s text, for he clearly wants Walton (and ultimately, us) to repudiate the Monster. Walton’s momentary sympathy for the creature is overshadowed by Victor’s warnings about its powers of eloquence and persuasion. The deck is stacked. In spite of his professions of remorse, Victor never abandons his conviction that he has acted nobly. He continues to justify his right, not only to create but to destroy what he has created. In addition, his refusal to share the secret of his creation is a major cause of the catastrophes that befall his loved ones.

[Watershed Logo] Previous 1 [2] 3 4 5 Next