Saturday, August 3, 2013


Supporting the adage, "You can't judge a book by it's cover", is Mary Shelly's 1816 novel, FRANKENSTEIN. There is no doubt that many believe that the monster only has appeared in the movies; such has always been the case. But, while not exactly obscure, the novel, literally conceived on a dark and stormy night on the banks of Lake Geneva, has nevertheless remained in the darker shadows of literary history.

Now, us monsterologists are fully aware of the written origins that spawned a horror film 115 years later. And, I'll wager that more than a few have tried their best to wade through its period style of writing that can be at times, challenging to many readers.

My introduction to the original classic was via the 1950's "black cover" version published by Pyramid Books, and likely a later edition, probably the 5th, printed in 1964 (which I have summarily dubbed the "Monster Craze Edition"). Admittedly, I was not quite at the age or level of sophistication required to not only get through the book from cover to cover, but comprehend the subtext of its plot elements. Some of you may disagree with me, but in a nutshell, I found it pretty slow going. I ended up scanning the pages to get to the "good parts", and even those were elusive to this young, voracious reader.

The Pyramid Books version was still being sold in FAMOUS MONSTERS in 1969.

My second attempt was later, when I picked up a copy of the Airmont Unabridged Edition (the one that was, along with the Pyramid edition, also advertised in the monster magazines). This time I managed my way through the entire story. Satisfied that I had done so, I was nevertheless irked that it had virtually nothing to do with the Universal film, including the unexplained renaming of the doctor from Victor to Henry.

In all honesty, it's not a bad tale when you remove yourself from the mental imprint of the film. It's just not easy to do that, is all. Even the book covers have many times utilized the visage of the Universal Karloff Frankenstein monster to draw readers to its pages (and their wallets). While securing the indelible iconic image created by makeup artist Jack Pierce, it ultimately, and unfairly, I think, derails the reader expecting the gothic castles and Strickfadden-laden sets in all their melodramatic glory.

Included here are a few of the different covers to the FRANKENSTEIN novel that have been published over the years, mostly using the Jack Pierce/Boris Karloff image of the monster, including the Pyramid edition (shown above), the Airmont edition, a Spanish edition, and even a couple of covers from the continued adventures of Dr. Frankenstein, penned by Don Glut.

1 comment:

Mantan Calaveras said...

Yes, I had a similar experience reading Frankenstein as a kid.

It's one of the rare cases where I think the film adaptation was a vast improvement over the original book.


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