Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, published in 1818, has inspired hundreds of films; in 1910 Thomas Edison produced the first cinematic version in his Bronx studio, starring Charles Stanton Ogle as the monster. Hollywood audiences fell in love with Frankenstein after the 1931 Universal Pictures version, featuring Boris Karloff’s iconic block-headed, neck-bolted creature and the hysterical doctor’s spectacular laboratory of tesla coils and steam-spewing equipment, all in glorious black and white.
In 1957, the British production company Hammer Films produced the first of its seven Frankenstein films, which focused more on the Gothic aspects of the book and the obsession, ambition, and guilt of the doctor (usually played by Peter Cushing). These films overflow with mournful music, overwrought Victorian décor and costumes, lusty characters, and decidedly more disfigured, wrathful monsters—all amplified by a highly artificial, gruesome color palette that makes even a glimpse of blood into a horrifying experience.
Hammer Horror: A Frankenstein Septet is presented in conjunction with It’s Alive! Frankenstein at 200, a visual history of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, at The Morgan Library and Museum October 12, 2018–January 27, 2019.