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Written by Timothy Sexton
Dr. Henry Frankenstein
Inexplicably taken from Mary Shelley’s original Victor Frankenstein in her novel, Henry Frankenstein is young-ish and obsessed with his dream of reanimating dead tissue. He has a lovely young fiancé named Elizabeth expressing an enormous deal of patience and love for him. Such is the situation that Henry’s own father is absolutely perplexed as to what would make his slightly offbeat son prefer mulling around an abandoned windmill when he could very well be back at home with Elizabeth doing…well, pretty much anything that would be preferable to spending time at that spooky windmill in the middle of the night. Dr. Frankenstein has far more on his mind than romance with a young bride, however, and his will to play God will not be denied.
Pretty is poor lonely Elizabeth, but let’s face it: she’s no match for the secret experimentations Henry is conducting that will elevate him into the sphere of the gods. Elizabeth does not really have much to do as a character except go around inquiring of Henry’s friends and mentors and family members what they think he might be doing with his time when he could be spending it with her…doing whatever it is that young newlyweds do. Aside from that, her job is basically to wait around until she becomes reanimated Creature bait.
A quite strong argument can be made that Fritz means a just a tad bit more to Henry Frankenstein than Elizabeth. That is not to suggest any homoerotic overtones or undertones by any means; Fritz is the doctor’s hunchbacked assistant charged with task of body parts that were working properly before their previous owner became deceased. Generally speaking, Fritz does a pretty good job at this task; unfortunately, his competence fails him at the point it is needed most. Fritz may bear the brunt of the responsibility for Henry’s reanimated corpse becoming a monster since he brought back the defective brain of a criminal. Although Fritz is clearly the precursor for the familiar character of Ygor, he was not the first assistant to a mad scientist to suffer from a physiological malformation which caused him to be considerably smaller than his master. Suggestions have been strongly encouraged to view the dwarfish assistants to mad doctors in both Metropolis and The Magician as inspirations for Fritz and the later incarnations of Ygor, whether they be hunchbacked or not, male or female or even assistant or blacksmith.
When young Henry was just a mere pupil attending the university, he fell under the spell of an instructor named Dr. Waldman. Waldman has kept in touch with Henry and followed his career closely. Like Elizabeth and Henry’s father, he too is concerned with the increasingly erratic behavior of his former student. Elizabeth seeks out Dr. Waldman’s guidance in understanding exactly what the heck is going on with her fiancé. Waldman tries to reason with Henry about the ethical dimensions of his obsession with reanimation, but eventually it becomes clear that Henry views himself as the future of science while casting Waldman to the archives of superstition. Waldman tries to warn Henry that Fritz took a defective brain, but Henry is beyond caring. Eventually the mentor will pay the ultimate price for staying in touch with his protégé.
Dr. Henry’s Frankenstein’s father expresses bewilderment over is son’s preference for spending time away from his fiancé. Since he is a titled member of the German aristocracy, one can assume that the Baron would be just duly concerned no matter where his son was spending time or what he was doing. The reality is that Henry’s father is primarily concerned with exactly one thing: getting Henry and Elizabeth married and on their way to producing a son so that future lineage of the House of Frankenstein is secured for at least one more generation. Such a generous preoccupation with reproducing the aristocracy may account, at least in part, for young Henry’s psychological development.
Dr. Frankenstein does eventually succeed in reanimating his corpse, but remember that its cranium is filled to capacity with the brain of a murderer. What physical defects may lead to the drive to commit murder has thus been passed intact into the body which has been given new life. Or was it? All that is really known about the brain that Fritz took is that it belonged to a man who in life was accused of committing criminal acts. When the manner in which the Creature deals with a young girl named Maria playing with flowers by the banks of a lake are taken into account, however, it raises certain questions about just what sorts of defects the brain possessed. While it is certainly true that the Creature picks up little Maria and willingly tosses her into the lake, it is also true that he did not so with malice, but was instead genuinely incapable of understanding the consequences of his actions. Thus, the minor character of Little Maria becomes a major piece of evidence in the reconstruction of whether Frankenstein’s creation was the real monster or whether the townspeople quick to judge and form a lynch mob are more deserving of that title.
He is listed in the credits as The Monster, but as indicated above, his actions rarely indicate he is deserving of such infamy. He certainly did not ask Frankenstein to create him and almost as soon as he does, the doctor turns his back on the creation. He does kill, but either in ignorance, self-defense or for the mere sake of survival against the taunts of a hunchbacked cretin, dissection by outmoded doctor or the desire of a lesser god to kill his imperfect children. The “Monster” simply wants the opportunity to carry on his lineage and why should he not have the same right as Baron Frankenstein?
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