Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy are starring in a new gothic horror movie about a monster grotesquely stitched together from human body parts. Sound familiar? It should, because the story of Frankenstein has been around for two centuries. Here are some of the famous monster’s most intriguing secrets.
1. The story of Frankenstein was written by an 18-year-old woman
Mary Shelley was on a summer vacation with her lover (later her husband), poet Percy Shelley, another poet, Lord Byron, and Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, when she came up with the story.
2. Scary story competition
In the year 1816, a large volcano eruption created gray skies and endless rain over Europe, forcing the vacationers to stay indoors. Lord Byron announced that the group should attempt to see who could write the most frightening story. While Byron only wrote a fragment of a story about a vampire, it was Mary Shelley who ended up publishing Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus two years later.
3. Frankenstein is the name of the doctor, not the monster
It was medical student Victor Frankenstein who created the monster we often refer to as Frankenstein from leftover body parts and a good dose of electricity.
4. Inspired by a real scientist
In 1803, Italian scientist Giovanni Aldini began experiments on a cadaver using electric probes to the head, with the intention of bringing the dead man back to life. As the current went through the body, the jaw moved, its left eye opened and it even appeared to suck in a breath. To the people watching, it seemed as if Aldini was reanimating the body — at least until the battery he was using died.
5. The explosion of Frankenstein films and TV shows
As early as 1910, the silent film Frankenstein hit the screen. Since then, dozens of movies have been made about the monster, including the upcoming 2016 TV series, Second Chance, about a bioengineer who brings a police officer back to life.
In the book, Victor Frankenstein falls in love with his adopted sister. Though it was common at the time for people to marry their first cousins, apparently marrying any type of sister was seen as taboo.
7. The medical advancement Mary Shelley heralded couldn’t save her
Though she was a visionary when it came to what science could do in the future, Mary Shelley died of a brain tumor in 1851.
8. Scary Frankenstein cereal
You may have fearlessly eaten Franken Berry cereal as kid, but when it first appeared on store shelves in 1971, the red dye in the strawberry-flavored cereal turned people’s bowel movements bright pink. Many people rushed to the doctor, thinking their rectum was bleeding.
9. 1931 Frankenstein movie heavily censored
The famous black and white film that starred Boris Karloff as the monster underwent many cuts by the censor board, including Frankenstein’s line, “Now I know what it’s like to be God,” because it was thought to be blasphemy. The scene where the monster kills the little girl, Maria, was also cut.
10. The name Frankenstein
While Mary Shelley said the name was inspired by a dream, she and Percy had visited Frankenstein Castle as part of their travels in Germany. The word Frankenstein means “stone of the Franks” in German.
11. The book got bad reviews
When Mary Shelley first published the book, she published it anonymously so people wouldn’t look down on it because it was written by a woman, but even so, critics panned it. Soon, however, the book grew extremely popular and inspired a play called Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein in 1823, which Mary Shelley saw.
12. In the new film, Victor Frankenstein, Daniel Radcliffe plays a hunchback
The movie is told from the point of view of Igor (Daniel Radcliffe), a circus performer with amateur medical abilities. Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) discovers that Igor’s hump is just a cyst and drains it, allowing Igor to stand upright.
13. Gay undertones in Victor Frankenstein?
Though we don’t know if there was supposed to be an attraction between Victor and Igor in Victor Frankenstein, a reviewer for Variety said this about Max Landis’ screenplay, “His most memorable innovations come from the constant doses of homoerotic tension he cooks up for Victor and Igor; the two come close enough to making out frequently enough that one wonders if a slash-fiction sex scene might have been included in an earlier draft of the script.” At least that would explain why Victor didn’t want Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay), a beautiful trapeze artist, to hang around.
Victor Frankenstein opens Nov. 25.