As it’s our podcast anniversary we thought it might be nice to return to our origins. But not Frankenstein and his creature but the potential second creature. The woman who raises so many issues of consent, possibly the most culturally visible character to be born out of a few short chapters of a book!
It’s The Bride!
She exists in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein as an ambiguous collection of anatomical parts that are destroyed before she can even achieve personhood. Victor Frankenstein’s creature pressures him into creating a female from the dead just like him. When Frankenstein begins to speculate on the additional damage that a female creature could cause his concerns fall into two major categories
The one that most movies featuring the female creation explore her rejection of the original creature
As a result of these fears Victor destroys his second creation in front of his first, which is the final straw for the creature, this is when he vows to be with Victor Frankenstein on his wedding night.
And we never see the female creature again.
She is all potential. And that is what she remained until relatively recently. It wasn’t until the 1930s that James Whale delivers The Bride of Frankenstein and Elsa Lancaster’s brilliant performance gives us the bride as we typically view her today despite various reenvisionings and reimaginings.
This episode we are going to talk about not only the 1935 classic universal monster movie The Bride of Frankenstein but one of those reimaginings. The 1985 movie The Bride starring Jennifer Beals, Clancy Brown and Sting.
Now back to 1935 and The Bride of Frankenstein introduces a framing narrative that we never return to which is Mary Shelley played by Elsa Lanchester telling the rest of the story that happens after the conclusion of her novel Frankenstein to a very camp Byron and Percy Shelley. On a dark and stormy night no lass
The actual story then kicks off at the end of the original 1931 movie Frankenstein. In fact, we have a scattered reframing of the end of Frankenstein to retroactively suit their purposes.
A character named Dr Pretorius calls upon the recovering Frankenstein who has been renamed appropriately Victor as in the book if you remember in the 1931 movie Frankenstein was called Henry.
The creepy doctor Pretorius has a proposition for the young doctor. One last big experiment. A collaboration.
Pretorius also has little people in jars… it’s a whole thing.
Frankenstein’s wife Elizabeth is. Not. Into. This. And she makes this absolutely clear by talking about ominous premonitions.
Meanwhile, the creature who unexpectedly survived goes on a rampage killing the rest of the family of the little girl who was killed in the original movie and others.
He fled the township
He then made a friend in an old blind fiddler who does not judge him on his appearance and teaches him language. Their domestic bliss is interrupted by some hunters who are lost and raise the alarm that the murderous monster responsible for deaths in the township.
Pretorius befriends the creature as he is collecting the parts for a female creature. He tells the creature that this female creation will be a friend for him.
The creature then helps Pretorious by kidnapping Elizabeth thereby forcing Frankenstein into their unholy collaboration.
They begin a long process of creation which includes Dwight Frye killing some random woman for her heart. The creature kills Dwight Frye… which is the second time that Frankenstein has killed a Dwight Frye character in as many movies. Elizabeth gets free.
The bride is brought to life.
She rejects the Male creature and in a moment of compassion, he lets Frankenstein and Elizabeth go. Before destroying the laboratory with The Bride, Pretorius and himself still inside.
Guess what. It’s time to talk about Sting.
Yep, the 1985 movie the bride….
For more listen to Season 2 Episode 6 of The Frankenpod, The Bride
You know how we said we’d be better organised for season 2? Well that may only be marginally true. The Christmas Special that we had in the works for over a month turned into somewhat of a Christmas Disappointment .
Still keen to listen? Really? Okay well here are the links.
So for the heck of it let’s divide the episode into five staves just like Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol, In Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.
In which we deal with Facebook and Get Grimm, we read a lovely review from Courtney of the Cult of Domesticity and play everything is gothic, unless it’s not, then it’s something else. We also introduce the gothic texts of the episode A Muppet Christmas Carol (1990) and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843).
In which Morgan gives a narrative summary of the events of the book and movie (for once they were pretty faithful to the plot of the source material, even if they do include Muppets).
Being a discussion of gothic elements… and Harry Potter. These elements include the tyrant, the curse, the haunting and the gothic city. Then a promo for Electric Monks.
In which Brent gets muppety, both hosts read movie names from IMDB (riveting) and Morgan is disappointed in Michael Caine.
We hear from the Lady Pod squad and we rate the stories out of 5 ice skating penguins. Three penguins a pop. In case you care.
and you can add us to your podcast app by searching for The Frankenpod
And hit subscribe… we’d appreciate it
Our promo this week is from the Fataliteas podcast
The Woman in Black is a story In which our hero, Spider the floofy dog, detects a problem… there is also some guy named Arthur Kipps who does a bunch of stuff. But the real story is about one floofy little dog who’s the bravest girl in the whole darn story.
The Woman in Black is a ghost story that centres around the haunting of a house by a creepy, skeletal woman in black. A young solicitor Arthur Kipps gets sent to a creepy place a la Jonathan harker in Dracula. Kipps is sent to settle the affairs of Alice Drablow, a reclusive elderly lady who lives in a creepy house called Eel Marsh which is only accessable at low tide. Once the tide is in you are stuck there with the creepy shadows, ominous noises and scary wildlife. At the nearest town, Crithin Gifford, everyone is sending Kipps some serious don’t-go-to-Eel-Marsh-vibes.
A spectre haunts Eel Marsh, a spectre that lures children to their deaths. There is a lot of child death in this episode. We try not to be too graphic, but if you’ve seen the movie you know that the graphic deaths are a huge part of the story. Not so much in the book. It is an atmospheric gothic horror that Susan Hill crafts drawing from classic horror stories. You can really feel the influence of the Brontës and Henry James in this book.
Apart from the graphic/atmospheric horror another key difference between the book and the movie is the biographical timeline of Mr Kipps. Whether he is a young enthusiastic solicitor looking to make a name for himself, or a greiving widower barely hanging on to his job as a solicitor for the sake of his young child, the Woman in Black has her sights set on Arthur Kipps and she wants revenge
It’s 2pm Australian Eastern Daylight savings time on the 27th of October 2018 which means The Frankenpod season two starts in just four days on the 31st of October!
Not really intentional it just seemed as good a time as any.
We have some amazing episodes coming with Melissa of The Brook Reading podcast on a particularly divisive and controversial book and I don my tinfoil hat with the ladies of Wives Tales to talk about a cinematic adaptation of one of the most popular conspiracies based novels of the 20th Century.
But for the first episode of season two Brent and I tackle a little true crime by examining a masterpiece of “literary non-fiction”, some of the controversies surrounding it and it’s cinematic adaptations.
We’ve recorded a short promo just to keep everyone in the loop and you can find the initial relaunch blog post here.
This season we will be featuring creepy stories submitted by listeners and some classic gothic short stories you may not have heard before. It doesn’t have to be frightening, it doesn’t have to be dramatic, just a little something that can be read in 5 minutes. If you like you can send it to us as the text for us to read or you can read it yourself and send us an audio file. If writing isn’t your thing we are also happy to accept music.
Make sure you let us know if you want us to promote your project, podcast, writing or anything. It is literally the least we could do.
If you want to come on the podcast and have a chat about your favourite gothic book, movie, television show, graphic novel, poem, character or author you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: A digitized image of the original painting American Gothic that Grant Wood, a master artist of the twentieth century, created in 1930 and sold to the Art Institute of Chicago in November of the same year.
This episode I’m joined by Meg from the fabulous pop-culture podcast Indoorswomen. We talked about the 2014 vampire spoof What we do in the Shadows. I love this movie and Meg took part in the Kickstarter to get a US theatrical release of this distinctly New Zealand gothic parody. We completely spoil this movie so if you haven’t seen it before and you plan on watching it, watch it before you listen.
The first English dictionary is commonly thought to be compiled in 1755 by Dr Samuel Johnson of Blackadder fame. But that’s not really true. There were plenty of dictionaries before him. The most accurate guess at the earliest English language dictionary was one written by Robert Cawdrey in 1604 which was the first to include definitions albeit of only 2 thousand four hundred and 99 words. Put in contrast the Oxford English dictionary today has over 170 thousand words. The key difference between Dr Johnson’s dictionaries and the ones who came before him was the number of definitions and the level organisation.
Johnson dedicated his life to lexicography and died in 1784. 83 years later Ambrose Bierce, a writer of excellent gothic and supernatural short stories embarked on the serialised satirical exploration of the dictionary. Some of these definitions popped up in his weekly columns in ‘Town Crier’ and ‘Prattle’ and also in his personal letters. He wasn’t the first to take on the idea of a satirical dictionary, but Bierce certainly was dedicated to building and collating his own glossary of irreverent definitions.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was born June 24th 1842, in an Ohio settlement called Horsecave. One of 13, all beginning with the letter A. Marcus Aurelius Bierce (1799–1876) and Laura Sherwood Bierce Had 13 kids named Abigail, Amelia, Ann, Addison, Aurelius, Augustus, Almeda, Andrew, Albert, and Ambrose… and that’s how you make sure one of your kids is going to write some kind of dictionary. It just so happened that this particular kid was a bit of a smart arse as he grew up.
As a kid, he was a printer’s devil, which is a little guy who mixes ink and generally getting things to the printer as quickly as possible because of those printing presses and typesetting dealies technical term, are massive and complex. He was 15 at this point and the printing operation he worked at was for an abolitionist paper called the Northern Indian
I’m terrified of delving into military history as always so here are the bare bones facts that we need from Bierce’s military service:
He fought in the Union army from the age of 18 until 24
He sustained a pretty serious head injury and some serious psychological damage
He saw some shit and it definitely had an impact on his writing. The horror of war was something he would come back to multiple times during his time as a writer.
He got married and had 3 kids. The marriage came to an end when he discovered letters to his wife Molly from an admirer, the separated in 1888, but did not divorce until 1904, 16 years later. She died the next year. His 3 kids were 2 boys, Day and Leigh and a daughter named Helen. Day and Leigh both died as young men, Day duel a romantic rejection and Leigh’s alcoholism and a nasty bout of pneumonia got the better of him in 1901. So by 1905 it Helen was Ambrose’s only surviving child.
Ambrose is typically framed as a Soldier, Journalist, writer and hardened cynic.
We will be revisiting Bierce’s amazing short stories at some point and there is an earlier episode of the Frankenpod which is just me reading A Vine on a House which is one of Bierce’s shorter stories. He is one of the wittiest, creepy and concise writers of American gothic fiction. He had a misadventure in Mining getting involved as a manager without experience and at the end of the mining boom so that didn’t go well.
Bierce at the age of 71 went to Mexico while it was in the middle of a revolution. He joined one of the armies as an observer, the army of Pancho Villa. The last known correspondence was from Chihuahua in Mexico and then poof! He vanished!
And that, in very broad strokes is the life of Ambrose Bierce, and if anyone knows a lot more about Mr Bierce and would like to come on the podcast I’d love to talk to you!
Three things you need to know about The Devil’s Dictionary
It is intensely self-indulgent
It is quite misogynist
It is incredibly racist.
Particularly when it comes to Native Americans and Aboriginal people.
Thanks to the U.S. Army Jazz by for making the song Kelli’s no. available in the public domain.
So this week’s episode of The FrankenPod, features an interview that I (Morgan) recorded with Alix Roberts who has written an amazing thesis on Vampiric women, which I had not read at the time of recording but that I have since read and it is goddamn amazing. Unfortunately, the audio is pretty shoddy. Totally my fault and I’m going to extend the invitation to Alix for her to come on the show again so you can hear how wonderful she is without the clicks and hisses of an angry National Broadband Network.
I have changed the way I do interviews now so hopefully, this will
“But in our family, if you cannot write an epic or novel, that by its originality knocks all other novels on the head, you are a despicable creature, not worth acknowledging”
Claire Clairmont to Jane Williams
Claire was born Clara, was nicknamed Jane as a child, and then adopted Claire in her teenage years. She was a wild teenager, and it sounds like she would have been a lot of fun until she got bogged down by Byron and all his drama.
It is quite possible she had some kind of affair with Percy Bysshe Shelley who was married to Harriet and already having an affair with Mary. Some of his poems are thought to be about her and their affair may have resulted in a baby called Elena. A baby by that name was registered as being born to Shelley and “Maria” but Mary could not have been the mother. If Claire was the mother she went up Mount Vesuvius just before she gave birth which is a weird call.
Whoever Elena was, she had a short life in foster care and died age one.
This brings us to Byron.
See Villa Diodati for more details on that mess. After her affair with Byron, she realized she was pregnant with his child. She wrote lengthy letters to the poet beseeching him to help her, financially and emotionally. But we’ve discussed how awful Byron was so you can probably guess how that went.
She had a daughter Allegra with no support whatsoever from Byron. Then in an effort to provide the best possible opportunities for her daughter, she sent Allegra to him in Italy.
I get it, a single mother, in Regency England, she didn’t have many options. She also had no way of knowing how little the poet would have to do with little Allegra once she arrived in Italy. Allegra was placed in a convent, alone. Byron never visited her.
Claire was furious! Byron had promised her that Allegra would at least be able to see him, not directly under his care, but at least in his house. Byron was unresponsive to her letters and requests to get Allegra back. So she formed a cunning plan.
The Kidnap Plot
Claire was intensely unhappy and worried about her daughter’s wellbeing in the convent. Her living conditions were unknown to Claire, but she did not hold out much hope for the suitability and safety of her accommodations. She was just a little kid, and if her father was going to neglect her she should be with her mother. Claire began to plan to get her daughter back. She tried to convince Percy Bysshe Shelley to forge a letter from Byron allowing Claire to remove Allegra from the convent. But before she could put her plan into action little Allegra died of typhus or a malarial like fever aged just 5. The only person to visit Allegra during her time in the Italian convent was Percy. Claire blamed Byron, understandably so, and ferociously hated the poet beyond his death saying that he had ‘given her only a few minutes of pleasure but a lifetime of trouble’.
After Allegra, then Shelley’s death, Claire’s desire in life seemed to be finding some semblance of peace and normalcy. It seems a though the rollercoaster of Claire’s early adult years had quenched whatever desire for turbulent romantic entanglements she had had. She spent time as a music teacher, a governess and a few other respectable and consistent jobs. She kept in touch with her stepsister Mary, and while their old rivalry and competitiveness occasionally caused a ripple, they stayed in correspondence until Mary’s death. Mary for her part said that she thought that is was impossible that Percy and Claire had a physical relationship. No matter what the truth is in regard to the nature of their relationship, it is clear they cared a great deal for each other.
Claire never married, an unusual choice at the time, but when taken in the context of what she endured at the hands of Lord Byron, it is not surprising. She had her fair share of suitors, including Trelawny who was part of the Shelley circle towards the end of Shelley and Byron’s lives. But Claire was fine without the drama.
She outlived all of her companions who were there at the Villa Diodati on the fateful night of the ghost story challenge. I find Claire the most relatable out of the bunch. Her life didn’t go exactly how she planned and she was not some inaccessible gothic romantic heroine.
When I was little I thought Igor came from the story of Frankenstein.
When I was a teenager I thought they created Igor for the film.
Now that I’m an adult I have no goddamn idea. The “Igor” of the 1931 Frankenstein… was not called Igor, his name was Fritz. So where did this rambling, pivotal, yet utterly disposable character come from? Is he really a 20th century Universal Studios creation or is there something more to this embodiment of the strange, the gatekeeper to monstrosity and unnerving manservant that we call “Igor”.
Its an iconic image, the obsessed mad scientist connecting the wires to his creature and the machinery that presumably has something to do with the whole process. He might cackle, he might yell to the heavens, he might even wear steampunk goggles. But in this equation of the isolated man and his dangerous obsession, there is often a third party, someone to flick the switch. Enter Igor.
His character generally fills at least one of these three roles:
The other that acts as a buffer between the doctor and his creation, such as in the 1931 brain mix up, we can blame almost anything on Fritz in his role as the assistant.
The humanity to the Doctor’s crazed monstrous mania. He is in on the project, and tries to stop the Doctor or appeal to his better nature, in vain.
A human exposition facilitator. In the novel of Frankenstein which features no assistant, the primary story telling of the creation process occurs over a large passage of time and through Victor’s narration. So without an overarching voice narration, an assistant can ask the questions that will allow the Doctor to fill the audience in on what is happening.
Presumption; Or the Fate of Frankenstein (1823)
Richard Brinsley Peake’s stage adaptation would set up some the more outlandish and comedic elements of the modern Frankenstein myth. In this play Victor’s friend Henry Clerval from the novel and the new character invented for the play, Fritz, assist him in his experiments. This allows for a broad distribution of blame for the subsequent events rather than all the responsibility lying at the feet of Doctor Frankenstein. Fritz also functions as an audience surrogate or even narrator in many parts.
Fritz (Dwight Frye) is definitely a scapegoat and entirely expendable. The criminal brain mix up is a game changer, it takes the blame away from Frankenstein, and places the emphasis on nature rather than nurture. He is a low stakes victim and by virtue of his cruelty towards the Creature and unfortunately due to his appearance. The ablist judgements at play in portrayal of Fritz and his successors give the audience an excuse to dislike the assistant right from the outset, which I think we can all agree is an issue and deeply problematic.
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
We are introduced to Bela Lugosi’s Ygor. Ygor also has a physical impairment which was the result of an attempt to hang him for grave robbing. The former blacksmith can control the “Monster” making him a formidable opponent for Frankenstein’s son. The cultural othering of Ygor or the assistant as being a different nationality and therefore strange.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
This time played by Marty Feldman, and named Igor, this comedy portrayal of the assistant would shape our understanding of the character forever. His exaggerated and unnerving appearance combined with Feldman’s incomparable and unsettling performance has buried the “Igor” deep into our collective cultural understanding of the Frankenstein myth.
We will be watching Victor Frankenstein soon. I’m excited to see how Daniel Radcliffe deals with the somewhat intangible legacy of Igor.