9 more Frankenstein facts (like #5: how did Darwin get into the book?)

Halloween is nearly upon us... and there's no better time to take a look at one of the most famous horror stories in literary history: Frankenstein!

In this two-part article, we'll discover some truths (and dispel some myths) about Dr. Frankenstein and The Monster. Yesterday, in Part I, we reviewed the story's influence in movies, TV, music, and pop culture. Today, in Part II, we'll focus on Mary Shelley's original novel.

THE BOOK:

Q: What event halfway around the world helped spawn Frankenstein?

A: The eruption of Mount Tambora in present-day Indonesia. The atmospheric dust the volcano spewed out blocked the Sun's rays, resulting in unseasonably cold weather during the summer of 1816. Mary went to Switzerland along with poet (and husband-to-be) Percy Shelley that May, as houseguests of fellow poet Lord Byron. Unable to enjoy outdoor activities due to the conditions, the group thought it would be fun to challenge each other to write the scariest ghost story imaginable. While Percy and Byron abandoned the project early on, Mary was so struck by a nightmare she'd had that she kept writing. She finished the book the following year, and it was first published in 1818.

Q: How did a book about the creation of a living being manage to escape the wrath of the religious?

Lots more after the jump...

Mary ShelleyA: Initially, the book was published anonymously. The fact that it was dedicated to William Godwin led most to assume it had been written by Percy Shelley, his son-in-law. Some people still believe that it was.

Even after the author's identity was revealed, it would have been difficult to accuse her of heresy. After all, the story came from a dream and was written with the obvious intent of being, well, spooky. Plus, the perspective of the book was so twisted that it was a tale of a tale of a tale. The content was compiled from letters written from Robert Walton to his sister, Margaret Saville. These letters contained Walton's recollections from the story he had been told verbally by Victor Frankenstein. Who's to say how the story changed in the translation, or if Dr. Frankenstein was just a madman with a vivid imagination? Or, perhaps it was Walton himself. He reveals feelings of isolation and profound loneliness in his letters to his sister, so he could have written the story to give himself something to do.

Q: The book is subtitled The Modern Prometheus. Why? And who's Prometheus?

A: It's a reference to Prometheus Unbound: A Lyrical Drama in Four Acts, written in 1818 by Mary's lover, Percy Bysshe Shelley. His work was a reinvention of a long-lost, fifth-century BCE play by dramatist Aeschylus, known as "the father of Greek tragedy."

Now, to answer the question, Prometheus was a Greek mythological character "“ a Titan "“ who was said to have designed and created mortal humans. He "borrowed" fire from the gods and gave it to the humans to help them along. This displeased Zeus, who chained the Titan to a rock where he was preyed upon by an eagle until Hercules came along to rescue him.

So "The Modern Prometheus" referenced Dr. Frankenstein, who created his own human being.

Q: Does Shelley mention Charles Darwin in the book's preface?

A: No. (He was born in 1809, several years after the events in the book.) The preface text reads: "The event on which this fiction is founded has been supposed "¦ by Dr. Darwin "¦ as not of the impossible occurrence." But the reference here is to British physiologist Erasmus Darwin, Charles' grandfather. Although Charles' work was inspired by Erasmus' early writings on evolution, the elder Darwin approached the topic much more carefully, treading a line between fiction and non-fiction by penning some of his theories in prose and even poetry.

Q: Per Shelley's novel, in what region of Europe is The Monster brought to life?

University of IngolstadtA: No, not Transylvania. Bavaria. More specifically, in a lab at the University of Ingolstadt. Frankenstein is set in the 1700s, according to the dates of the letters within. An advanced laboratory was constructed near the college grounds in 1778, which could well coincide with the novel's timeline.

The school had been closed nearly 20 years when Shelley's book was published in 1818, giving her license to use it as the setting of the Monster's creation (and perhaps injecting a bit of reality into an otherwise quite unbelievable story).

Q: What character's background was changed after the original publication of Frankenstein?

A: Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor's bride-to-be. In the first printing, she was his first cousin (the daughter of his father's sister). In 1831, the text was revamped to introduce her as an Italian orphan who had been living with foster parents. Victor's mother found her in Milan, and was so enraptured by her that she took the child home as a "gift" for Victor, who described her as "a distinct species, a being heaven-sent."The Frankenstein family adopted the girl.

Q: Who's alive at the conclusion of Frankenstein: Dr. Victor Frankenstein or The Monster?

A: The Monster. Remorseful after the death of his creator, he leaves to lose himself in the frozen arctic wasteland. His death is presumed, but not specified.

Q: In all, how many deaths was The Monster directly (or indirectly) responsible for?

A: Six. William Frankenstein (Victor's brother), Justine Moritz (mistakenly executed for killing William), Henry Clerval (Victor's friend), Elizabeth Lavenza (Victor's fiancée), Alphonse Frankenstein (Victor's father, heartbroken over the recent deaths), and Victor.

And all but one of Victor's sled dogs also perished in the arctic, worked to death in his vain attempt to catch up to The Monster.

Q: How tall is The Monster in the original book?

A: Eight feet. That means only one living man "“ Ukraine's Leonid Stadnykm "“ could look down on him. At eight feet, five inches tall (and still growing!), Stadnykm's extreme height came about in a fashion similar to The Monster: under the knife of a surgeon. He owes his extreme height to a brain operation he underwent as a teenager, which stimulated his pituitary gland and led to his incredible growth.

Q: And was he green, with bolts on his neck and such?

A: No. Victor had designed the creature carefully, making sure the proportions were correct and that his features would be attractive. But when he saw the living Monster for the first time, he was horrified, describing him as having yellowish eyes and long, flowing black hair. Victor noted how his pearly-white teeth contrasted with his "shriveled complexion and straight black lips." And the creature's yellow skin "scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath."

-end-

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Warner Bros.
19 Shadowy Facts About Tim Burton's Batman
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Superhero movies are bigger than they’ve ever been before, but we arguably wouldn’t be here at all without 1989’s Batman. Produced at a time before comic book movies were considered big business, Tim Burton’s dark look at a superhero then best known for a goofy TV show is a pop culture landmark, and the story of how it was made is almost as interesting as the film itself. So, to celebrate Batman—which was released on this day in 1989—here are 19 facts about how it came to the screen.

1. AN EARLY MOVIE IDEA RELIED ON THE CAMPINESS OF THE CHARACTER.

As development of a Batman movie began, studio executives were still very tied to the campiness embodied by the Batman television series of the 1960s. According to executive producer Michael Uslan, when he first began attempting to get the rights to make a film, he was told that the only studio who’d expressed interest was CBS, and only if they could do a Batman In Outer Space film.

2. IT TOOK 10 YEARS TO MAKE.

Uslan lobbied hard for the rights to Batman, and finally landed them in 1979. At that point, the fight to convince a studio to make the film ensued, and everyone from Columbia Pictures to Universal Pictures turned it down. When Warner Bros. finally agreed to back the film, the issue of developing the right script had to be settled, and that took even more time. In 1989, after years of battling, Batman was finally released, and Uslan has been involved in some form in every Batman film since.

3. AN EARLY SCRIPT FEATURED BOTH THE PENGUIN AND ROBIN.

When Uslan finally got the chance to develop the film, he drafted legendary screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, who had been a consultant on Superman, to write the script. The Mankiewicz script included The Joker, corrupt politician Rupert Thorne, a much greater focus on Bruce Wayne’s origin story, The Penguin, and the arrival of Robin late in the film. The script was ultimately scrapped, but you can see certain elements of it in Batman Returns.

4. TIM BURTON WASN’T THE FIRST POTENTIAL DIRECTOR.

Though Warner Bros. ultimately chose Tim Burton to helm Batman, over the course of the film’s development a number of other choices emerged. At various points on the road to Batman, everyone from Gremlins director Joe Dante to Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman was in line for the gig.

5. MANY STARS OF THE TIME WERE CONSIDERED FOR BATMAN.

The casting process for Batman was a long one, and involved a number of major stars of the day. Among the contenders for the title role were Mel Gibson, Bill Murray (yes, really), Kevin Costner, Willem Dafoe, Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford, Charlie Sheen, Ray Liotta, and Pierce Brosnan, who later regretted turning down the role.

6. TIM BURTON HAD TO FIGHT TO CAST MICHAEL KEATON.

At the time, Michael Keaton was best known for his comedic roles in films like Mr. Mom and Night Shift, so the thought of casting him as a vigilante of the night seemed odd to many. Michael Uslan remembers thinking a prank was being played on him when he heard Keaton’s name pop up. Burton, who’d already worked with Keaton on Beetlejuice, was convinced that Keaton was right for the role, not just because he could portray the obsessive nature of the character, but because he also felt that Keaton was the kind of actor who would need to dress up as a bat in order to scare criminals, while a typical action star would just garner “unintentional laughs” in the suit. Burton ultimately won the argument, and Keaton got an iconic role for two films.

7. JACK NICHOLSON WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR THE JOKER, BUT HE WASN’T THE ONLY CHOICE.

From the beginning, Uslan concluded that Jack Nicholson was the perfect choice to play The Joker, and was “walking on air” when the production finally cast him. He certainly wasn’t the only actor considered, though. Among Burton’s considerations were Willem Dafoe, James Woods, Brad Dourif, David Bowie, and Robin Williams (who really wanted the part).

8. TIM BURTON WON JACK NICHOLSON OVER WITH HORSEBACK RIDING.

When Nicholson was asked to discuss playing The Joker, he invited Burton and producer Peter Guber to visit him in Aspen for some horseback riding. When Burton learned that was what they’d be doing, he told Guber “I don’t ride,” to which Guber replied “You do today!” So, a “terrified” Burton got on a horse and rode alongside Nicholson, and the star ultimately agreed to play the Clown Prince of Crime.

9. EDDIE MURPHY WAS ONCE CONSIDERED TO PLAY ROBIN.

Though the character of Robin was ultimately scrapped because it simply didn’t feel like there was room for him in the film, he did appear in early drafts of the script, and at one point producers considered casting Eddie Murphy—who, you must remember, was one of the biggest movie stars of the 1980s—for the role. 

10. SEAN YOUNG WAS THE ORIGINAL VICKI VALE.

Burton initially cast Blade Runner star Sean Young as acclaimed photographer Vicki Vale, who would become Bruce Wayne’s love interest. Young was part of the pre-production process on Batman for several weeks until, while practicing horseback riding for a scene that was ultimately cut, she fell from her horse and was seriously injured. With just a week to go until shooting, producers had to act fast to find a replacement, and decided on Kim Basinger, who essentially joined the production overnight.

11. TIM BURTON WASN’T OFFICIALLY HIRED UNTIL BEETLEJUICE BECAME A HIT.

Though he was basically already a part of the production, Burton wasn’t officially the director of Batman right away. Warner Bros. showed interest in him working on the film after the success of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, but according to Burton they only officially hired him after the first weekend grosses for Beetlejuice came in.

“They were just waiting to see how Beetlejuice did,” Burton said. “They didn’t want to give me that movie unless Beetlejuice was going to be okay. They wouldn’t say that, but that was really the way it was.”

12. DANNY ELFMAN THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO BE FIRED UNTIL HE PLAYED THE MAIN THEME.

Danny Elfman is now considered one of our great movie composers, but at the time Batman was released he didn’t have any blockbuster credits to his name. He recalls meeting with Burton (with whom he had worked on Pee-wee’s Big Adventure) and producer Jon Peters to go over some of the music he’d already written for the film, and feeling “a lot of skepticism” over whether he should be the composer for Batman. It wasn’t until Burton said “Play the march,” and Elfman went into what would become the opening credits theme for the film, that he won Peters over.

“Jon jumped out of his chair, really just almost started dancing around the room,” Elfman said.

13. THE JOKER WASN’T ALWAYS GOING TO KILL BATMAN’S PARENTS.

In the final film, The Joker (then named Jack Napier) is revealed to be the gangster who guns down Bruce Wayne’s parents in the streets of Gotham City. It’s a twist that some comic book fans still dislike, and according to screenwriter Sam Hamm, it definitely wasn’t his fault.

“That was something that Tim had wanted from early on, and I had a bunch of arguments with him and wound up talking him out of it for as long as I was on the script. But, once the script went into production, there was a writer’s strike underway, and so I wasn’t able to be with the production as it was shooting over in London, and they brought in other people.”

Hamm also emphasizes that it was also not his idea to show Alfred letting Vicki Vale into the Batcave.

14. THE CLIMACTIC SCENE WAS WRITTEN MIDWAY THROUGH SHOOTING.

Though much of the film is still derived from Hamm’s script, rewrites continued to happen during shooting, and one of them involved the final confrontation between Batman and The Joker in a Gotham City clock tower. According to co-star Robert Wuhl, the climax was inspired by Jack Nicholson and Jon Peters, who went to see a production of The Phantom of the Opera midway through filming and watched as the Phantom made his final stand in a tower. Together, they somehow determined that a final fight in the tower was what Batman needed.

“The next day, they started writing that scene … the whole ending in the tower,” Wuhl said.

15. MICHAEL KEATON’S BATMAN MOVEMENTS WERE INSPIRED BY THE RESTRICTIONS OF THE COSTUME.

Batman fans still love to make jokes about the original costume, and Michael Keaton’s inability to turn his head (there’s even a dig at that in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight), but the restrictions of the costume actually inspired how Keaton performed as the Dark Knight. In 2014, Keaton revealed that his performance as Batman was heavily influenced by a moment when, while trying to actually turn his head in the suit, he ended up ripping it.

“It really came out of the first time I had to react to something, and this thing was stuck to my face and somebody says something to Batman and I go like this [turning his head] and the whole thing goes, [rriipp]! There was a big f***ing hole over here,” he said. “So I go, well, I've got to get around that, because we've got to shoot this son of a bitch, so I go, 'You know what, Tim [Burton]? He moves like this [like a statue]!’”

“I'm feeling really scared, and then it hit me—I thought, 'Oh, this is perfect! This is perfect.' I mean, this is, like, designed for this kind of really unusual dude, the Bruce Wayne guy, the guy who has this other personality that's really dark and really alone, and really kind of depressed. This is it.”

16. GOTHAM CITY WAS REAL, AND IT WAS EXPENSIVE.

Production designer Anton Furst put a lot of work into the incredibly influential designs for the film’s version of Gotham City, and the production was committed to making them pay off. The production ultimately spent more than $5 million to transform the backlot of London’s Pinewood Studios into Gotham City, and you can see the dedication to practical effects work in the final film.

17. PRINCE WAS PART OF THE PRODUCTION EVEN BEFORE HE JOINED IT.

Batman famously features original songs by Prince, who wrote so much new material for the production that he basically produced a full album. Even before the Purple One was drafted to write for the film, though, he was influencing it. Burton played Prince songs on set during the parade sequence and the Joker’s rampage through the museum.

18. THE FILM’S MARKETING WAS SO EFFECTIVE THAT IT INSPIRED CRIMES.

By the time Batman was actually on its way to release, it was becoming a phenomenon, and the marketing for the film was inspiring a frenzy among fans. People were buying tickets to other films just to see the first trailer, and selling bootleg copies of the early footage. The poster, featuring the iconic logo, was so popular that, according to Uslan, people were breaking into bus stations just to steal it.

19. IT WAS A BOX OFFICE LANDMARK.

Though studio executives resisted the idea of a “dark” Batman movie for years, the film ultimately set a new standard for box office success. It was the first film to ever hit $100 million in 10 days, the biggest film in Warner Bros.’ history at the time, and the box office’s biggest earner of 1989—and that’s not even counting the massive toy and merchandising sales it generated.

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