ASU Researchers Explore Cultural Legacy of 'Frankenstein'

January 21, 2015

Still from the film "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935)

This article first appeared in ASU News.

A panel of researchers from Arizona State University’s Frankenstein Bicentennial Project will deliver public lectures as part of “It’s Alive!: Frankenstein on Film,” a weekend of screenings and conversations, Jan. 23-25, at the SIFF Film Center in Seattle.

The weekend is hosted by SIFF, the non-profit film organization that runs three year-round cinemas, as well as the Seattle International Film Festival, the largest, most highly-attended film festival in the United States. The panel will take place from 7-9:30 p.m., Jan. 24.

The “It’s Alive: Frankenstein on Film” weekend explores the variety of worlds that have evolved from Mary Shelley’s classic monster tale through the panel of ASU researchers; a “Cinema Dissection” event with film critic Robert Horton on the classic film "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935); encores of the live-filmed version of Danny Boyle’s stage production, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller; and screenings of the films "Frankenstein" (1931), "Young Frankenstein" (1974), "Flesh for Frankenstein" (1973), "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948) and "Frankenweenie" (2012).

“Working with the Frankenstein Bicentennial Project on this weekend of programs is the perfect fit for SIFF. It not only fulfills our mission to explore the intersection of entertainment and education, but affords us the opportunity to curate a diverse selection of 'Frankenstein'-inspired films, all of which are truly a joy to experience on the big screen,” says Clinton McClung, cinema programmer for SIFF.

At the panel, researchers from ASU’s Frankenstein Bicentennial Project will delve into the cultural history of Mary Shelley’s novel, its ethical, scientific and artistic legacy, and the numerous film adaptations it has provoked. Clips and discussion topics covered in the panel include the origin of the "Frankenstein" story, the changing look of the monster over the years, the first film adaptation of the tale in 1910, comedic and family-friendly adaptations of the "Frankenstein" myth and questions of ethics, scientific creativity and social responsibility that still resonate today in settings ranging from laboratories and government oversight hearings to films such as 2010’s Splice.

“There is no better cultural carrier than 'Frankenstein' of the ways in which we grapple with questions of scientific creativity and responsibility,” says David H. Guston, one of the panelists and the director of the Center for Nanotechnology in Society. “These films provide different and often nuanced insights into such questions, which were first emerging in Mary Shelley’s time but which are central to our own.”

Other speakers featured on the panel include Peter Lehman, director of the Center for Film, Media and Popular Culture, and Joey Eschrich, editor and program manager for the Center for Science and the Imagination.

Lehman notes, “'Frankenstein' has held fascination for filmmakers beginning with the silent Edison adaptation in 1910 and continuing to this day, with 'I, Frankenstein,' a 2013 film made in 3-D. Several more are currently in various stages of production.”

The entire “It’s Alive!” weekend is open to the public. Tickets for the panel are $12 each, or $7 for SIFF members. For more information and ticket sales, visit

Joey Eschrich,
Center for Science and the Imagination

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