Frankenstein: The College Years is a Sci-Fi comedy directed by Tom Shadyac. The film’s writers include, Bryant Christ and John Trevor Wolff. It was released on October 28, 1991. The full movie can be found on YouTube, but with poor quality.
Frankenstein: The College Years starts out with Blaine giving a presentation in professor Lippzieg’s class. To everyone’s surprise, when Blaine is done Lippzieg is not responding and is dead. Mark Chrisman, a favorite student of Lippzieg, gets the key to his laboratory. Mark and his best friend, Jay Butterman, go and explore in the laboratory late one night. There they find a dead body and Lippzieg’s journal full of his notes on how to bring this body to life. Mark becomes obsessed with attempting to give life to this creature. Jay unwillingly helps his friend with this task. Once the two boys are successful, they decide to name this creature, Frank N. Stein. The next problem they encounter is attempting to get Frank to fit in like a normal college student. This is particularly difficult considering Frank is much taller than everyone, has no education at all, and cannot speak. However, it does not take long for Frank to become a popular guy on campus. Mark and Jay are able to find Frank some clothes that fit and get him a spot as the kicker on the football team. Amidst all of this, Professor Loman had suspicions that professor Lippzieg was trying to create life and he thinks he has figured out that Mark and Jay have brought Lippzieg’s creation to life. He captures Frank and plans to present him to a group of scientists, hoping this will make him famous. Mark and Jay find Frank and sabotage Loman’s presentation, making him look like he has lost his mind.
Education is a prevalent theme that appears in Mary Shelly’s novel, Frankenstein as well as in Frankenstein: The College Years. In Shelley’s novel, the main focus of education is on the Creature. This holds true in the film as well. However, education is prominent with Mark and Jay as well. With Mark being the late, professor Lippzieg’s favorite student, Mark obviously has taken interest in his education. Along with this, the whole time that Mark and Jay are attempting to bring Frank back to life they are reading the journal that Lippzieg left behind. Thus, forcing the young men to learn something in the process. Throughout the film they continue to look back at the journal for more information. Even without the journal, the two would have to have had some background knowledge to give Frank life, proving that Mark and Jay are knowledgeable.
The most obvious display of education is with Frank N. Stein. Once he is brought back from the dead, Frank does not know anything. In fact, once the two boys get Frank in their dorm room, Jay turns the radio on for Frank and he cannot even speak to tell Jay he does not like the music. The only way Frank can communicate with Mark and Jay is with hand gestures and a series of grunts and moans. Much like in the novel, Frank learns how to make his way through life by watching others and with the help of Mark and Jay. There are multiple times in the film where someone will ask Frank to do something and he will simply stand there with a confused look on his face. Then the person giving the command will have to motion what he/she wants Frank to do. Finally, Frank is able to complete the task by mimicking what the other person has done. At one point, Mark brings Frank to the school’s football practice, where Jay is working as the team’s athletic trainer. The football is thrown to where Frank is standing and it takes the whole football team plus the coach to make the throwing motion before Frank finally realizes what is being asked of him. It is not until the last five minutes of the movie that the audience finally hears Frank speak. With the help of Mark, Jay, and others, Frank is able to convince the dean at the end of the movie that he is, in fact, a student.
Frank is an oversized human who cannot communicate to others with anything but motions and has a face that resembles a dead person. Needless to say, Frank stands out in any crowd he is in. This does not stop the students from wanting to befriend Frank, nor does it stop Mark and Jay from helping him out. In Shelley’s novel and many other adaptations, the creator runs away or is in extreme panic when the monster comes to life. However, Mark and Jay do not seem scared in the least bit. In fact, after the laboratory explodes due to too much voltage when bringing Frank back to life, their first reaction is to find Frank and get him out of the rubble before the cops find him. Even when the boys realize that Frank hardly knows anything about life they do not give up on him and make it their goal to ensure that the student body accepts Frank. Throughout the movie there are many others who accept Frank the way he is, the football coach and team being one example. Once the coach realizes that Frank cannot throw a football, he does not give up on finding Frank a spot on the football team. It is by happenstance that the coach sees Frank kick a football. It turns out, Frank excels in this part of the game and earns his place on the team. From here, Frank’s popularity only increases. There are girls who want to go on dates with him, others that approach him on campus, and of course his teammates that accept him as one of their own. While it is obvious to the audience that Frank is a monster, the characters in the movie are all able to look past his differences and become friends with him. In fact, professor Loman seems to be the only person in the movie who continues to try to prove that he is a monster. By doing this, Loman only ends up making himself look foolish. If he had set his curiosity and determination to be right aside, Loman would have saved himself from embarrassment.
Significance of Adaptation
Frankenstein: The College Years takes a unique approach by actually attempting to get the Creature to fit in with others. Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein is another adaptation that does this and Frankenweenie touches on the theme of acceptance when the community finally accepts Sparky at the end of the movie. Both of these films are designed for kids. Part of the message that the Frankenstein narrative is supposed to send to kids is that it is okay to be different. What the other adaptations do not always realize is that young adults need to be reminded of this as well. Part of growing up and going to college is about finding oneself and one is not able to do that if they fear that other will judge them if they are different. Therefore, Frankenstein: The College Years is a positive reminder for one to not worry about what others think of him/her. Another notable aspect of this is film is that when the monster comes to life no one says, “It’s alive!” Although, these are two minor words this is something that have been prevalent in almost all of the adaptations. This film also introduces the audience to a new setting, on a college campus. By doing this, viewers are reminded how young Victor was when creating the Creature. Often times Victor, or whoever the creator may be, is played by an older male causing people to forget that in the novel Victor was in his twenties. Another minute difference this film has is that none of the characters names are related to the novel or any other adaptations. The only person with a name stemming from the novel or an adaptation is Frank N. Stein. This is odd because it seems like in every adaptation of Frankenstein the characters’ names are derived from the novel in some shape or form. If there is a character that is not in the novel such as, Igor then that name gets passed on to different adaptations. One of the most shocking angles this film takes is that no one dies because of the Creature. In every version, except for the children’s adaptations, the Creature kills at least one person.
It does have its similarities to other adaptations. One of them being that the Creature is humanized. Some versions of this story do not make the monster appear to be anything like a human. However, this film along with Young Frankenstein, Frankenstein Created Woman, and others actually depict the Creature as a human. This does not mean that the Creature does not have conspicuous features that make him appear different. It simply means that that he looks just as any other human would, only with some stitches, or something to that affect on his face.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Susan J. Wolfson. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's
Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. 2nd ed. Pearson Education, 2007. Print.