Sunday, March 1, 2015

Flask of Eyes Characterization #2: Benjamin Underling Meets Frankenstein

As a sequel to my brief essay on Edward Hyde's influence upon Franklin Beacon, a character in my novel, "Flask of Eyes", I'm offering another assessment in the same vein: the link between the Frankenstein Monster and Benjamin Underling.

The Frankenstein element becomes obvious in "Flask" once the story passes several chapters, though from the start, Benjamin is depicted as a giant, which fits Mary Shelley's description of the famed, man-made monster.

Like the Monsters that have come before, this version isn't innately bad, but he's also not driven by vengeance. However, his quest for a mate remains a motivating factor. In this regard, he feels destined to be with the earthly female lead, Karen Gentile. 

Though Benjamin is disguised in fake flesh, he's green-skinned beneath such: a nod to Jack Pierce's make-up in the Universal franchise, which we see in color via "Son of Frankenstein" home-movie footage, as well as the color segments featuring Fred Gwynne's Herman Munster.

Benjamin's image/appearance, in its purest form, is really based on a '70s Creepy Creatures puzzle I received from Santa when I was a child. Please see the following:

Benjamin's birth, however, doesn't necessarily reflect what's featured in literature or film, though I did combine elements of various Frankenstein movies where liquid/chemicals and possibly a spot of electricity were used to bring the specimens to life: "Curse of Frankenstein"; "Andy Warhol's Flesh for Frankenstein"; "Frankenstein--the True Story"; Kenneth Branagh's "Frankenstein '94", et al...all combined with golem lore.

A golem, per Hebrew legend, is fashioned from clay. I opted such to be Benjamin's founding form, with clay as his skeletal structure upon which the witch, Magda, attaches her miraculous life-giving brew. 

The golem influence is also a carryover from my childhood, when I would stare at photos (from horror-film history books) of Paul Wegener's "Der Golem" saga (of which only the '21 version of the trilogy yet exists), as well as "It!", starring Roddy MacDowall. In more recent years, the "Snow in August" television adaptation has further spurred my fascination with this particular mythology.

It should also be acknowledged that the Wegener movies had an indisputable impact on Universal's Frankenstein franchise, both visually and in story structure. Note the examples below:

At any rate, the above aspects have acted as catalysts for Benjamin. Beyond any question, he represents Shelley's creation, embodying the big guy's pathos, confusion and basic need to lead a normal life. He's also one of my story's heroes, which I felt a fitting tribute to one who's generally depicted as sad and forlorn, but as to how things turn out precisely for ol' Benjamin...well, you'll just have to read "Flask" to see...

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