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While Forbidden Planet draws on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with science standing in for magic, an equally important source during this time of atomic paranoia is Frankenstein, which exposes the Cold War context during the mid-1950s, tying Forbidden Planet to other films concerned with the contemporary debate on how atomic power is to be controlled, and who is to control it. This is a problem Forbidden Planet’s Krell race neglected to consider, and it led to their annihilation. This essay makes a case for the importance of Frankenstein and its popular-culture progeny as important intertexts of Forbidden Planet in terms of the ties between Frankenstein and his monster, atomic scientists and theirs, and Morbius and his id monster. All three pairs embody variants of a process associated with information networks called feedback loops, in these cases connecting creators and creations.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of the most popular novels in western literature. It has been adapted and re-assembled in countless forms, from Hammer Horror films to young-adult books and bandes dessinées. Beginning with the idea of the ‘Frankenstein Complex’, this edited collection provides a series of creative readings that explore the elaborate intertextual networks that make up the novel’s remarkable afterlife. It broadens the scope of research on Frankenstein while deepening our understanding of a text that, 200 years after its original publication, continues to intrigue and terrify us in new and unexpected ways.
Frankenstein has a greater presence in popular media than any other single narrative over nearly two centuries, and its place in popular culture continues to grow. Adaptations of Shelley’s novel flow forth at an unparalleled rate. This sustained popularity may be a result of Shelley’s imaginative treatment of what it means to be human, her ambivalence towards science and technology, or simply because of her questions about creating a sentient being. Mikhail Bakhtin might have described Shelley’s creature as a ‘grotesque body’, one that is continually in the act of becoming something new. In any case, understanding the proliferation of Frankenstein adaptations demands a creative and broad approach because new adaptations are not simply the result of a relationship with Shelley’s novel, but are also the products of multiple relationships with other adaptations. In fact, every new adaptation of Frankenstein depends both on what we may term a Frankenstein Complex, located in the minds of individuals and made up of personal experiences, as well as on the Frankenstein Network, or the repository of Frankensteinian experiences available in the culture.