Interview with a Monster - The Frankenstein File

by Thomas Scopel

First seen in Suspense Magazine March 2013

Author's Note:

In January 2013, I found myself staring at a blank computer screen. It wasn’t writer’s block and there were many, as of yet, unfinished projects to complete, including a first full length novel (chapter 1 is teasingly included in the back of this book), a number of tales that were basically written and only needed a good edit, the weekly blog posting at stayingscared.blogspot.com, and I had just embarked on writing a column for Horror News Net entitled Land of Shadow and Substance (more on that later).
Regardless, this idea, a rather unorthodox, yet interesting series of interviews featuring some of filmdom’s classic fictional monsters had been clawing to get out for some time now and I ran with it.

As these yet to be written unconventional pieces swam in my mind, another aspect struck and I doubted whether any publications would view them with equal fascination. Regardless, I easily tackled the first, Frankenstein, and along with a pitch to write more, sent it off to the very first place I had ever been published, Suspense Magazine.
Well, lo and behold, the appeal was there and the Interview with a Monster series was born.
Five of these interviews were eventually published; Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, Phantom of the Opera and the Salem Witch; and all included an enticement or hint as to who the subsequent piece would surround.
I’ve since taken a hiatus from the concept, but can say without hesitation that someday I will revisit this concept, probably with a more modern twist. Mwhahahahahaha!

Anyone who is familiar with classic horror is certainly aware of Frankenstein. With this piece I viewed him as an almost loveable, refined and intelligent individual who had the traits of Hollywood ingrained, but was unfortunately stereotyped so much that future role offers never came. An aura of fear constantly surrounded as he maintained hope though; and I had no idea he was so witty and frugal?

When first learning of the opportunity to interview Frankenstein, rather Frankenstein’s monster, I probably needn’t tell you that I was a bit hesitant. After all, it’s not every day one has the chance to sit down and talk with arguably, the king of horror films. Of course, having seen his work, I expected an aggressive and wholly unpredictable, yet bumbling, mumbling and stumbling untrained mind constantly reaching for answers to my questions and moaning angrily when unable to reach them. And, I might also add that had he chose to threaten, harm or pursue, I was fully prepared to run the perpetual country mile to escape.

Regardless, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Imagine my surprise in finding not a monster at all, but a completely rational, intelligent, sensitive individual, smartly dressed in a white shirt and a blue sport blazer and looking rather dapper as he took the seat across from me and, as if it was the most natural thing, ordered a double espresso. As we made small talk prior to the official interview, I was surprised by his candidness and especially the extensive vocabulary he utilized through a deep, monotonous toned voice. Although pleasant, trepidation still gripped; after all, he is quite large and most intimidating. This conflict forced me to abruptly change both tactic and question. Within reach at any given time, he somberly sat across from me staring and anticipating and I wrestled with attempting to relax. It was a complete privilege.

Mr. Frankenstein…

Please, call me Frank…

Okay Frank. Speaking bluntly, considering you are patched together from many parts, how do you really feel?

I get that question all the time, and my answer is always the same, that I’m fine. That is unless it’s raining, which gets my knee to aching, and as long as no large open flames are involved, heh heh (he chuckled a deep, echoing laugh). That’s a joke…movie thing mind you. No, in all honesty, a stitch here and a stitch there is sometimes required in order to correct the doc’s hasty actions. Can’t say that I blame him though. Have you looked closely at what he was working with? Darkness, an impending majestic electrical storm crackling in the distant, and medical tools that left a lot to be desired. No siree, wasn’t much micro-surgery in those days. Get it? Another joke, (he chuckled again, this time with a touch of added enthusiasm). Of course, if you’re wondering whether I’m able to reach over and snatch the life right out of you, (the humor element abrupty changed and his face took on a fearsome, mean appearance complete with ruthless staring eyes not shown in the film) I certainly could. And that somewhat short race you’re anticipating or feeling compelled to attempt won’t do much good either. I’m considerably quicker now, (his head lowered and his eyes pierced deadly into mine and I was suddenly more terrified than I had ever been) a product of many microsurgeries. (After holding the glare for what felt like eternity, but was a mere few seconds, he burst into a hearty, if not bellowing, boisterous laugh). That’s another joke…I still have it! No seriously, how do I feel? I feel fine.

How old are you?

Well, that depends upon which part you’re referring to. Ha ha. (another laugh) Like most women, I prefer to not discuss age. I was created when Ms. Shelly wrote that first word. However, I like to think I was born with that lightning strike. You do the math.

You were originally labeled a monster, Frankenstein’s monster. But, somewhere along the way you began being referred to simply as Frankenstein. What do you have to say about that?

Personally, it doesn’t trouble me. However, while the doc hasn’t conveyed it, I know the concept troubles him. I mean, how would you feel if someone took your name and was reaped with all the rewards, leaving you out in the cold? Regardless, I take horror very seriously. After all, it’s been my bread and butter for a generation or two now. And, let’s be blunt, I personify monsterism, especially with this evergreen colored skin and these somewhat idiotic bolts sticking out of my neck. Nonetheless, I suppose I see it all as a badge of honor. Without the label, and to be perfectly honest, without the doc, I would have been nothing. Obviously, I enjoy scaring people, as you’ve already seen, but I really tend to lean toward viewing myself as that Herman guy, loveable, laughable and sometimes, for lack of a better word, rather uneducated.

You are rather intimidating. Maybe it’s just your size which implies extensive capabilities. Speaking of that comedy sitcom knock off, how do you feel about their conception of your character?

When I first saw it, it really made me mad. Horror is horror and comedy is comedy and it was very hard for me to accept the fine line between both. However, after viewing a few episodes and realizing the popularity involved, I simmered a bit and change perspectives, realizing and even appreciating that they were at least keeping my character in the spotlight, regardless whether it was comedic. And, I have to admit to developing a bit of a crush on Lilly. Boy! is she a hot vixen. She can bite me any day. Not like the Lancaster chick. And, as most everyone knows, I have no children. So both Marilyn and Eddie would be simply perfect in personifying my delusions of grandeur. Something a father-want-to-be would be proud of. 

We’ve never seen you eat anything, what are some of your favorite foods?

Well, I like most everything, but my taste buds never fully developed and so I am unable to fully enjoy standard cuisine as most folks and I primarily seek out texture. Somehow, that seems to make up for the flavor loss. Strong flavors I can partially detect, and I tend to pursue those. And, there are a number of items that I avoid too; not because I dislike them, but because they dislike me and cause a terrible case of indigestion. My body doesn’t digest well and so I typically stick to fruits and vegetables, only for nutrition sake. On occasion I’ll tempt fates and have a thick, juicy cheeseburger loaded with onions and eventually end up wishing I hadn’t. But, it never stops me from a repeat performance from time to time. And, speaking of onions, they’re one of those strong flavors, same with garlic. Of course, after ingesting them, I do have a tendency to reek.

With your well known fear of fire, do you barbeque?

Yes, but it’s always with a gas type grill. None of that charcoal and lighter fluid for me. Too much opportunity for mishap.

While we’re on the subject of fear, do you have any nightmares?

Sometimes, but they’re not typical. You would think I dream of fire, considering my track record, but I don’t. Never do. I dream about how I frightened that little girl, even though when we were filming she wasn’t all that scared. Maybe, and hindsight is always twenty-twenty, if I hadn’t seen the finished product, this wouldn’t occur. I’ll let you in on a little secret. That scene scared me way more than the fire did. Maybe I am more like that Herman guy than I’d like to admit.

While I think I may detect a slight smell emulating from you, it’s not all that strong or repulsive, sort of a new car smell. Do you harbor an odor and if so, how do you combat it?

Like I mentioned earlier, the parts seem to be working fine. But, they were all dead at one time and due to that aspect, with it comes the never-ending aroma. Not much I can do about it. Lord knows I’ve tried. I have learned to somewhat mask it and make being around me more palatable. The onions and garlic help tremendously. And, I’m pretty well known at a number of higher end department stores’ fragrance sections. I’m the seven foot tall green guy at the counter asking for a few of those little samples of the latest colognes. Usually, after the sales girl’s initial fright, she reaps me with them. Of course, I always have to sample the open bottles while I’m there too. Oh, and the magazines too. You know, the ones with the fold over sheet that harbors the scent. Those work well too. However, there is never enough to mask and I usually resort to tearing out the sheets and tucking them inconspicuously in various pockets. A lot of times that does the trick. Today I’ve loaded up on car air fresheners, so (hearty grin) your nose doesn’t undermine with the new car scent.

Why haven’t you ever made a sequel to your blockbuster flick?

Funny you should ask. As everyone knows, I was supposedly destroyed in the fire. There were discussions about bringing my character back, but it was too tough finding a good storyline that didn’t appear vague and believable about my escaping the clutches of a fiery death. Let’s face it, my death was needed in order to both, stay true to the book, as well as properly close the film. That much I understand and whole-heartedly agree with. However, I would have liked to continue on with a film career. But, it’s for the better since I would have wanted my character to have progressed from the obtuse originally projected to having a speaking role. Nonetheless, I was stereotyped and therefore, that wasn’t going to occur. For years I wrestled with this concept, eventually coming to the conclusion that, like the studios viewpoint, my best work had already been completed. Of course, that didn’t deter the studios from attempting to capitalize on the success and my fame and they pursued that bride thing. To me, that seemed a bit moronic. Too much like an Adam and Eve type thing I suppose. Of course, that’s only my personal opinion and I’m probably more than a little biased with the animosity involved.

Well, we’ve covered the aroma, what about clothing and shoes? You must have a rough time hunting down a size that fits?

I used to, before it became so easy to shop from home. I had such a terribly tough time hunting things down. After all, Rodeo Drive is all about trendy and they certainly don’t cater to the big and tall, nor do they stock anything over a size five. Even had a tough time at some of the big box stores, and they usually have everything. I typically found myself browsing secondhand stores. Sometimes I’d get lucky and sometimes I didn’t. Now, with the internet age and online shopping, that has all drastically changed and there are a number of websites I have stumbled across and since stored in my favorites; everything from hats to shoes and the sizes are usually spot on.

So what’s next for the big green monster?

Well, as you would probably suspect, there hasn’t been a flood of scripts flowing my way. Let’s face it. I’m not the romantic comedy leading man material. But, I remain hopeful and check the mailbox every day.

Well Frank, I want to thank you for taking the time to sit down with me. Maybe this interview will open doors for you. You’ve shown a side that most are probably not aware of. Maybe it will take away some of that stereotyping you’ve been painted with. While I’d love to sit here and chat all day, I imagine that you are rather busy, so I’ll leave you to it.

Are you kidding me, I could sit here all day.

Well Frank, I can’t. Deadline thing; and if you know anything about editors, they have little patience for deviation, so I’ll simply bid you ado and have a nice day.

I couldn’t help but feel melancholic at how abruptly I ended the interview. Somehow throughout the interview I had begun to feel sorry for the big lug. But, it wasn’t strong enough to override the fact that had he wanted to, he could have easily reached over the table and snapped my neck like a twig. Intrepidation forced the issue, and with each step I took away from him, the fear and stress lifted, dissipating completely only after the hearing diner’s door hiss closed behind me. That was until I recalled the Dracula interview I had scheduled for next month and realizing that darkness would not be a negotiation, but a certainty, and simply wearing a turtleneck sweater probably won’t suffice. Maybe I’ll take Frank’s lead and wear a garlic necklace, not for scent coverage, but for security. Hopefully Drac won’t be offended.

 

End

 

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