Robert Horton charts the ways ‘Frankenstein’ shaped pop culture

The Herald’s film critic, Robert Horton, grew up in Seattle watching “Nightmare Theater,” which aired late Friday nights during the 1960s and ’70s on KIRO-TV.

“I was a devoted viewer, daring my friends to get all the way through the movies they showed,” Horton said. “I loved that world of old horror films.”

On one of those Friday nights, he watched James Whale’s 1931 film “Frankenstein.”

Horton, now 55, believes the film, which starred Boris Karloff as the monster, has had a decades-long imprint on American culture.

“It was one of the founding films that inspired the horror genre,” he said. “It is considered a classic film for good reason. And the Frankenstein metaphor continues in all media today.”

In February, Columbia University Press/Wallflower Press released Horton’s new book “Frankenstein,” an analysis of the original movie, which then tracks Frankenstein’s monster from Mary Shelley’s novel to its inspiration for the cult followers and makers of horror flicks today.

The 1931 “Frankenstein” spawned countless sequels, remakes, ripoffs and parodies, and renews its followers with each generation, Horton said.

“I had a lot of fun watching the film again, doing the research and then writing the book,” Horton said.

The $15, 128-page book has an appendix in which Horton supplies one-paragraph descriptions of the dozens of Frankenstein movies that followed the original film.

Horton, a University of Washington graduate, also is the author of the 2001 book “Billy Wilder: Interviews” as well as co-author of the 2010 zombie-western graphic novel “Rotten” and its 2012 spinoff “The Lost Diary of John J. Flynn.”

Along with his 30 years as The Herald’s film critic, Horton writes commentary for Seattle Weekly, is a contributor to Film Comment and KUOW-FM, curator of the Frye Art Museum’s Magic Lantern program, writes the blog “The Crop Duster,” has had his work included in “Best American Movie Writing 1999,” served as president of the Seattle Film Society and teaches film studies at Seattle University.

His blog, Horton said, is a daily record of the films he has watched.

“It’s a slightly more advanced version of the movie list I kept, in Flair pen, thumbtacked next to my bed when I was 12,” he said.

“I liked movies as a kid, when I was watching Nightmare Theater. And when I got to the UW, I realized I liked writing. It was easy to combine the two. It’s a good creative outlet.”

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