Although separated by 56 years and different genres and directors, both James Whales’ Frankenstein (1931) and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987) address the issue of how creating an outcast – and taking away their identity––will cause the outcast to lash out at society. In Frankenstein this idea is showcased in the main plotline: Dr. Frankenstein gathers various body parts to create and bring to life a Creature only to have the Creature turn against him and society. Full Metal Jacket approaches the issue in the main plotline of the first portion of the film: Sgt. Hartman (or the Marine Corps) takes good-natured Pvt. Pyle and turns him into an anonymous being and then an uncaring killing machine, only to have Pyle turn on Hartman. While the films differ in how their outcasts are created––Frankenstein emphasizes a physical creation while Full Metal Jacket explores the psychological––both come to the same conclusion: taking away personality or sense of identity is wrong and the consequences of doing so are dire. Yet the films also suggest that outcasts can be subdued, either by society (as in Frankenstein) or by their own hand (as in Full Metal Jacket).
The opening sequence of Frankenstein begins with a single long pan across the faces of mourners at a funeral––a bell tolls and a prayer can be heard. The shot is dark and full of shadows, indicative of our knowledge of the man being buried. But who he is doesn’t matter; as Frankenstein says, “He’s just resting, waiting for a new life to come.” He was someone before, but now Frankenstein is going to turn him into something new. As Frankenstein and Fritz take the body to the castle, they come across a man at a gallows. Frankenstein has Fritz cut the man down, determined to use some part of him. Again, the idea that it doesn’t matter who the person is so long as they’re a person is brought forth––these men don’t matter to Frankenstein, but the parts of their sum do.