When Mary Shelley wrote her infamous masterpiece, it was 1815. There was never any doubt when Victor Von Frankenstein lived- well before the advent of the scientific age of Edison and Tesla. The science that he studied in the book were ancient tomes of forgotten alchemy. The Monster was actually grown from a vat and infused with unholy life that way. Although events in the novel took place before even photography was invented; there was never any doubt as to when and where the fictional horrors took place.
But the Universal Horror movie adaptations are not so clear. There are several gaps in the Frankenstein story that bear thinking about. Let us play the great game and pretend the movies are REAL documentaries- what can they tell us about the Family Frankenstein?
The group of films which form the historical record are Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein, and Ghost of Frankenstein. I also would include Frankenstein meets the Wolfman because it reveals strange family connections about the Frankenstein family.
The time and place in the first movie is never stated. There is a University town named Goldstat, and it is assumed to be in Germany. The time period revealed here is devoid of automobiles and elctricity. But it is not 1815.
Henry Frankenstein (not Victor as in the book) is the mad scientist- and in his lab are a mass of electrical equipment all connected to something called the Cosmic Equalizer which utilizes a ray invisible to the normal spectrum - even beyong Ultraviolet. It is this cosmic ray that God used to infuse life into lifeless matter. And Frankenstein can call this radiation down from thunderstorms and distill it from lightening in his crumbling mountaintop laboratory.
With all the electronic equipment that Frankenstein uses in his lab; we can deduce it is the last years of the 19th century- well into the electrical age of Edison. Further a date is actually provided in Bride of Frankenstein which takes up from the moment the first film ends- making both films one seemless narrative about the infamous Doctor's work.
That date is provided by evil Dr. Pretorius- the truly insane doctor who forces Frankenstein to make another monster- this time a female- as a mate to his dread creation. Pretorius has taken another route to the creation of life- he has grown homonculi from 'seed' (shudder). He grows a perfect female brain but has to house it in the skull of a dead female. He and two grave robbers find the bare bones (and Frankenstein's creature) in an underground family crypt. The bones were interred in 1899. But for the flesh to decay and leave nothing but bones- at least five years would have passed. That means Frankenstein and its sequel happened in 1905.
Frankenstein's castle and village below it are nameless in both of the first two movies and its location is not told . However in Son of Frankenstein The name of the village is Frankenstein. By the time that House of Frankenstein occurs- the village's name has been changed to 'Vasaria'. The movie tries to indicate that this is NOT the original village- and indeed in Son...Wolf Von Frankensteingives the deed to the Castle to the Villagers. But that is all the more reason to assume they went in for a name change. The sanitorium of Dr. Ludwig Von Frankenstein (the second son) is located there in Ghost of Frankenstein; and the ruins of Castle Frankenstein are located on the outskirts of the village of Vasaria in Frankenstein meets the Wolfman This village is not Tyrolean, but it must be located in the southern Bavarian mountain range - very near the Eagles Nest- a secret mountain nazi hideout of Fuhrer Adolf Hitler. (Did Frankenstein's monster meet Hitler? Now that would be a true monster team up...)
Frankenstein's eldest son Wolf von Frankenstein has been brought up in England and America. He has only the faintest memory of his father who died when he was young. He is a University professor and medical doctor when we meet him. He is still young- so he must have inherited the Frankenstein genes for science. Assuming he was born to Elizabeth and Henry Frankenstein after they fled the country to England; the earliest he could have been born is 1906. Even with brilliant matriculation in English Universities- he still could not be younger than 30 in the film. So I place the events of Son..in 1936.
That leaves an astonishing 30 year gap in the Frankenstein chronology; and we are never told of how Henry Frankenstein died. And then there is the creature. Somehow he survived the lightening blasts that blew Frankenstein's laboratory to smoking rubble in BrideWhen we see him again in Son...
The Creature is very ill- and is now wearing unkempt furs- instead of the tattered suit of 30 years previously. Where has the monster been- What strange illness does he have - and who dressed him so dramatically?
I hypothesize that in 1914 when World War One broke out; the German High Command heard rumors of an indestructible undead creature. Imagine a man immune to machine guns, gas and bombs! Set loose in the bloody trenches; he could have single handedly changed the course of the war in the Kaiser's favor! And this I think is what they planned to do- capture the Creature and use him as their secret weapon to win the war.
Safe in England- and contacted by British intelligence about the plans that the Wehrmarcht had for his hideous monster- Henry Frankenstein would have had no choice but to sneak back into Germany and seek to destroy the Monster once and for all. His attempt failed- cost him his life- but neutralized the Creature with a sickness for over two decades; till Wolf came into his father's inheritance 30 years later. And Henry may have well regreted poisoning his creation- because his will to his son states that these are ALL of his notes about the creation of his monster are available! Including a cure! And why not if but to cure the monster of his affliction! A disease caused and induced by Henry Frankenstein himself....
Was this disease the dreaded Influenza that mysteriously spread across the world in 1919- killing more millions than World War One? Was the dreaded Influenza Dr. Frankenstein's creation? Strains of the disease vanished for almost 90 years till germs were found alive in the arctic regions in the bodies of dead victims buried in the permafrost- when thawed the germs lived again. ALIVE! Are they the last hideous legacy of Dr. Frankenstein?