Thursday, February 17, 2011

Frankenstein (1931)

Mary Shelley's Promethean tale follows the mad genius Dr. Henry Frankenstein as he attempts to create new life from dead tissue. His experiments are a success, but the being that rises from his slab is an abomination of science. Frankenstein is unable to contain his own creation, and the hulking brute is unleashed upon the unsuspecting village below.

Although it was not the first time Shelley's novel had been adapted for the screen, James Whales will always be remembered as the man who gave life to the one true FRANKENSTEIN. The 1931 version would set the standard for every Gothic Horror film to follow, with its incredible sets, creeping atmosphere, and impeccable performances. Colin Clive shows a ferocious energy and an irresponsible enthusiasm as he declares "It's alive!" as the egomaniacal Dr. Frankenstein. The iconic look of the creature would be attributed to the great Jack Pierce, who would go on to design other such notable villains as The Mummy and The Wolf Man.

But who is the mystery man behind the monster that is only identified by a question mark in the opening credits? Although Boris Karloff played in countless pictures prior to making FRANKENSTEIN, it would be this role that would jettison him into the limelight. Karloff would go on to star in dozens of Horror films in the decades to follow, but none of his performances (save for his reprisal of the character in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN) would ever reach the same level of notoriety and critical acclaim. While his towering form combined with his menacing snarls made The Monster both fearsome and frightening, it is the tender moments like the death of Maria that best demonstrate Karloff's range and form as an actor. Few, if any, have even come close to creating such a terrifying and tragic character through their performance.

FRANKENSTEIN is the greatest of any of Universal's classic monster movies, and yet James Whales would somehow manage to outdo himself four years later in the film's stunning sequel.

Rating: 10/10.

If you liked FRANKENSTEIN, check out:
DRACULA, THE WOLF MAN, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN.

8 comments:

  1. Agreed. I think it was brilliant to make the Monster a growling mute rather than the articulate fellow he was in the novel.

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  2. It never made sense to me how a reanimated corpse would ever be able to restore greater brain function and be able to speak, but then again, we ARE talking about reanimated corpses lol.. I am glad, though, that Whales saved the speech for the second film, and I can't imagine the original FRANKENSTEIN any other way!

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  3. Carl: I love this film, and the sequel. You've put it in a nutshell perfectly. Karloff reins supreme as the greatest monster of all time, I believe. He actually makes me cry in this role, if I'm in an unmanly mood (which is goddamn seldom, goddammit). May we assume Bride is a forthcoming review?

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  4. Every time I watch FRANKENSTEIN, I mourn quietly to myself, knowing that I will not be watching for another couple of years. It is such a beautiful and awe-inspiring film. I absolutely love it. This was the most concise review I could muster without writing a thesis on it.

    ..And a review for BRIDE is definitely on its way, but I am so intimidated to write it I keep having to put it off lol..

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  5. A towering achievement which is far superior to the pathetically drab and stiff theatricality of DRACULA released the same year. It's a wonderfully cinematic film which draws upon the stylistics of the expressionist films made in Germany in the 1920's. Although it is not my favourite of Universal's horror films (that honour goes to THE BLACK CAT) its importance is entirely justified. Not overrated in the least, FRANEKNSTEIN is the real deal.

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  6. Shaun I will cover DRACULA shortly, because more negative reviews need to be posted on it. DRACULA is such a bore, and outside of the atmospheric set pieces and Lugosi's enticing performance, it is a pain to watch. I will agree with you to the bitter end on these two! I still haven't seen BLACK CAT though, I hate to say.

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  7. I dont know if you remember my "Overrated Horror" article Carl, but DRACULA had a promiment place in it. I wont still your thunder here, but I look forward to reading your review of DRACULA because its a film I never shy away from having a go at.

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  8. I definitely remember, and DRACULA actually is another good example of where a ratings system like mine is skewed. Based on past reviews, I should rate DRACULA at a 10, since it was as much as a trend setter as FRANKENSTEIN in many ways. Based on my personal affection towards the film, I don't believe it rates any higher than a 7. Should be upcoming in the next month!

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