Monday, June 11, 2012

175 - Frankenstein (1931)

DVD Box
Doctor Frankenstein's monster comes to life.

Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is coming to the conclusion of his experiment to try and create life from something non-living. He gathers up dead bodies from graves, and knits them together to make his creation, before later stealing a brain.

Meanwhile, his fiancée Elizabeth Lavenza (Mae Clarke) is beginning to worry about the health of her husband-to-be. She seeks the help of her friend Victor Moritz (John Boles) and Dr. Waldman (Edward Van Sloan) to try and bring Henry home.

Meanwhile, Henry puts the final touches to the body and adds electricity, bringing his monster to life.

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
All the way back in May 2011, 101 5-star films ago I watched The Bride of Frankenstein. I knew that this was the sequel to Frankenstein, but didn't realise that Mary Shelley's original was also on the list!

Back then, I said that The Bride of Frankenstein was a pathetic attempt at carrying on a successful franchise, but looking back I see that it added a new dimension to the monster. In Frankenstein, 'he' is portrayed as a misunderstood creature, and the addition of his bride expands on this. For that reason - I apologise for some of that review!

Back in 1931, and Frankenstein was probably the ideal monster movie to push onto the big screen. The monster design was simple and humanoid, and with some inventive work from director James Whale, was made to look very patchwork. This slightly odd appearance was combined with the mystery of the actor (credited as "The Monster - ???" but later confirmed as Boris Karloff) to make a monster that was a person who was recognisable human, but not a humanly recognisable person.

Bizarrely though, despite all of this, the depiction of the creature doesn't veer too far from Shelley's book. Sure, in the novel the monster is quite intelligent with the capacity to speak and the decision to make him mute in the adaptation was probably for fear of being seen as sacrilegious; a being not created by God showing human tendancies would have been controversial at the time. That said, the misunderstood trait of his character transfers well onto the big screen.

What Frankenstein does show best is that it is very easy to make a monster film on a smaller budget - and using limited technology - without using ill-fitting special effects.

Take heed modern film-makers.

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