Friday, October 1, 2010

Frankenstein (1931)

Directed by James Whale.
1931. Not Rated, 70 minutes.
Colin Clive
Mae Clarke
Boris Karloff
John Boles
Edward Von Sloan
Frederick Kerr
Dwight Frye
Lionel Belmore
Marilyn Harris

Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Clive) is hellbent on creating life. He doesn’t want to do it the old fashioned way. He wants to animate a deceased and fully grown human being, sort of. His “human being” is actually sewn together from parts he’s gathered from graveyards, the gallows and God knows where else. Hmmm, God. That’s it, he wants to be God.

Fearing he’s gone mad, his fiancée, Elizabeth (Clarke), enlists the help of a couple of Henry’s colleagues to perform a kind of intervention. They do manage to get him to at least take a break long enough to marry his gal, but they’re still too late. His experiment has already succeeded.

What follows is an iconic monster movie warning us of the dangers of pretending to be the Almighty. Boris Karloff, as the monster, turns in his signature performance without saying a word. It’s not at all scary, by today’s standards, but it’s still an intriguing and eventually sad story.

The film’s biggest drawback is actually no fault of its own. It is simply too familiar to us. The story has been with us far too long. It’s been remade and parodied so often, it’s difficult to judge on its own merit without comparing it to whatever version you’ve already seen. Still, if you’re a horror buff and care even a little about its history, this is essential viewing.

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