Today, we are going to go for another classic in the horror genre, or at the very least in the monster movie genre – as it is probably one of, if not the, first films that people would say when you ask them to think of a monster movie. And, this will no doubt shock you, it is the first time I will have actually seen the whole thing. It’s one of the few films of that era, that hasn’t come out of one of my Mill Creek boxes. It’s the 1931 James Whale horror classic, Frankenstein.
By now you all should know the story: Victor Von Frankenstein (Henry in the film) builds and reanimates a man to prove that he can bring back life from death, his sidekick (not Igor, as we are all accustomed to – but Fritz) brings the wrong brain, the creature wakes up angry, escapes and learns what it is, then returns to wreak vengeance on its creator, and then the townspeople go after it and drive it to its death.
Much like the Phantom of The Opera review, I will be casting an eye over this version to see if it truly stands up as the classic it is made to be, or if it is merely looked upon fondly by being the first. So, without further ado, let’s get into it, shall we?
Even changed as this film is from the original book (of which I have read a couple of times), it still manages to hold up admirably against its source material. Of all the changes added for the film (or taken from the stage play, of which this production took most of the changes), the most famous is the reanimation scene – even for one who has not seen the film, you will at one point or another have seen at least part of this scene. And now seeing it in its entirety, I can proclaim it the classic that others have.
I found that the cast was all around great, particularly Colin Clive as Dr Frankenstein, who plays the character as an almost single minded, yet clear enough, madman – knowing that what he is doing is wrong, yet wanting (needing?) to do it and prove that it could be done. Once again, I go to the reanimation scene to show how great he is, especially with the introduction of his guests – he shows a level of intensity that I wouldn’t have expected from a film of that era, even coming from the horror genre. Overall, the cast gave the right level of pathos, and, while they did tread dangerously close to melodrama on more than one occasion, they thankfully did not cross over.
No review of the movie can be complete without talking about the actor behind The Monster, Boris Karloff. The role that defined him as the go-to man for giant movie monsters, Karloff is able to imbue the role with a degree of humanity that wasn’t expected for a role that was basically a confused and angered killing machine. And it’s this humanity that goes a LONG way to help in making this film as beloved as it is.
First things first – the film is a heck of a lot shorter than I would have suspected. Even given the running times of films from that era, Frankenstein weighs in at just over an hour which seemed a little short to me (especially given the near two hours of Phantom). However, it did manage to fairly fly along, which was good.
If there is anything bad I can say about the film, it’s that I am a little annoyed that I didn’t see it sooner. And, while there is no such thing as a perfect movie, Frankenstein deservedly sits upon Mount Nearly Perfect.