Saturday, October 31, 2009

#1 - Frankenstein

Frankenstein (1931)
Directed by: James Whale. Written by: Francis Edward Faragoh and Garrett Fort based on the novel by Mary Shelley.

Plot: Scientist (Colin Clive) decides to create a man using bits of dead people. He succeeds but his creation (Boris Karloff) gets away from him and terrorizes the country side.

Review: What can I say about this movie? It is, for me at least, the definitive horror film. Just about everything in it has become so engrained in the collective consciousness that one doesn't even have to watch it. Almost.

The film runs like a downward spiral, from the opening scenes of Colin Clive robbing graves and playing God, to the horrible ending which I know is coming but wish it wasn't because Dr. Frankenstein and his creation are not evil but misguided and confused.

I will admit that the film suffers from some heavy handed morality, but I'm willing to forgive it on the account of sheer awesomeness.

It has a combination of elements which should be the prototype for other horror flicks - it is sweet (the creature makes happy daisy chains with the cute little kid by the pond) and also shocking (the creature biffs the kid into the pond) and sort of subtle. I mean, they don't have to show explicit shots of intestines to be shocking.

Boris Karloff is fucking brilliant as the daemon, and Colin Clive is appealing as the titular character (who I'm surprised is not an icon of emo culture). Also, it has Dwight Frye in it which is never a bad thing, and the female lead (Mae Clarke) isn't completely obnoxious.

Throw on top of all that the wicked sets, the moody lighting and cinematorgraphy and the kick ass finale with the windmill (which they totally ruined in the sequel) and you have the greatest fucking horror flick ever made.

I actually took the time to read the book recently and it's fucking amazing too. It's weird coz it is better than the movie, and yet it retroactively made me like the movie more.

Favourite Part: There is this scene somewhere in the middle when Frankenstein first introduces the monster to daylight. It's this long silent scene (which reminds you that sound was relatively new in film) with the creature sort of shambling across the room and reaching for the light. I don't know why but that sort of haunts me. Go figure.

Other versions:
Tons. The only ones I can think of off hand are Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which is a much closer adaptation of the novel and could have been good except that Kenneth Brannagh as Frankenstein and Robert de Niro as the daemon really don't do it for me, and Curse of Frankenstein which had Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in the main roles and was packed with goodness.

Sequels: Lots.

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