Thursday, September 9, 2010

Frankenstein (1931)

Maniacal Dr. Henry Frankenstein is obsessed with giving life to the dead and finally figures out how. He, along with his bumbling assistant Fritz, succeed in giving a man made of the parts of the dead live with the help of lightning. However, Fritz brought the doctor an abnormal brain instead of a normal, healthy brain, leading the doctor and his friends to believe that the creature is a violent, horrific oaf. In actuality, the creature seems childlike and innocent, but blunders because of lack of guidance. After the creature inadvertently murders someone, the village is after him with torches and pitchforks. Can Henry kill his creation before it strikes again?

This movie is more famous than the book it is based on. If you ask anyone anything about Frankenstein, they will probably be thinking of this film. I have grown up watching this and other Universal monster movies. They are what cultivated and inspired my love of the horror genre, so it has a special place in my heart. Colin Clive is the greatest Dr. Frankenstein, with his smoldering, slightly mad stares and random screaming. He is far from the Victor Frankenstein from the novel, but the character he creates is so striking and memorable, that I can’t complain. Boris Karloff is the master at portraying this version of the creature, from his half lidded stare to his stiff legged walk. The makeup and costuming is amazing for its time, even if it caused the actor lifelong back problems because of the back brace, padding, and 13 pound shoes he had to wear. He is a great and dedicated actor.

The general plot of the film, although drastically different than the novel, is still interesting and relevant today. This is evident with the almost innumerable parodies, sequels, and spinoffs. Even films about irresponsible science like Splice are still obviously inspired by this one film. It was censored in its time because of blasphemy, encouraging immoral behavior, and scenes that were considered too graphic. One scene in particular that is still shocking today is the death of the little girl the creature throws into the lake. It’s still taboo to kill a child during the course of a modern horror film. If it is done, it’s usually implied or done off screen, in opposition to the typical bloody, graphic deaths that are shown. I really respect and admire the people willing to do this despite the public’s backlash, especially back in the 1930’s.

Although this is a great, classic monster film, I have real problem with some of the changes made in the conversion from novel to film. Making the creature mute and taking away his intelligence really destroys the philosophical implications of the nature of man and how much of our behavior comes inherently or is influenced by our surroundings. He was supposed to be man in his natural state and he turns towards violence only when he is only met with violence and disgust from others. The vastly intelligent creature is really reduced to what everyone thought him to be: a monster.

Frankenstein proves to be an enduring film that still inspires the filmmakers of today. However, when compared to the novel it’s based on, the movie pales in comparison.

My rating: 8/10 fishmuffins

** This post is for Velvet's September Zombies. **


k_sunshine1977 said...

i find that i enjoy the movie better if i consider it completely seperate from the book....that being said, i think "bride of frankenstein" was slightly better....but this is still a classic!

k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com

Audra said...

Another wonderful review -- I really appreciate someone who gets horror films and pop culture! I didn't know that about Boris Karloff (re: the back problems from the costume) -- heartbreaking!

Kulsuma said...

I'm really disappointed they made huge changes in the characters but am awed at the lengths that Boris Karloff went to to get in character!