Monday, 15 October 2012

Movie Review: Frankenstein (1931)

I'm rather behind on my R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) picks, but here's my first.  If you want to see what else has been reviewed for R.I.P., go here.

Directed by: James Whale

Pros: great acting, classic horror motifs

Pro/Cons: major divergences from the novel

Helped by his hunchbacked assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye) and witnessed by his fiancee (Mae Clarke), best friend (John Boles) and former professor (Edward Van Sloan), Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) plays God when he stitches body parts together and endows his creature with life. 

The movie diverges from the novel by Mary Shelley in several ways, not least of which is making the monster (Boris Karloff) unintelligent.  Switching Frankenstein's first name with that of his friend caused me a fair amount of confusion when watching the film.  Then again, this film is much more entertaining than the novel, with less of Frankenstein's woes.

This film has all the hallmarks of a good horror flick of its time: mad scientist, hunchbacked assisstant, scary monster, murder and mobs.  A few moments come close to being humerous, especially when viewed today.  Being in black and white really helps it keep the mood though.  The actors do such a great job, especially Karloff, whose Frankenstein has become the iconic image of that character. 

The monster is almost sympathetic, objecting to its mistreatment at the hands of Fritz and then Dr. Frankenstein.  It could be used as a cautionary tale of how bullying and abuse can create monsters, if the victim is pushed hard enough.

This movie has had such a huge influence on later films and it's worth the time to watch it.  And you can do so for free online.

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