Sunday, November 28, 2010

#208 Frankenstein (1931)

****

Director: James Whale

Cast: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, John Boles, Edward Van Sloan, Mae Clarke, Dwight Frye

Sometimes regarded as one of the greatest horror thrillers ever made, James Whale's 1931 Frankenstein is indeed a masterpiece. I figured I would take a gander at this film since it is such a prominent part of another film I just watched from the 1001, The Spirit of the Beehive.

Based only loosely on the novel of the same title by Mary Shelley, it is the story we know all too well: a man who's drive for science takes him into a realm that has not and should not be explored–the creation of life. Aided by his hunchback assistant named Fritz, Dr. Frankenstein (Clive) steals from graves and science labs to build a monster to bring to life, much to the horror of his fianc√© and professor. When the monster gets loose on the town, it begins a path of death and destruction, out of anger, fright, but most often confusion. We both pity and fear the monster that doesn't know any other way other than to kill.

When Frankenstein decides he must destroy his creation, the entire town rises up to help, and a fatal and tragic ending follows.

While I was expecting a somewhat unapproachable, choppy, and cheesy horror film, instead I was delighted to find a very comprehensible film. Where so many older films lose their punch (old comedies lose their humor, old romances lose their relatability), Frankenstein manages to still shock and scare. Countless moments had me squirming in my seat with suspense, feeling repulsed, or jumping back in surprise. Only a true masterpiece can maintain such an impact with an audience nearly 80 years after its creation. A must see for any film appreciator, especially those of the horror genre.

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