One teen's quest to review the AFI's top 100 classic movies.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
No. 87: Frankenstein
Starring: Colin Clive, Boris Karloff, Mae Clarke
Directed by: James Whale
Awards won: …none? [That’s ridiculous.]
When I walk through a video store, I get sidetracked looking at garish horror movies: blood splatters, dead bodies, vampires and zombies. But those aren’t the horror movies I like. I prefer the older horror flicks of the 30’s and 40’s, like the original Dracula (1931).
With this in mind, I was excited to watch Frankenstein again. I love the Mary Shelley book (1818), and this movie adaptation is always fun to watch. Read on!
Most people know the story of Frankenstein. Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Clive) ditches his fiancé (Clarke) to work on his grand experiment: creating a man from parts of exhumed corpses. He reanimates his man-creation (Karloff), and he quickly turns into a violent monster. The monster escapes, roaming and wreaking havoc on the countryside. Eventually Dr. Frankenstein and an angry mob trap the monster in a windmill tower, and burn the building down, destroying the “Frankenstein” monster.
After the movie, I thought “Wow. I’m going to have problems thinking of negative points to write about.” That doesn’t happen too often. Seriously - I loved almost everything about Frankenstein. It might not scare the same way modern horror movies do, but it still has goosebump-raising elements of shock and suspense. Every scene is rich in detail, which was rare for an early horror movie – it could have easily been complete camp. Boris Karloff’s performance is fantastic. The creepy way he smiles as he tosses a child into a lake, how he swings his arms as he slowly climbs the stairs, the way his fearful eyes react to a lighted torch – it’s really a timeless performance.
I can only think of a few minor negative points. Some parts of the movie are unintentionally funny; the monster’s incessant groaning made me laugh, but you know what? It didn’t make the movie any less enjoyable. Some of the dialogue was a little cringe-worthy (“My god, the monster is upstairs!”), but you know what? I still enjoyed the movie.
So, if you like:
* Incredible sets and atmospheric lighting, from laboratory to countryside
* Beautifully staged black and white cinematography, ahead of its time
* Mad-scientist crazies at their best
* A body re-animation scene that would inspire countless re-animations, from The Rocky Horror Picture Show to Star Wars
* A good supporting cast. Though the story is vaguely set in Germany, their accents run from British to German to American
..then you’ll love Frankenstein.
Next up, No. 86: Mutiny On The Bounty (1935), starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable. This is a good one – and a very dramatic one. Stick around and read about it!