johnlink ranks FRANKENSTEIN (1931)

FRANKENSTEIN, from 1931, is an absolute icon of horror. This is the Boris Karloff version: Bolts in neck, arms outstretched, head rolled back. It’s the version which now, 80 years later, is cliche. But I’ve always wanted to see the origin, so I’m very happy to have finally caught this.

I watched FRANKENSTEIN (1931) on 4.20.11. It was my first viewing of the film. TRAILER HERE

This is a much more complex film than I had imagined. There are some real themes at play here, those of loyalty and the nature of creation, and humanity. The cliches are on display as well, to be sure. But they worked in my favor. When the film went to further lengths than I had imagined, I was pleasantly surprised. I mean, I didn’t expect Dr. Frankenstein’s fiancee to be having to fight off the passings of her soon-to-be husband’s Best Man. It’s just not what I thought this film was. The character development here is nice. I have no idea about anything having to do with the novel, so I’m sorry if any of this makes me uncultured.

I didn’t expect the fluidity of movement that Karloff’s monster exhibits. The ‘chase’ in the bedroom may be slow, but the way he moves down stairs and into new spaces is scary. The interaction with a young girl, going from innocent to tragic, is not something you expect to see in an old black and white flick. This is before the Hays Code, to be sure, but it still is brutal in its simplicity. We see here the monster, not as villain, but as a creature unable to understand his surroundings. This makes his creator the villain for bringing him into the world. What else is the monster to do but follow its instincts?

The film is not exciting in the modern sense. It certainly is quick enough, at 71 minutes, to not be boring. It comes from an era which was still developing the creation of tension in a visual and auditory medium. But it is a solid flick, one which has a sense of urgency in its acting, if not its editing. The sound stage backdrops work for it in a quaint sort of way, but they also detract from any sense of realism that may be had. The chase in the end… you can literally see the wrinkles in the backdrop at the rear of the studio room. But again, that has a sense of charm that shouldn’t work, but does.

There is a real sense of brutality in the climax. It begins with the monster throwing Frankenstein off of the lighthouse, and it concludes with the monster being burned alive. It’s not graphic by any means, but it still shocks. It’s old-time movie making at its finest. I expected this film to be more movie than film, and am surprised to find I was incorrect. As a last note, I love that Boris Karloff is not credited in the opening of this film. Instead it reads: “The Monster……….. ?’

Perfectly ominous.





~ by johnlink00 on April 20, 2011.

One Response to “johnlink ranks FRANKENSTEIN (1931)”

  1. […] negatives of THE WOLF MAN, I’d like to (for my own piece of mine) point to my article on the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN film as proof that age doesn’t preclude a film from being […]

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