• Mr. Pat

Frankenstein

Since I've started working dayside and getting up much earlier than I'm used to, I think I'm slowly morphing into an old man. We'll be sitting on the couch together and I just get really tired and then I start to doze off. I've never been a nap guy, so let's see how this new phase of my life goes. Speaking of old, today's is one of the oldest I've reviewed! It's...


Frankenstein (1931)

I can't believe I've never seen this one before. I remember the book to this being in the library of my grade school. After reading the book last year, I can not believe this book was in that library for elementary school kids. It's so dark and so depressing, it's very difficult to read because of it. If you ever check it out, know this because I didn't, it's nothing like the movie. Let me sum up the book. Dr. Frankenstein creates the monster then flees when it comes to life. The monster tracks down the good doctor and demands he make a mate for the monster. The doctor goes along with it, but then destroys the new creature, after realizing what could happen, infuriating the old monster. It then tells Dr. Frankenstein that it will not kill him, but will kill everything that brings him joy, which he does. The doctor then hunts for the monster who stays just out of sight and reach. It gets to the point where both have nothing to live for other than this game. It also ends on such a down note for both parties that you're exhausted by the end.

Thankfully this movie only shares passing similarities. You all know the story of the movie or are at least familiar with it, so a breakdown on the plot isn't really necessary. This came out almost 100 years ago and it's easy to see why it was so terrifying back in the day. For one, the monster reveal is really good. It takes more than 20 minutes in a movie that's a shade over an hour long before you see Boris Karloff in all his glory and the build up is great. The mad scientist is discussing the implications of the experiment with his old teacher who tells him to destroy it. You then hear loud footsteps coming up some steps. The actors just stop and listen as the stomping, slow footsteps get closer. I know exactly what he looks like but the suspense still got to me. Then when he finally opens the door, the monster is facing the wrong direction. He then slowly makes his way to the light and it's awesome.

Another mark in this movie's favor is how it pushes the boundaries of what's expected at the time. Everyone's seen the "IT'S ALIVE!" scene, but part of that outburst was censored because it was deemed blasphemous. When he's yelling, he originally screams, "Now I know what it's like to be God!" I watched this on Peacock and the original line is in there. Another thing that was originally cut out was the accidental murder of the little girl. Frankenstein's monster misunderstands their play time and tosses her into a pond where she drowns. It's pretty rough stuff for a movie from the 30's.

That scene is an aspect of what I really liked about the movie. The monster wasn't a monster. He was a blank slate, just brought to life with no idea of who or what he is. All he's known in the short time he's been alive is confusion, fear and cruelty from Frankenstein's assistant, Fritz, NOT Igor as most people think. The monster is a tragic character that doesn't know any better. The only time he's ever happy in this movie is when he meets the girl and accidentally kills her. The father eventually carries her drowned body into town. The scene is contrasted with the whole town partying to celebrate a marriage. It's a really powerful scene and it gets an entire town hunting him. He eventually gets cornered in an abandoned windmill and the townspeople set it ablaze. We see the monster running away but every exit is cut off by fire. He then gets trapped under a flaming piece of debris and burns to death while screaming in pain and fear. It's incredibly sad on its own, but then you realize this monster has no idea what's going on. He dies terrified, in pain and completely alone. It's hard not to feel bad for him as he screams and futility tries to escape. Damn movie, I wasn't ready for that.

I mentioned earlier about how the book was depressing but it's a different type of sad. In the book, the monster was, at least in his own mind, justified in what he was doing. He also knew full well what he was doing. While it does end up taking its toll on the monster, he still does it anyways because he's so driven by revenge. The monster in the movie has no idea what's going on and the consequences of its actions. I mean, imagine just coming into being without any idea of what you are. The only human contact you've had is a man who keeps whipping you while shoving a torch in your face. It's not often a movie makes a monster sympathetic without completely ruining it.

I realize that I haven't talked much about the movie itself, I've mainly talked about the monster. So let me talk a little bit about it. The cast is all good and I really liked Henry's dad, the Baron. He's so wrapped up in his own affairs and the way he casually talks down about everyone is really funny. Seeing as how it's a Universal movie, it goes without saying, but the set is awesome. It has everything you could ask for; a spooky cemetery, a creepy castle, a mad scientist, a monster, thunderstorms and an abandoned windmill. I love the settings for these movies.

Some movies are classics because they've been around forever, but sometimes they're classics because they're very good movies that stand the test of time. Frankenstein falls into that category.


8.5 Dr. Chainsaws!

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