Thursday, April 22, 2021

#PopCultureResolution - Frankenstein


Director: James Whale

 71 minutes

Cast: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Mae Clarke

Release Date: November 21, 1931

Synopsis: An obsessed scientist creates a living being from body parts, not realizing it has a madman's brain.

The 1931 version of Frankenstein is considered a classic. One of the great older films whose influence is felt on so many modern films. It was one that I had long wanted to see and experience for myself. It ended up being a short (just over an hour) watch that shows exactly why Boris Karloff's performance is still so revered.

The movie opening with a fun little warning about the movie you are about to watch was a delightful touch. Also fun was the secrecy of who was portraying the monster.

The question mark made me giggle. Don't worry - Boris Karloff gets his due at the end of the movie. 

There are movies that become ingrained in popular culture with iconic moments that are familiar to a even those who have never seen the movie in question. This works as both a positive and a negative. It helps create cultural moments that we all share in but it can create almost an uncanny valley sensation if you come to the source material late. This is, for me, true with Frankenstein. The iconic scene in which Victor Frankenstein brings his monster to life (and it's iconic 'it's alive' dialogue) felt familiar to me. It created a strange sense of deja vu and perhaps weakened that moment for me. It is by no means the film's fault but something that coloured the lens in which I viewed the movie through.

There is a lot of pathos in the character of the monster. He did not ask to be thrust into what he experiences when he is brought to life. You can see the confusion, pain, and hurt that he feels. This is mostly thanks to Boris Karloff expressive eyes. He does so much with very few words. Any sympathy felt by the watcher is due to Karloff's skill and the physicality he brings to the role.

There is a case to be made for Victor being the absolute worst and this movie did not change my mind. The wise notion of just because you can does not mean you should applies here and Victor's arrogance is the crux of this entire situation. 

This movie is definitely a product of its time but there are some excellent performances, and beautiful shots to be found in this influential horror classic. Did I find it scary? A little, but not in the way I expect others did. I was not scared of the monster but rather humans thirst for knowledge and the dark places that could lead to in some circumstances. 

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