Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Frankenstein" how horror began

TITLE: "Frankenstein"
DIRECTOR: James Whale
STARS: Colin Clive, Boris Karloff
EDITOR: Clarence Kolster
AWARDS: National Film Registry
BOX OFFICE: $12,000,000 (USA)
RUN TIME: 70 min.
VIEWING FORMAT: 35 mm. film print

When Henry Frankenstein (Clive), leaves the world behind to delve into his personal experiments, no one knew to expect a giant monster would come of it. When his creation escapes and, in confusion and desperation, kidnaps his creator, the local townspeople take matters into their own hands.

James Whale's "Frankenstein" is considered by many to be a classic, if not in its own right, of the horror genre. Whale took on the project in order to get out of the war pictures he had made a name directing. His personal touch, and inspiring filmmaking, would go on to influence generation's of filmmakers.

A scene that was edited in the original theatrical release, but restored in the 80's home video version, has the creature accidentally drown a little girl while innocently playing with her. This scene, showing the emotional understanding of the fearful creature, has inspired countless filmmakers since to show the human side of their creations. Mrs. Voorhees, Hannibal Lector, the Wolf Man, and even zombies have shown their emotional sides in countless franchise entries over the years.

The look of the creature is unlike that portrayed in the original novel, but is often times used as the inspiration for many other "Frankenstein" films. Also borrowed from this film: the lighting technique used by Frankenstein to animate his creations, Fritz (Frankenstein's hunchbacked servant), the scientist's survival, and the grunting, non-sensical speech of the monster.

This film still holds up today. The scares seem a bit old. The acting can be stiff at times, and even some of the camera work and editing is dated. What holds up are the performances of the leads (Clive and Karloff), and Whale's insistence that there be a human side to the creature. The audience continues to care for the monster, even though he would frighten anyone were they to meet it in real life.

Horror, as a genre, has been repeated, remade, and rebooted for decades. Gore has gone up, effects have become more invasive, but some filmmakers continue to include character development and complex antagonists (who is the antagonist in this, Frankenstein or his monster?), which makes for a continually interesting viewing experience.

Any fan of horror needs to watch this film, as does any fan of "classic" films. This is a worthwhile endeavor that keeps up even to this day.
MY IMDb RATING:  8 out of 10

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