Horror Month 2009 goes way back for one of the all time classics!
Written By: Francis Edward Faragoh, Robert Florey, Garrett Fort & John Russell
Directed By: James Whale
When the monster meets up with Dr. Frankenstein on the side of the cliff, it is supposed be the meeting of hero and villain. One half of that is correct, a villain is present, but the monster is also present and that means there is a misguided individual on that cliff. This is perhaps the one area where Frankenstein asks the most of its audience. It presents sympathetic and dastardly qualities in the monster and Dr. Frankenstein. There are however a few places where the audience can choose to go a certain way with either character, and I chose to go the path of Dr. Frankenstein as the villain the moment he walked out on the monster. Maybe I am being too harsh, but he creates a childlike individual and then leaves him to fend for himself. That would be bad enough but then he damns the monster for actions he has no control over. As much as most people hate this analogy, it’s the reason why guns aren’t the problem, the people pulling the trigger are the problem.
The presentation style of Frankenstein is very much in the style of on old school carnival. There is depth to be found in the nature versus nurture argument as well as the parable of modern science gone awry. I, however, was most intrigued by the carny atmosphere of Frankenstein. It isn’t a suspenseful or scary film, instead it relies on the thrill of seeing something beyond the pale. James Whale shoots at odd angles, he built sets that were far too grandiose and staircases that spiraled out of control. Frankenstein plays like one long spectacle, a chance to come in and view the freak. This is also challenging to the audience, because much like those old carny shows we end up sympathizing with the monster and that calls into question our initial freak show sentiment.
Despite only being a shade over an hour, Frankenstein would have benefited from a tighter story. It isn’t any specific moment, but there are a few where for some reason the momentum of the film stops. The momentum is always gained back, but it is jarring every time the movie comes to a stop when it shouldn’t. Still, Frankenstein is short enough that the occasional loss of momentum never becomes a major issue.
When the biggest problem with Frankenstein are a few minor momentum hiccups, you know it is a film that is deserved of the praise it has received through the years. Boris Karloff gives a splendid performance as the monster, his eyes in the Maria scene are wrenching enough for five films, and the carny atmosphere carries the film throughout. There have been many monster, or creature feature if you prefer, movies released over the years. Many have improved upon the genre and some are flat out better, but you can’t go wrong with one of the originals. If by some weird chance you haven’t seen Frankenstein then give it a go, it is a classic worth watching.