Today, moving on from the silent era of Horror Films and into the 1930’s, I thought, since I’ve already discussed Dracula (1931), I’ll discuss the second iconic horror movie from the same year, Frankenstein!!
It’s difficult to figure out which is more well known between the two characters…I really don’t think there’s any way of figuring it out but nevertheless…Frankenstein truly is a masterpeice of the genre.
It has deservedly become one of the most well known films of all time and we have it to thank for introducing, to the mainstream, the great Boris Karloff…one of the definitive legends of this great genre. We’ll start with Karloff’s performance as The Monster; one which couldn’t have been easy to portray as the Monster only speaks in grunts and husky squeals but despite this, Karloff gives an exceptional performance that captivated audiences enough that he was turned into a superstar overnight and one which Universal Pictures could consistently rely on to produce good quality horrors…the genre was truly their speciality in this time period.
Karloff as the Monster is both horrifying and an object of sympathy, a character whom an audience can identify and be emotionally invested with…kudos go to the original author, Mary Shelley, for creating this aspect of the character but it still had to be portrayed correctly by Karloff and it most certainly was.
There is one scene in particular in this film, where the Monster has escaped from the castle and runs into a young girl playing with flowers by a lake, that is truly heartwarming but also gives a clear indication of the danger that the Monster can cause. The duality in attitudes towards the Montser from the audience and the other characters. He joins in playing with the girl and is clearly delighted as they throw flower petals into the water, but, in his naive mind, he throws the girl in the water also, thinking she would float like the flowers. She drowns. From that moment on, the villagers vow to destroy the Monster which leads up to the thrilling climax of the film as the highly confused and sympathetic monster tries to evade the angry mobs attempting to kill him.
The film is quite a thrilling experience…it constantly keeps attention and Karloff is, as I’ve said, perfect in the role. Other notable performances include Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein (some specifics were changed from the original novel), the creator of the Monster who we are to thank for giving us one of cinema’s greatest quotes, ‘IT’S ALIVE!!’ Clive is also great in his role, brilliantly capturing the determined and rather insane side as well as the caring, loving side. There is also Mae Clarke as Elizabeth, Henry’s fiancé and two actors who also appeared in Dracula, Edward Van Sloan, as Dr. Waldman and Dwight Frye as Fritz, Henry’s assistant who torments Karloff’s monster and is rather quickly killed by him. No one gives a bad performance. Similarly to Dracula, the gothic elements add to an excellent, dark atmosphere of which the director, James Whale, who would go on to direct other notable horror films of this period, deserves plaudits. The music also fits the tone very well…there’s not much detail to be said because it simply does everything right.
It’s an absolute must watch for any horror fan, and fan of movies in general and while I don’t love it like I do Dracula, its definitely up there with the genres best and Karloff, who will appear multiple times within this journey, is one of the genres greatest actors.
A legendary film, one not to be missed.
Tomorrow, we’ll focus on another Karloff film from the following year, I’ll leave it to you to figure out what that may be.
Let me know your thoughts on this film in the comments and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any inquiries or suggestions for improvements to posts!
The Journey Continues Tomorrow