#236 -- Frankenstein (1931)

Frankenstein (1931) film poster
Frankenstein (1931) film poster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Rating: 5 / 5
Director: James Whale

This is often considered the single greatest horror movie ever made. While it's not my number one favorite movie, I would probably have to agree. It was one of the first horror monsters in creation, one of the "big three," as I like to call them (along with Dracula and The Wolf Man). It has inspired so much, has been copied and remade, but it has, and never will be, duplicated.

I read the book when I was in high school, and even though I don't remember every little detail, I do remember how completely different it was. In the book, the Monster was actually a very intelligent creature. After he was cast out by his creator, he wandered the wilderness. He eventually taught himself to speak and read, and he had an actual thought process--not like this Monster we've come to know and love. He was also kind of an asshole. His goal was to find Victor, his creator, and have revenge on him and his family for creating and shunning him. He also wanted a bride, so that he wouldn't feel so alone; when Victor didn't comply (or rather, promised him a mate and didn't make good on that promise), he was even angrier. I really can't blame him for being the way he was. I would have been angry too. He didn't ask to be made; and he certainly didn't ask to be feared and hated.

In the movie, though, it seems they softened the Monster up a bit. To me, he was a very sympathetic and tragic character. The doctor was actually named Henry in the movie (they switched the names of Dr. Frankenstein and his best friend), and he was obsessed with creating the Monster. He didn't care how many times people called him crazy, because he wanted to discover something great. He and his assistant, Fritz, stole bodies from the cemetery and parts from the medical lab in order to work on his experiment. Fritz, whose job it was to find the brain for the creature, messed up. He got an abnormal brain rather than a normal brain, which would be the cause of the creature's "viciousness." He stayed alone in an abandoned tower, leaving his family, friends and fiance home to worry about him. His best friend Victor, a doctor friend, and fiance Elizabeth visited him one day, claiming once again that he was crazy. But the storm that would bring his creation to life was brewing, and he was determined to show everyone that he was perfectly sane.

When he finally brought the creature to life, he started to regret it. He seemed fine at first, until Fritz brought a torch into the room, causing the Monster to lash out at everyone. This wasn't because he was vicious, of course; it was simply because he was afraid. But that scared everyone. They locked him up and planned to destroy him. Henry and Elizabeth returned home, leaving Henry's doctor friend to destroy the Monster. That didn't go very well for the doctor, and the Monster escaped.

The first person he met after his escape was a little girl named Maria. He befriended her for a brief period, which is what showed me that he was a severely misunderstood character. They were playing with flowers by a lake, and Maria was showing him how they floated. When he ran out of flowers, he decided to throw Maria in the lake. He had no intentions of harming her in any way; he was only trying to play with her. After that, he ran away in search of his creator. He crashed Henry and Elizabeth's wedding, while an angry mob was forming in the town. The mob chased the Monster to a big windmill in the mountains, where the set fire to the building, and supposedly destroyed the Monster for good.

What I love about the movie is the fact that the Monster is a sympathetic and misunderstood character. Like a snake, he only became vicious when he was threatened. He never meant to hurt anyone; but they frightened him and he saw no other option. I do believe he felt some negativity towards the Frankenstein family for creating and deserting him, but the way this character was portrayed, I really don't think he had the brain power to come up with such things. In the book, yes; but in the movie, he was meant to be a brain-dead monster and nothing more. I really think he only wanted to be reunited with his "father," and not to be left alone any longer.

A couple of things I really enjoyed about the movie--Frederick Kerr as Henry Frankenstein's father. He was silly, and he made me laugh every time he was on screen. He was the typical silly old man, and I really enjoyed him. And, of course, Boris Karloff. This was my first introduction to him, and I've loved him ever since. What's interesting, though, is that he wasn't even credited as playing The Monster. In the credits, there was only a question mark where his name should have been. I guess that added to the mystery and terror of the character, which I thought was really cool.

Either way you choose to look at it, love it or hate it, you cannot deny that Frankenstein is a piece of cinematic history that will never lose its place in the hearts of horror fans.
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