Saturday, October 20, 2012

Horror Thoughts ‘12—Frankenstein (1931) ****

UR, 70 min.
Director: James Whale
Writers: Garrett Fort, Francis Edward Faragoh, John L. Balderston (composition), Mrs. Percy B. Shelley (novel), Peggy Webling (play)
Starring: Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles, Boris Karloff, Edward Van Sloan, Frederick Kerr, Dwight Frye, Lionel Belmore, Marilyn Harris

“Look! It's moving. It's alive. It's alive... It's alive, it's moving, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, IT'S ALIVE! … Oh, in the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!”
                        —Dr. Henry Frankenstein, “Frankenstein” 1931.

It’s a curious thing to take on a classic. I saw “Frankenstein” on the Saturday afternoon creature features as a kid, but it wasn’t a classic to me then. I’ve seen it a few times in my adult life. The first time I saw it with modern eyes and wasn’t much impressed by it. I was always more impressed with “Bride of Frankenstein”, which many would agree presents both its story and themes in a stronger context. “Frankenstein” is no slouch, however; pardon the pun.

For the first time, I watched the movie with my own kids. It was presented to them as a “classic.” I don’t really know how they interpreted that. When I was a kid “The Godfather” or “Dirty Harry” or just about any movie with John Wayne was a “classic” according to my father. And those were the classics I watched with him. The classic monsters, however, were just monsters to me. I enjoyed the movies because they all had such a specific mood to them. The whole “dark and stormy night” thing played well with me.

My boys seemed to enjoy it. Because it was a “horror” movie, my youngest was wary until he finally saw the monster. He didn’t really find the monster scary, so the movie was OK with him. I tried to explain to him how there were different kinds of horror, and that some movies were called horror movies because of the themes involved. By that point I had lost him. Of course, when “Frankenstein” originally hit movie screens it was scary to the people who saw it.

My older boy seemed to enjoy it on a slightly higher level than my youngest. He didn’t say much about it, but he did say he liked it with enthusiasm. I think he was trying to get his mind around the themes of The Modern Prometheus. The God Complex that man seems to have with creating and destroying things. I think that was the element of the movie that my oldest went to bed chewing around his head. It is those ideas that make this film a “classic”—and Karloff’s odd and sympathetic portrayal of the Monster—and I’m glad to see my boy catch on to it much younger than I did.

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