Nov 27 2009

Article IV – In Which I Create My Own Monster



In more ways than one, the movie I review this week is particularly close to my heart.  HA tricked you!  Everyone knows I don’t have a heart.  Anyways, this week I examine the hilarious fish-out-of-water comedy Frankenstein, released in 1931.

In terms of length, which is very important to a high profile businessman such as myself, this is one of the shorter films I’ll be reviewing.  At 71 minutes, it’s half the time I spend on my hair in the morning.  Unlike the last two films, this one has both music AND spoken dialogue.  What a treat!

Frankenstein begins with a disclaimer that those of weak constitution should not watch further.  Obviously, this remark was directed at me, BUT I WENT AHEAD AND WATCHED ANYWAYS.

After violently throwing up for twenty minutes from that spiffy act of rebellion, I walked back into the room to find that Dr. Henry Frankenstein was robbing a grave in order to complete his attempt at becoming God and creating life.  His idiot sidekick, Fritz, steals an abnormal criminal brain instead of the perfectly healthy one, however, and madcap hilarity results when the monster is let loose on the town.  Eventually, the townspeople, a fickle and angry group (dare I say – mob?), get wind of Frankenstein’s monster and jealously destroy the beautiful creature with the cleansing hellfire of God’s Wrath.

One scene that is of note – the Monster meets up with a child by the side of a lake and playfully is shown the magic of flowers floating on water.  The Monster soon runs out of flowers and looks for something else to throw into the lake.  For all you bigoted humans out there who think throwing the little girl into the lake was a bit much – WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE?

As far as I could gather, there’s a small side plot about Dr. Frankenstein’s wedding and his father and whatnot, but honestly I got bored during those scenes and ended up roaming Facebook.

Now, the first thing you might notice about this superb film is its insane architecture and art direction.  Taking a page, once again, from the super-cool German Expressionist style, this film watches like a nightmare fantasy in the head of some twisted genius such as myself.  What are we to learn from this?  I take away the fact that everything German is meant to be scary.



Boris “Oh my god you’re ugly” Karloff plays Frankenstein’s Monster in this film (Fig. A).  An amazing choice, in my opinion.  Much better than who they originally wanted: Bela Lugosi was originally up for the role.  Of course the studios thought (rightfully so) that you can’t just have Dracula play Frankenstein’s Monster, people might get confused.  Karloff, of course, became famous from his portrayal of the Monster with the stiff legs and flat head, giving children and grown film reviewers (not me) nightmares for years to come.

People sometimes forget that this movie is about something more than just cheap thrills and scares, however.  This movie is, of course, about SCIENCE!  The idea that a man could create life is something that has been explored many times in science fiction, usually with disastrous results.  Henry Frankenstein is the mad scientist to top them all, complete with a God complex and that unquenchable thirst for knowledge that drives humanity toward its own demise.  To draw a comparison: like John Hammond in Jurassic Park, Frankenstein underestimates the power of creation and goes on to create living biological attractions so astounding that they’ll capture the imagination of the entire planet abominations of nature.

The Monster, of course, is somewhat of a mystery.  Is it the degenerate brain inside his skull that causes him to destroy everything that is beautiful (Just like SOME people I know – you know who you are.)? Does it have something to do with the power of creation and how something so unnatural must eventually destroy itself adhering to the rules of nature?  God, I hope not. Otherwise science is going to get pretty boring really fast.

Something else I demand that you find interesting – this movie has a terrible history of censorship.  Apparently people thought that Frankenstein claiming that he knows what it feels like to be God was a little blasphemous.  There was also a similar reaction to the Monster throwing the little girl in the lake and Fritz torturing the Monster unnecessarily with a torch and whip.  Now, I don’t know what all the fuss was about, from what I understand, the 1930s were rife with people claiming to be God and people torturing monsters and little girls being thrown into lakes.  I guess that just doesn’t fly with a lot of oversensitive people.

Frankensteins one mistake: Invading Russia

The Monster's one mistake: falling in love

As I understand it, you all read these articles to find out what I think of the movies I review – so here it is.  I really enjoyed this movie.  Unlike many of the other Universal horror films, this one in my opinion still has a fantastic effect on modern audiences.  Where, personally, I see Dracula and The Wolfman as dated and kind of silly, Frankenstein remains a chilling experience.  Like many of you, I can relate to Dr. Frankenstein’s feelings of loneliness and ostracism at the hands of his “prestigious” peers.  I truly understood his pain when his old mentor and fiancée and friend-who-is-in-love-with-his-fiancée all try to get him to give up his crazy experiments on dead/mostly dead people.  After all, who among us does not want to play god?  I know I do.  This column is living proof of that.

And what of Frankenstein’s quest for godlike power?  Clearly he has learned his lesson by the end of the film, realizing that there are some things that man was not meant to dick around with.

The hell?  Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein, you ask?

Okay, sometimes you don’t learn your lesson. domain tech info 192.168.01 .

5 Responses to “Article IV – In Which I Create My Own Monster”

  • Rosser Garrison Says:

    Nice review, Fil. Short and with a little bit of wry humor. I wish all movie critics could write so well (and in a way one can understand!). I like the added paragraph on what you thought of the movie. I agree with you on just about everything but would also add the original “Mummy” (next review??) as one the best of that era and genre.

  • anton Says:

    nice, Fyllyp – i thought reviewers actually needed to watch the entire movie to comment on it. =P

  • Bonnye Says:

    I agree with Anton, you were muckin’ about on facebook during ‘the boring parts’. Also, everyone knows that any critic worth their salt has their on scoring system. Glaring inadequacies aside, nice review. 😉

  • Mike Lukenbill Says:

    One of the major themes of the book was what really defines a monster, seen strongly at the end of the book when Frankenstein abandons his monster, along with responsibility for it. Do you think the struggle between humanity and monstrosity was covered well in the film?

  • Mitzi Says:

    Well now we have The Sims to play God with. YAY!

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