Sunday, October 2, 2022

31 Days of Scary Movies: “Frankenstein” (1931)

 Last year, I attempted to watch 31, scheduled Halloween and or horror films in October. One each day. And write a blog post about them. It became overwhelming, swiftly, but I accomplished it. It became a juggling act; watching the 1.5-2 hour films each night, and writing a blog post that sought to do the films— some of my most beloved— justice. All while having a life and living my best life in the cool October light. This year I am doing the same, but in an attempt to be less overwhelmed, I will be writing some brief thoughts on each film in a quick post each night. 

 Last night was the immortal, amalgamated monster that is director James Whale’s adaption of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” from 1931. This is a film I watched many times a year, but most often in early October, as it stands tall among the early Universal Monster movies, and, along with tomorrow evening’s film, stands tall as perhaps the most culturally influential horror film of all time. 

 It won’t be many years before Whale’s classic turns 100, and the piece is accessible as it was those many years ago it was made. You would lose much time from your life is you were to list every film, book and piece of art that has taken elements of its neck bolted monster, rising from beneath the sheet from a jolt of lightning caused by a presumably mad scientist one dark and stormy night. 

 Things that also stood out to me in this viewing were the ground it manages to cover in its brevity. Clocking in at just under an hour and ten minutes, the iconography in this film strikes such the needed balances of intrigue, horror and emotion just the right way each moment, and is capable of doing more in its short run time that decades of films much longer have been able to. Much of this is due to Boris Karloff’s incredible performance, 

 Also, while perhaps not at the same level— or, more aptly, style— of its sequel “The Bride of Frankenstein,” this film manages to create some of the most beautiful, detailed and affective sets in all of film history. From the tower castle where the Monster is created, to Elizabeth’s bedroom, to the lake with its lilies— not to mention the windmill— each set is a masterwork. 

 One last note I wrote down was how much the assistant character, who would later come to be known as Igor, causes perhaps all of the mayhem of the film. It is his mistreatment of the monster— against Frankenstein’s orders— that first push the Monster to act out. 

 The lighting strikes, Dr. Frankenstein screams and proclaims “it’s Alive!” and Karloff’s Monster rises. Halloween is here. 

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