Baron Frankenstein is once again working with illegal medical experiments. Together with a young doctor, Karl and his fiancée Anna, they kidnap the mentally sick Dr. Brandt, to perform the ... See full summary »
Henry Frankenstein is a doctor who is trying to discover a way to make the dead walk. He succeeds and creates a monster that has to deal with living again. Written by
Josh Pasnak <email@example.com>
Although I have seen better prints of the film, this DVD issue of Universal Studio's famous FRANKENSTEIN is a magnificent package that is sure to delight any fan of classic horror. The film itself has been restored for content, and the Skal-hosted documentary--which traces the story from Mary Shelly's famous novel through its numerous film incarnations--is a delight, including numerous interviews with various historians, critics, and Karloff's daughter. The bonus audio track by Rudy Behlmer is also quite interesting, as are the various biographies and notes, and although the short film BOO is a spurious mix of footage from NOSFERATU, Dracula, THE CAT AND THE CANARY, and FRANKENSTEIN, it is an enjoyable little throw-away. All in all, it doesn't get much better than this.
As for the film itself, the production of FRANKENSTEIN was prompted by the incredible success of the earlier Dracula--but where Dracula is a rather problematic and significantly dated film, FRANKENSTEIN was and remains one of the most original horror films to ever emerge from Hollywood. Much of the credit for this goes to director James Whale, who by all accounts was deeply influenced by silent German film and his own traumatic experiences during World War I--and who mixed those elements with occasional flourishes of macabre humor to create a remarkably consistent vision of Mary Shelly's original novel.
Whale was extremely, extremely fortunate in his cast. Colin Clive was a difficult actor, but Whale not only managed to get him through the film but to draw from him his finest screen performance; Mae Clarke is a memorable Elizabeth; and Dwight Frye, so memorable in Dracula, tops himself as Fritz. But all eyes here are on Boris Karloff as the monster. Karloff had been kicking around Hollywood for a decade, and although he appeared in quite a few films before FRANKENSTEIN he never really registered with the public. But in this role, acting under heavy make-up, weighed down by lead weights in his shoes and struts around his legs, and without a line of intelligible dialogue he offered a performance that transcended the word "monster." This is a suffering being, dangerous mainly through innocence of his own power and the way of the world, goaded from disaster to disaster to disaster. Even some seventy-plus years later, it is difficult to imagine any other actor in the part.
Karloff would play the monster again in two later films, one of them directed by Whale, but although THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is a remarkable film in its own right, this is the original combination of talents and the original vision. Truly a national treasure, to be enjoyed over and over again. Strongly recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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