A film crew goes to a tropical island for an exotic location shoot and discovers a colossal ape who takes a shine to their female blonde star. He is then captured and brought back to New York City for public exhibition.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The opening credits say "Based upon the composition by John L. Balderston", without elaborating on what "Based upon the composition" really means, especially in this case, where there is already one original writer (Mrs. Percy B. Shelley) credited, along with a playwright, two screenwriters, and one scenario editor. See more »
In the original theatre version, the ending score continued on over a black screen. The score was truncated for television prints. Recent video releases have restored the music but the ending cast list is held on screen until the music ends. See more »
"Crazy, am I? We'll see whether I'm crazy or not."
Revisiting Frankenstein is always a wonderful experience. I watch it today with the same enthusiasm and awe I did nearly 35 years ago. Everything about the film is so perfect. Acting, direction, cinematography, set design, plot, dialogue, special effects, etc. are top notch. And although each of these areas deserves to be discussed in detail (and have in the volumes that have been written on Frankenstein), I'll focus on two areas that really standout to me - Boris Karloff as the monster and James Whales direction.
Is there a more iconic image in horror than Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster? I sincerely doubt it. Even those who wouldn't be caught dead watching a horror film are familiar with that image. Beyond Jack Pierce's make-up, Karloff is amazing in the role. Even with the make-up, Karloff gives the monster life. We are able to see and feel the emotions the monster goes through. There is no better example than the scene with the monster and the little girl. As the monster stumbles out of the woods, there is a cautious look about him as his experiences with humans have thus far been less than satisfactory. But when the little girl accepts him and wants to play with him, the look of caution is transformed into a look of utter happiness. He smiles, he laughs, and he plays. But that emotion is replaced by one of confusion mixed with anger when he accidentally kills the girl. It's all there on Karloff wonderful face. It's this life that Karloff imbibes in the monster that makes Frankenstein a real classic.
I've always thought that James Whale's direction was ahead of its time. In an era when directors were using what I call the "plant and shoot" method of filming, Whale made his camera a fluid part of the action. Whale takes the viewer beyond just watching moving images. He uses the camera to take the viewer into the scene. A small example is the way Whale filmed characters moving from one room to the next. The camera moves with the characters. Another example is the tracking shot Whale uses as the father carries his dead child into the town. As I said earlier, it has a fluidity in the way Whale filmed these scenes that makes it seem more natural. Finally, the way Whale introduces the monster is a highlight of the film. The monster backs into the room. As he turns, Whale shows the monster with three quick, ever tighter shots, ending with a close-up of the monster's face. Every Hollywood star of that era could have only wished for an introduction like that.
While I have done nothing but praise Frankenstein, I'm not such a fan that I can't spot flaws in the film. The major issue with me has always been the way the scenes of action, horror, and violence are inter-cut with scenes of tranquility and bliss. I realize that was the way things were done in the 30s so people wouldn't, in essence, overload on horror, but it can make the film seem a little disjointed. But it's difficult to hold Whale overly responsible for this custom of the period.
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