Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review the second of the Universal monster films, the ever popular Frankenstein starring the one and only Boris Karloff.
This is a film that is so iconic that if you say the word Frankenstein, the image of Karloff with his neck bolts is what immediately jumps to mind. And that’s despite the fact that the book of the same name is one of the most famous horror novels of all time. And that’s despite the fact that Karloff doesn’t play Frankenstein, he plays Frankenstein’s monster. If you haven’t read the book or watched the movie there will be some spoilers that follow. It’s a movie that is almost ninety years old though so try not to lose any body parts over it okay?
The book Frankenstein is a deeply philosophical novel that goes in depth with questions about how humanity should draw the line between science and nature. It asks if ambition can be destructive. It asks if a man can be a god and if he can, what does that make his creation. It asks us to decide who is the real monster in this story.
The movie has cool wheels and gears and a whole bunch of over the top insanity from its Dr. Frankenstein. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the movie, it’s just very different from the book. Some of the story is the same, a portion of the events play out like they did in the book. The basic idea is there. A doctor who is consumed with discovering the secret of life does so by harvesting the dead for body parts then reanimating them. The new creation is more creature than man in the movie but it is more complicated in the book.
My favorite part of the film adaptation is the beginning. Before we get into the main action of the story a man comes on stage to warn the audience that what we are about to see may shock and terrify us. If you are a fan of The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes, you probably know that this is where they got the idea for Marge to give the audience a warning. It sets the tone for the rest of the film and puts us in the mood to be shocked or horrified.
For modern audiences there is nothing truly frightening here but it is still really fun to watch. Karloff does not have a single line of dialogue in the whole film and he mostly just goes around grunting. We do get to see him in his costume, complete with makeup and heavy boots. Those boots would give poor Boris back problems for the rest of his life. It’s an iconic and mesmerizing performance and it’s easy to see why audiences of the day found it so fascinating.
I’ll never understand some of the choices the filmmakers made for this however. I have no idea why they chose to name the scientist Henry Frankenstein instead of Victor like it is in the book. Not only that, they give the name Victor to another character who vies for the affection of Elizabeth who is engaged to Henry. It’s definitely confusing if you read the book but of course you do not have to have read the book to enjoy the movie.
I also will never understand why Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant opens the jar with the “normal brain” instead of just leaving with it but I guess if he didn’t the rest of the movie couldn’t happen. After all, a creature with a normal brain would be pretty dull.
If you have never watched this film, do yourself a favor and give it a view. It’s great fun and well worth a watch.