Halloween Scene: Frankenstein (1931)

Frankenstein is the Universal Monster movie I’m most familiar with. When I first got into horror back in high school I remember asking for copies of some of the flicks on VHS for Christmas and wound up with this one and Dracula, though I didn’t exactly wear either tape out, only watching each a time or two. As you surely know, Frankenstein follows the name of the title scientist as he and his assistant Fritz (not Igor, as many assume) try to bring a man assembled from various body parts to life. Dr. Frankenstein doesn’t know that his helper grabbed a criminal’s brain, though, and a series of misunderstandings lead to Frankenstein deciding to end the monster. Understandably freaked out, the monster makes a break for it and accidentally kills a young girl named Marie who tried to befriend him. This leads to the usual UM mob attacking the monster and a very abrupt ending.

Also like the other Universal Monster movies I’ve watched recently (The Mummy, The Invisible Man and Phantom Of The Opera), there’s a lot of scenes of old white dudes standing around talking about things. I actually expected more of an accidental rampage from the monster and was surprised that that’s not really the case until the very end.

But whatever, the reason this movie is so awesome and still considered  classic is because Boris Karloff is ridiculously great in the role of the monster. Even with a pretty limited ability to move his face, he does some amazing things that make you really feel for his character. He’s basically a scared child who doesn’t know his own strength. He just wants to be safe and find people who are nice to him, but doesn’t know how to actually act. He’s the classic misunderstood monster and he nails the role like an expert carpenter.

With a few of these other classic horror movies I’ve said that the proliferation of parodies, rip-offs and homages have diluted the originals. You know what’s happening in Dracula, so it might not be as fun to watch. And some people might feel the same way about Frankenstein, but I think there’s enough in Karloff’s performance to keep you interested even if you know most of the story beats. Oh, and I’m sure it’s because I’m a dad, but few things I’ve watched this October have been as chilling as Marie’s distraught father carrying her limp corpse through the town as their festival slowly turns into a violent mob. Top notch.

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