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.

Halloween Scene: The Invisible Man (1933)

The Invisible Man is the Universal Monster I have the least experience with both in their original formats and the movies they spawned down the line. Aside from cartoons, I think the only legit Invisible Man type flicks I’ve seen are Hollow Man and Chevy Chase’s Memoirs Of An Invisible Man. I think I also read the original H.G. Wells story in college when I was working on a paper comparing the original characters with the versions Alan Moore used in the first League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume. From what I remember, the movie follows the book pretty faithfully.

The flick follows Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) who has discovered the secret to invisibility and it’s driving him a bit batty. The movie opens when he, covered in bandages, asks for a room at a local inn. Soon enough, the pesky woman who owns the place wants her rent, but Jack doesn’t want to pay, so he strips off his clothes and runs around messing with stuff. As reports flood the police of an invisible man, they understandably don’t believe until they “see” and then try to trap him. There’s a few more twists and turns along the line and there’s a love interest of sorts, but I don’t want to get to spoilery.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t know if I would classify this as a horror movie. Sure, Jack does some bad things, killing a few people here and there and making threats, but it’s hard to find a character too scary when you see him hanging out in his PJs for a solid portion of the movie.

However, I do think The Invisible Man is worth a watch. The story itself is interesting and well performed by everyone involved (I especially like the town drunks who frequent the inn’s bar) and of course Raines does great work as Jack. But even if all that didn’t interest you, there are some pretty groundbreaking effects going on here. I mean, it’s easy to figure out how these things would have been done today, but it’s pretty bonkers to think of them doing something similar back in 1933! If you haven’t seen The Invisible Man I recommend remedying that (it’s on Netflix instant now along with a bunch of other Universal Monster movies), just don’t expect huge horror thrills.