Monday, 9 May 2011

AFI 100 Movies #87 Frankenstein (1931)

James Whale's version of Frankenstein was released by Universal Pictures in 1931 prior to the strict adherence to the censorship guidelines set out by the Hays code. And maybe that's one of the reasons why this film has endured the last 80 years, with the director able to bring his vision of this classic tale to celluloid life, unfettered by the censors (at least not until later...).

The film has more in common with the stage adaptation by Peggy Webling than Mary Shelley's original novel, and the film has a theatrical feel to it with many of the key scenes taking place on lavish stage sets.

There is a lot to like about this film, the central performances by Colin Clive as 'Henry' Frankenstein and Boris Karloff as the creature are great. Mae Clarke as Elizabeth is a tad on the hammy side and Frederick Kerr as Henry's father plays the part of a pompous old duffer to a tee.

Boris Karloff steals the show as the creature, which even today is a recognisable horror icon, as a viewer you feel sympathy for this sad creation who is so badly mistreated by those who made him (particularly 'Fritz', Frankenstein's servant, who meets a nasty and not entirely undeserved end).

I must confess at the point where Fritz is breaking in to the lab to steal the brain needed to complete the creature, I did have a flashback to the late great Marty Feldman as Igor in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein!

As the tale progresses, the creature escapes his tormentors and goes out in to the world beyond. He befriends a small child with tragic repercussions in a scene which for decades had been censored after its original release and not reinstated until 1986.

As the end of the film nears, Frankenstein and the creature slug it out next to the edge of a cliff before the creature, carrying an unconscious Frankenstein, is pursued in to a wooden windmill by a flaming torch wielding mob which leads to a sticky and fairly obvious end for the poor fellow.

Overall an enjoyable tale.


  1. Mark,

    Welcome to the blogosphere. Wishing you every success with this!