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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 5.88%
Average: 8.82%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 11.76%

2 reviews, 22 user ratings

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Frankenstein (1931)
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by MP Bartley

"Now THIS is how you treat a horror icon Sommers!"
5 stars

Just think about how influential this film is. The look of Frankenstein's laboratory. The hunchbacked assistant. Boris Karloff and his subsequent career. The reveal of the monsters face. The girl in the water. The burning windmill. The "It's alive!" line. Truly one of the greatest films ever made.

Re-makes and appropriations may come and go, but nothing else will ever come close to having the same sense of wonder, horror and awe that James Whale captures here. Like Frankenstein himself, it's the feverish product of a twisted genius mind. And I love every minute of it.

'Young Frankenstein' obviously owes its very existence to it (and just think how memorable THAT film is). Every monster to crawl forth onto the screen since then has had to live in the monsters shadow. No other monster has ever captured that peculiar mix of revulsion and pity in the same way. I can still hear Colin Clive howling at the storm-lashed skies and proclaiming himself agod now. As a cinematic icon of horror, the monster has no equal. Horror was born here and not even Dracula has the same impact.
The Hammer remake was a good attempt to re-invent the legend, but you may as well try to re-invent the wheel. The DeNiro version has no right to even share the same name. It has a thousand times more intelligence and style in one long shadow than 'Van Helsing' had in its whole, bloated 2 hours. Because this is a true love and respect for the genre and the characters and not just a special effects showboat.

What's particularly outstanding about 'Frankenstein' when you think about it, is that these guys were true pioneers. Cinema was still in its infancy and the likes of James Whale were the real trail-blazers. Influenced by German expressionism and 'The Golem', 'Frankenstein' is simply a marvel to look at. It has a richness to the black and white photography, the sets are stunningly rendered, the stormy night skys and the burning windmill are works of art and the make-up is without peer. Nothing has looked as shocking, as terrifying and as pitiable since. Especially at the same time.

Karloff is majestic as the monster poking out the monsters humanity underneath his homicidal rage and Clive as the original mad scientist has yet to be bettered in his role either. But the true genius is Whale, creating a whole new shorthand for how horror movies should look. It's a blue-print still being copied today but with far less effect.

And considering the kind of journey that the movie takes you on, it's astounding that this clocks in at just over an hour. Maybe they did know more about making movies in those days, as it never feels crammed or hurried.

Forget 'Citizen Kane', 'Frankenstein' has surely got to be the most influential film ever made. Ask anyone about the look of 'Citizen Kane' and you're likely to get some puzzled looks and shrugs of 'don't know'. Ask those people about the look of 'Frankenstein' and everyone is likely to nod their head in understanding. A magnificent work of art from some magnificent artists.

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originally posted: 06/17/04 23:22:47
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2012 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/11/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess A great film. One of the best in cinema history 5 stars
2/25/10 art CHRISTOPHER LEE's beast from CUrse of frankenstein,gives Boris a run for his money! 1 stars
1/10/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Classic to all but teenieboppers who thibk Twilight is awesome.. 5 stars
9/14/08 talei irritating 1 stars
8/27/07 David Cohen The standard by which all Frankenstein movies are judged by, and rightfully so 5 stars
2/24/07 George By modern standards, I found the acting woeful. Entertaining but scare factor low. 3 stars
11/11/06 David Pollastrini Great Make-up. 5 stars
6/15/06 Ash A classic fillm that set the pace for future horror films. James Whale's direction is great 5 stars
5/08/06 john bale Most visually gothic of the series, despite theatrical acting, amazing achievement in 1931 5 stars
10/27/05 chris good film but the original frankenstein from 1911 is better 4 stars
12/13/04 david whitelaw the pinnacle of classic horror period 5 stars
6/18/04 Coked Up Werewolf A sterling example of monster movies and just plain great motherfucking filmmaking. Awesome 5 stars
12/07/03 john maybe the best of all the classic horror movies - a pleasant chill and great atmposphere! 5 stars
4/15/03 mike actor. 5 stars
10/18/02 Charles Tatum The film to thank for modern horror 5 stars
4/27/02 R.W. Welch The pic that launched a thousand monster movies; quite good. 4 stars
8/08/01 Mr. Hat The first classic horror movie is good, but not as good as "The Wolf Man." 3 stars
4/01/01 Andrew Carden The movie was a bucket of grease paint, that needed a new coat. 3 stars
2/28/01 Michael Nicholls the original and the best...much cinematic influence this film has indoubtedly brought... 5 stars
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  DVD: 26-Sep-2006



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