• Martyn Wakefield

FRANKENSTEIN [1931] (REVIEW)

Dir. James Whale

Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield

The Godfather of horror, James Whale's FRANKENSTEIN is by now a well known cinematic piece of history. Mary Shelley's novel adapted in full feature length glory, still has huge credit for creating THE look of the monster. Despite being full of horrific scenes that leave more to burden your brain than your eyes, the true horror here is of the madness that creates life and abandons it when it doesn't work well.


Even more horrific, is the heartfelt connection the monster makes with a local child who sadly drowns causing the townsfolk to hunt him down. Between this and Igor's mis-treatment, the monster is truly the victim and the films title character is actually the monster.



While Frankenstein himself is only the catalyst of events that follow, it's a really subtle nuance of evil that he creates a living being with little meaning other than self importance and glorification. What Whale managed to unlock was not only the horror of the Monster but of humanity and taking into account his personal struggles and themes later expressed through THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, this is a film as much for today as it was in 1931.


Opening with a grave digging scene, the tone is really set that under the covers of darkness and away from prying eyes, true evil takes place, not of the supernatural, but that of humanity. Victor Frankenstein's pursuit not only estranges his wife and colleagues but isolates him into his own sense of security.


Dispute the layers of make-up, Boris Karloff doesn't hammer the fear of the monstrous creature and really brings the fear down to insecurities of humanity, mob culture and general lack of wanton to understand others. A film with many layers that is so much more than a creature feature but one that still does not avoid the genre.



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