Monday, October 26, 2009

Bald Mountain Night 26: Frankenstein

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season.

Despite the trials of this month of horror and my own personal history as a pop culture junkie, I have never seen any of the original Universal monster movies. With this grave oversight in mind I set out to correct this egregious blasphemy. But which to choose? There are so many. Dracula? I've done my share of vampire movies since October 1st, not to mention Nosferatu itself. The Mummy? My judgment is too clouded by more contemporary mummy fare (because it's awesome!). There was really only one route to take: Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley's novel is one of my favorite books, I've read it more than a few times. The first thing you should know about James Whale's 1931 film is that you shouldn't be clinging too hard to Shelley's classic, it is a looooooooose adaptation. Character names, settings, motivations, plot, it's all been changed. All that remains is the story of a mad scientist making a creature out of stitched-together corpses. Gone too is the Rousseauvian/romantic ideas and Enlightenment science: the Monster isn't driven to evil by humanity's rejection of him, he doesn't lash out at the world for denying him a family; instead, Henry Frankenstein's hunchbacked assistant (who isn't named Igor, by the way) accidentally puts a criminal's brain in the Monster's head, predisposing him to wanton murder. Not the same when you think about it...

Frankenstein itself is responsible for many of the tropes in genre cinema we take for granted: the mad scientist, the mob of angry villagers, the very likely useless buzzing and flashing scientific equipment. While it takes a great and noble story and turns it into common matinee fare, it still makes for a pretty good monster movie and anyone who's interested in seeing the early rumblings of modern horror and science fiction should give it a look see. Not to mention anyone who just loves the movies.

Also, this has something that need to be brought back into movies these days: a pre-show announcement from a tuxedoed gentleman giving the audience one last chance to leave if they feel they might not to be able to take the terror in store for them. Can you imagine that before the Nightmare on Elm Street remake?

Unfortunately though, today's feature has got to go down as my second favorite Frankenstein movie.

Final Verdict: 79 Congos