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Karloff, Clive and Frye Overshadow Its Faults,
This review is from: Frankenstein (VHS Tape)
This film has repeatedly been called the greatest horror film of all time. Lavish praise has been bestowed upon it and acres of deep meaning can supposedly be found. However, people have gone to far and have completely ignored obvious faults with the film.
The first problem with the film is the fact that it is only a short film (roughly 70 minutes). Just about all of Universal's classic horror movies from the 30s were of this length, but of the ones I've seen (and I'm still collecting them), none squander that precious time the way Frankenstein does. Baron Frankenstein (the father of the inventor) is a complete waste of time. For starters, his character has absolutely no significance whatsoever and secondly he can't act. Yet we are 'treated' to about ten minutes of screen time with him. In a short film, one cannot afford to waste such amounts of time.
The scenes leading up to the 'creation' of the monster are mostly superb, as Colin Clive plays the perfect madman, and the eerie Dwight Frye does a marvellous job in setting the scene. However, the film is half over before the monster is brought out. This would normally be okay, after all, Ridley Scott did the same thing 48 years later with Alien, but for him, halfway through still left a whole hour, not so here. The latter half of the film seems more hurried as though they were running out of time and money. What is worse, they squander some of that time too, spending valuable minutes with the pre-wedding scene.
In Mary Shelley's original book, the monster is an extremely deep and compelling beast. His strength and anguish allow him to do great harm whenever this outwardly hideous but gentle beast is threatened or hurt by other's cruelty. However, in the film, he is mute. This would be fine, had the film given more time to character development. Karloff plays the part brilliantly, but is restrained by time. We see the anguish for about five minutes, and then he kills a girl by 'accident', terrorises Frankenstein's wife and then the mob goes out to kill him. All too soon, the monster has done his dirty work and he is killed in a superb scene in a windmill. However, the very end of that scene could have been changed for the better. A better ending would have been for Frankenstein to escape the windmill before it is set on fire, but after it is he runs back in to save his creature and they die together. Thus adding to the inter-dependency of the characters of Frankenstein and the monster. This scene is fine though, but is ruined by the absolute final scene. In this scene, Baron Frankenstein drinks a toast to his son. This sickly-sweet ending is ridiculous and takes away the dark and deep side of the film. Of all the early classic horror movies in my possession, The Invisible Man remains the best because it is not bogged down by a happy ending.
The brilliant performances by Karloff, Van Sloan, Frye and Clive pull up this film, as do the many superb scenes, but ultimately, it could have been better.
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Initial post: 10 Oct 2011 12:12:41 BDT
Mr. Kenneth J. Hodges says:
Yes, seen in perspective, there are things about this film which could have benefited from being changed. The reviewer here mentions the completely superfluous inclusion of Frankenstein's father and possibly the worst scene of all comes at the end of the film when he toasts his son. What a come down after the scene in which the monster supposedly is burned in the windmill. This is where the film should have ended, instead of which, the climax was completely shattered by this additional and completely unecessary scene, which should have been cut from the film. Also I find the spoken introduction to this film, whilst harmless in itself, does not stand up to repeated viewing. No doubt this at the time was considered to have set the mood for what was to come!? Despite these criticisms though, when compared to the stagey 'Dracula' film from the same era, 'Frankenstein' comes out looking like a masterpiece.
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