Friday, 21 August 2015
Frankenstein (1931) (5 Stars)
It's been a long, long time since I last watched this film last. It was probably before most of my readers were born. When I was growing up there was a late night horror film double bill on television on Friday night, which I used to watch with my mother. Usually the first film ended at midnight, the second film started at midnight. Watching these films at a young age, my early teens, formed me and made me the person I am now. For this I'm thankful to my mother. Many of the films had a 15 or 18 certificate, too old for me to legally watch, but my mother used her common sense rather than adhering to the letter of the law. Back in the 1960's film certifications were ridiculously strict. The 1930's Universal horror films were considered horrifying and had 18 certificates; nowadays "Frankenstein" is rated PG in England.
The film takes a lot of liberties with the original story, not remaining as close to Mary Shelley's novel as Hammer's 1958 film, "The Curse of Frankenstein". (The 1994 film, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein", adheres even closer to the novel). Significantly, the writing credit is given to "Mrs. Percy B. Shelley", enough to make any feminist groan. In Mary Shelley's novel the scientist was called Victor Frankenstein, but in the film his name is Henry, despite him being a German. He kept this name for "Bride of Frankenstein", but his name was changed back to Victor for later films.
But the film is a classic. It bears all the hallmarks of German expressionism with its stark contrast between light and dark. Boris Karloff wins our sympathy in the way he portrays the monster as a scared child. We feel sorry for him even when he kills people.