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Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Directed by James Whale

Of all the classic monsters, Frankenstein's monster as portrayed by Boris Karloff is the dearest to me. He dangles from the rearview mirror in my car and hangs in a framed movie still on a wall in my humble abode. My deep fondness for the monster finds it's strength in melancholy. He is a grotesque, violent but incredibly sad character. Crafted from various corpses, stitched together and given hideous life by an electrical storm, the monster is born into a wretched existence. Sure, the creature in Mary Shelley's novel differs from this cinematic incarnation but Karloff is brilliant in a wordless performance that conveys all the necessary sorrow, frustration and rage the role demands. Like "Dracula" which was released by Universal Studios earlier in the year, "Frankenstein" is graced with a special creepiness due to it's backdrop of silence. There is no musical soundtrack to speak of (besides the orchestration behind the opening credits) and this makes the buzzing and zapping chaos of the famous resurrection scene come on like real gangbusters. Before "Frankenstein" director James Whale was gaining a reputation for making war movies but after it's incredible success he focused his unique talents on darker fare, managing to direct four bona fide horror monuments between 1931 and 1935 (this one, "Bride of Frankenstein", "The Old Dark House" and "The Invisible Man"). It was the golden age, indeed. The mad scientist, the hunchback assistant (played by Dwight Frye who specialized in the role of bughouse accomplice), the moody overcast cemetery, the angry torch-wielding villagers, the little girl getting tossed into the lake- "Frankenstein" will lumber around in my imagination until they plant me beneath the sod.


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