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Monday, January 10, 2011


     James Whale's masterpiece, "Frankenstein" is so iconic that even though alot of people haven't actually watched it, they instantly know who it is anyway.  This is my personal favorite of the Universal Monsters, thanks in large part to Boris Karloff's fantastic performance as the misunderstood monster.  "Frankenstein" became the most successful and sequelized- it's second only to "Dracula" as the most portrayed character in movie history.  "Frankenstein" is fascinating on all accounts.  Boris Karloff gives the performance of a lifetime as Dr. Victor Frankenstein's dead creation brought to life.  Colin Clive deliriously plays the insane Dr. Frankenstein, and Dwight Frye plays his faithful hunchback assistant, Fritz. 

     Mixed with tons of Gothic atmosphere and Whale's superb direction, you have one of the most influential and eternal horror movies of all time. I can't imagine how audiences in 1931 reacted sitting in a darkened theater watching the scenes of grave robbing and re-animated corpses unfold before their eyes.  I'm sure it was quite shocking.  This is the definitive version of the "Frankenstein" tale- no disrespect to Mary Shelley, but Whale's film version, with the makeup by Jack Pierce and Kenneth Strickfaden's fabulous electrical equipment and effects, became firmly entrenched in popular culture and influenced all other "Frankenstein" incarnations that followed.

     Watching "Frankenstein" today is awe-inspiring.  I think sometimes we take for granted these early movie monsters and what made them so memorable in the first place.  They're like Ronald McDonald or Big Bird.  We know them so well that it sometimes isn't even necessary to view the films because we're raised from such an early age with these characters in our lives. We already know the story of Frankenstein, without reading the book or seeing the movie.  We know he's stitched together with spare parts of other corpses and brought to life by mad Dr. Frankenstein.  Kids just somehow know and accept this knowledge.  It's really kind of strange. I myself had collected the Aurora Model Kits of all the Universal Monsters by the time I was ten or so, and loved them dearly.  I wish I still had them actually... 

     Go anywhere in the world and mention Dracula or Frankenstein or The Wolf Man and people will know exactly who you're talking about.  So I think it's necessary sometimes to go back and experience these early movie monsters and appreciate them for what they are.  I still firmly have my attention span intact, therefore I absolutely adore classic movies.  In fact, I probably watch more older movies than newer ones.  I completely understand and respect why "Frankenstein" is considered such an important and iconic movie. I own the fantastic Legacy Collection DVD's, and curling up with these guys are like a warm blanket.  And "Frankenstein" is my personal favorite.  In 1991, "Frankenstein" was selected for preservation in the United States Film Registry.  "Frankenstein" ranked #27 on Bravo's Scariest Movie Moments.

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