Frankenstein (1931)

Frankenstein (1931), directed by James Whale.

Nicely rendered production of the story, only 69 minutes long. It becomes more of an action picture as it proceeds. Pacing the story with more leisurely scenes is a good thing, but here the drawing room interludes typical of that period bring the narrative to a halt.

The Doctor and his assistant are eagerly sacrilegious when acquiring their materials. They'll pay for that. Frankenstein's hubris has immediate and tragic results.

The Creature dies horribly: screaming, trapped in a burning mill. Boris Karloff is uncredited; the Monster is played by "?". He projects remarkable yearning and pathos through that makeup.

No score apart from the credits.

It's hard not to think of Young Frankenstein, particularly with the bit about the Normal and Abnormal brains in jars. Using a deformed criminal brain screws up Mary Shelley's mythology: the Creature is supposed to be an innocent blank slate, the Noble Savage direct from the state of nature, a popular image then and since.

A loose adaptation of the book, which is mostly travelogue anyway. It's based more on earlier stage versions than the original text. They shuffle some names around: Victor becomes Henry and someone else is Victor. As everyone knows, the Doctor studied at Ingolstadt, not "Goldstadt" (later: which I now see is a medical college at the U of Ingolstadt). In the book he animates the Creature in his student apartment without much apparatus.

It's easy to see the story as a protest against God, who created Man and then abandoned him, just as the Doctor does his Creature.

The DVD has a wide-ranging commentary track by Rudy Behmler. I didn't know: Karloff had a removable dental bridge on one jaw, allowing him to suck in the cheek and create a gaunt, deformed look. With his large weighted shoes he could lean at strange angles.