Monday, October 10, 2011

10-08-11: Young Frankenstein...minus all the comedy.

The American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood ran a Frankenstein triple feature. I've seen all three films but that was when I was just a kid so I would have to say this was the first time I've really seen these films.

FRANKENSTEIN (1931) **** D: James Whale. Colin Clive, Mae Clark, Boris Karloff.

A scientist gives life to a lifeless creature, a creature he created from body parts collected and stolen from local cemeteries and universities.

A solid adaptation of Shelley's horror classic is played straight with touches of comedy peppered throughout.

Clive is great as Frankenstein and Karloff brings life to the role he is best known for.

I can see how this film would have been deemed terrifying back in the '30s. Nowadays, it's not all that scary but it's still a great yarn.

It's not over-the top or overblown as it would have been done today. At 70 minutes, it's a quick, stream-lined fantasy that's well worth viewing.

BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) **** D: James Whale. Colin Clive, Ernest Thesiger, Boris Karloff.

So apparently the whole Jason/Michael/Freddy survives after meeting a certain death can be traced to this franchise. This sequel picks up immediately after the first one ends and we discover the Creature has indeed survived what looked to be his doom.

The tone shifts in this sequel that many believe to be one of the finest horror films ever made.

Two things bothered me when I watched this. First, the film opens with Mary Shelley and friends discussing the events in the first one. She then proceeds to tell the next part of the story. This prologue just didn't seem necessary and was too self-aware and indulgent. Second, I bought into the reality of the first film and how it can be plausible. In this film we are introduced to Dr. Pratorious. Another scientist who wants Frankenstein's help. He shows the doctor some of his experiments. Living people 4 inches tall that he grew in a lab. These two moments took me out of the story which is not a good thing.

Once it gets back to the main story, it's fantastic. The Creature is still roaming the woods and Pretorious and Frankenstein set out to create a mate for the Creature.

When they meet, it's an iconic moment that is both amusing and sad but very short.

It's a solid sequel that is actually better than the original.

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) **** D: Rowland V. Lee. Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi.

Years later, Baron Wolf von Frankenstein returns to the village where his father created the creature. He encounters Ygor and is stunned to learn the Creature is still alive.

I actually liked this one the best of the three.

Lugosi is excellent as Ygor. A man who the village tried to execute but failed and he loves to flaunt that in their face. He has a rather obsessive connection with the Creature that Wolf doesn't understand.

Rathbone pulls you in as the Baron and is hilarious as he tries to cover up what he's been doing in his lab especially under the watchful eye of the Burgomaster.

It's a fun film with plenty of mystery and sly humor.


Having seen all 3 it was very enlightening to see where Mel Brooks found his inspiration for the characters in his comedy masterpiece "Young Frankenstein."

It was a great triple-bill that actually made me want to watch "Young Frankenstein".

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