Movies tell us everything about place and time - they will be important artifacts for archaeologists of the future trying to understand our culture and each era that defines us. What this film says about an attitude of an era amazes me. That it's regarded as a monster horror film might be reflected differently if it were released in the 60s. The sensitivities in which it views it's subject are to me 30 years ahead of its time. Whereas audiences would scream at the Monster in 1930, it's the villagers and mad Dr. Frankenstein they'd scoff at in horror by 1960.
The Monster of Frankenstein is a victim, born into shackles - it's heartbreaking.
It's more of a heartbreaking film about miscommunication, possibilities of understanding breaking down, insensitivity towards victimization... You might say our attitude about post-slavery USA, the meanness towards which we treat the perceived 'loose animal.'
It acts as a featurette rather than feature film, an exercise in torture for the audience - how much cruelty can we take? In that sense it's a more effective horror film than just about any I've seen, but I'd call it a reverse-monster movie.
Frankenstein has a penchant for incarcerating - he does it to Monster, his wife, and himself.
Frankenstein must be wearing flame retardant pants, because he should've caught on fire
Why did they change Victor to Henry and then name someone else Victor who looks like future Vincent Price?
I'm in danger of cinema guru villagers coming to burn my own house down if I say that I find the influence of German expressionism slightly more effective than the originators with this film. When I think of what I love in movies, what I want to see, or the effect I want it to have, it's the set pieces and lighting in Frankenstein. They are done with expressionist quality, yet painted over by the slightest tinge of realism. Frankenstein's gothic hilltop laboratory under rain and lightening is such an iconic dream image - I have The View on as I write this and they're using it as a background image for their Halloween special! That says it all. My favorite is the opening graveyard; nothing equals the surrealist quality of that painted sky, silhouetted cross, etc.
I'm not sure how film class has managed to skip lauding over the epic shot of the father carrying his dead daughter through the village - a majority of the scene is composed in a complex single tracking shot, requiring tremendous mise en scene articulation, staging a variety of background actors who hit their marks so well it feels absolutely real. The quickness in which the villagers want to avenge the murder is not so real, and seems to force the film to get to that point quicker without building into a real uprising - but then it's a statement of how quick and infectious stupidity spreads.
The sweetness of Monster tossing flowers with the girl is again heartbreaking and misunderstood.
Boris Karloff's incredible body language and facial expressions are the most sensitive - we can only believe the circumstances that are sold on us because of his ability to empathetically embody this tortured soul who never asked to be animated.
The choice of medium close-ups when Dr. Waldman quells Victor's naivety. Here again is an example of how delicate mise-en-scene is beyond mere framing choices, though the framing is the key, which makes it so effective. Here they are casually conversing about Dr. Frankenstein's odd behavior of late in a wide-shot, when Victor dare suggests Frankenstein's work on a few dead animals is paltry in a medium. The framing is bare of anything besides him and his stupid face perched atop his clumsy body, isolated by anything else in the shot. Versus Waldman, an established intellect, framed by vials and workload that highlight his authority, so that when he tells Victor he doesn't understand and that these experiments of Frankenstein are bizarre, dark, we all get a real sense that he means it. A lesser filmmaker would just say, close-up to embolden the idea, but James Whales is clever in juxtaposing these images.
Zoetrope chase behind spinning wheel, Frankenstein vs Monster.
Eerie, creepy, and filled with great cinematography, costumes and makeup, and performances, especially from the lead star, the turkey makes Frankenstein one of the greatest monster film of all time.