This film starts with a warning about how scary it’s going to be, and I actually found that kind of amusing. In my opinion, the film wasn’t that scary at all, even in the old sense.
This Frankenstein, regardless, is viewed as the definitive one, and not only because the other adaptations have been so lackluster. Boris Karloff’s monster is the kind of excellent performance that trumps every comparison, and the line of “IT’S ALIIIIIIIVE!” is one of the most recognizable lines in film history.
The problem is I thought this would be more about the monster, and it was mostly about its creator, here named Henry (not Victor). The mad scientist is accepted as a bit of a distant lunatic, and yet there’s still a love story packed into the 70ish minutes of this film. I wasn’t sure if there was too much packed into the brief narrative, or if the film was too short to fit everything in.
Once the monster comes to life, though, the film does too. It’s electric, no pun intended (pun intended). Boris Karloff really does embody the torture experienced by the undead creature, and he gathers more sympathy than many characters ever will. By the end, I wanted to see him put out of his misery more than anything, like a horse with a broken leg.
The finale, featuring Henry and the monster trapped in a burning mill, is a masterfully crafted piece of filmmaking, even if the rest of the story doesn’t quite live up to it. When that mill burns down, though, you can’t deny that this film is very much alive.
Frankenstein is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.
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