It's hard to believe that the movie Frankenstien is, hold on, need to perform the math here, wow, 81 years old. What's even harder to believe is that James Whale, the movie's brilliant director, quit making movies ten years later.
Frankenstein is a visual feast. Certain scenes are classics. After watching the film too many times to count, hearing Dr. Frankenstien rant it's alive still chills me. When we first see the Monster walk into the chamber, the slow, measured close-ups captivate the viewer. The frames lavish attention on the misbegotten creature.
The scenes with the Monster and little Maria are heart-wrenching. What a scene, guiding innocence and trust into death. After the daisies are gone, the Monster wants something else to float and selects the helpless child. When she struggles, he holds her in the water, trying to make her float. Nothing graphic, everything implied. Modern directors need to watch that scene to learn how to stroke, not hammer horror across the viewer's psyche.
And the last scene, the real last scene, not the silly tacked on happy ending scene, is specatular. The burning mill, stepped back frame by frame, is a masterpiece. Glorious. The viewer knows the "happy ending" scene was added by Universal.
What do you hear throughout the movie? Nothing but voices and the appropiate background noises. No music. I have nothing against music, but for Whale to make a movie sans music's emotional cues is extraordinary.
When I was a kid, I loved the early Frankenstein and Dracula movies. If they were on late night weekend TV, my parents would let me stay up to watch them. They understood their little freak's devotion to horror.
No disrespect to Tod Browning, but in a film to film comparison, James Whale's tragic Monster triumphs over the compelling Count. I think Tod Browning might agree. He disliked how the studio interfered with Dracula.
Fascinating how both directors felt frustrated with the Hollywood system and ceased directing shortly after their best known films. Browning and Whale created classics and removed themselves from the nonsense. They respected artistry above commerce. What a rare trait.
I might discuss Tod Browning's frightening film Freaks at another time. If you've never watched it, do so. When you remember that the film was made in 1932, you'll worship Mr. Browning's amazing achievement.
So ends tonight's horror ramble.