...busting up my brains for the words

Sunday, September 26, 2004

James Whale's Frankenstein

I subscribe to NetFlix because I'm a film buff and I am not very happy with cable television. (What? They want us to pay a subscription fee AND watch commercials? Somebody's getting screwed.) I'm sure a lot of other subscribers to NetFlix do not watch a lot of movies over the summer. The nice weather and my involvement in the presidential campaign have caused me to neglect movies for the season to an alarming degree.
I almost don't know who I am anymore.
But lately I have become aware that I miss watching a great movie and that I would probably survive if I weren't surfing the Blogosphere or posting in my own blog for a mere 90 minutes of my life.
I placed James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) in the servo, leaned back with a bottle of Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon and savored.
What a great movie this is. I must have seen it perhaps 20 to 30 times over the years. That would have to be a majority of times on broadcast television. But I think I've seen it on the big screen at least once and on VHS at least once. Would you believe I've caught new things I'd never noticed before? That would have to be thanks to the Commentary track by one Rudy Behlmer. Mr. Behlmer packs the Commentary track chock full of information and detail that is stunning in it wealth. For instance, he points out in a very early scene that Dr. Frankenstein literally throws dirt into the face of death. I'd never appreciated that. There is a statue of the Grim Reaper at the graveyard and Frankenstein tosses a shovel full of earth over his shoulder in that direction into its face. Nice touch.
Behlmer also has many interesting production notes and details of censorship over the years, including the infamous drowning scene in which the Monster tosses a little peasant girl into the lake when he runs out of flower blossoms in his game with her. There had been a re-release of Frankenstein back in the 1980s when this footage was restored. Yours truly was there to see it at his local cinema house, of course.

So why have I seen this movie so many times? Why have so many people been enthralled with this film?
It's a great story about a man's obsession in imitating the defining act of God. This imitation goes afoul and the creation brings death, terror and disaster upon himself, his loved ones and the being he'd created.
Boris Karloff evokes this being without saying a word. We are enormously sympathetic to him and we recognize ourselves.

"It's alive, it's alive....oh in the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!" - Henry Frankenstein


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