The Horror Honeys: There's a Fire Over At the Frankenstein Place

There's a Fire Over At the Frankenstein Place

A Monster Honey Classic Review by Jennica

Frankenstein (1931)

"It's alive. It's alive... it's alive, it's moving, it's alive it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, IT'S ALIVE!" Sequels, remakes, and reimaginings of Frankenstein have been alive and well since the birth of Universal's 1931 film. The classic monster movie was not the original film adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel, preceded by The Fate of Frankenstein (1826), Edison Studios' Frankenstein (1910), Life Without Soul (1915), and The Monster of Frankenstein (1920); however, it has remained the blueprint for all modern-day versions of the story. Plenty of classic monsters from the golden age of cinema have evolved into unique tales of terror that continue to project our worldly anxieties onto the silver screen. But despite a few scattered exceptions, most rehatched tales of Frankenstein have failed to hold a torch to Universal's iconic motion picture.

The Plot: A former university scientist gone mad robs graves to gather body parts for his latest experiment: creating human life from his laboratory. However, when his bumbling assistant retrieves the brain of a criminal to complete the process, the long-anticipated invention turns out to be a violent monster, or so we're led to believe.

Dealing with "two of the great mysteries of creation: life and death," Frankenstein straddles the line between science and religion, causing underlying anxieties to surface within the many God-fearing people of the 1930s. Dr. Frankenstein discovers just how far modern medicine can go. With the power of science in his hands, he has the ability to play God; he can create life just as easily as he can destroy it. In a time when church organizations sought to heavily censor the film industry, Frankenstein was a damned fine example of rebellion.

God said I could push the button this time!
While many of my horror pals have spent years of their lives in lecture halls and film studios studying filmmaking, film theory, and special effects, those areas of study were always secondary for me. I used every college elective that I had to learn about cinematic arts and I still use a large portion of my spare time to bury my nose in books about movie culture, but in my good old days, I was a student of psychology. Still a fairly new type of scientific practice in the early 1900s, Frankenstein is a brilliant reflection of the psychological concerns of its time that are taught in every psychology classroom today.

Unlike most of the classic Universal monsters, calling Frankenstein's monster a monster is actually debatable, as it opens a broad discussion about the line between nature and nurture. Although the very thing that gives the invention life is the brain of a hardened delinquent, the being's behavior resembles that of a young, oblivious child upon his awakening. It could easily be said that Frankenstein's invention was doomed from the start due to the unfortunate brain chemistry installed in it, but the human-like creature doesn't display any sign of brutality until provoked. Wouldn't anyone react furiously if whipped and threatened to be set on fire? 

"You jump, I jump... Remember?"
Sure, it could also be argued that the so-called monster's treatment of little Maria went unprovoked, but there is a reason that psychology departments everywhere cling to the phrase "learned behavior." By the time the innocent child exposes Frankenstein's monster to kindness, it is too late.


Jennica's Rating: 5 Electric Shocks out of 5

Universal's Frankenstein was one of the earliest horror films to push the envelope with religious controversy and display a three-dimensional monster, one that has the sympathy of its viewers. But what has become of Frankenstein's monster as the story continues to be told through the years? The science behind Dr. Frankenstein's creation is no longer frightening because it too closely resembles present-day reality in the medical field. And, sadly, many remakes and re-imaging's seem to miss the point that Frankenstein's monster is more than an evil servant to his creator. 

Frankenstein is one of the few horror movies that is perfect for every generation. Whether you first saw the film in a movie theater in 1931 or you have children or grandchildren who have yet to be introduced to the horror genre, this classic monster movie is always worth watching and re-watching. Frankenstein is currently available on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.