The Films of James Whale
Frankenstein (November 3/12)
Based on Mary Shelley's classic tale, Frankenstein follows Colin Clive's Henry Frankenstein as he assembles a living being from parts of exhumed corpses and subsequently brings it to life - with the slight narrative detailing the fallout of this impressive feat. There's little doubt that Frankenstein, despite the inherently engrossing nature of its subject matter, suffers from an almost excessively deliberate pace that initially holds the viewer at arms length, and it's clear that the film doesn't legitimately begin to enthrall until that aforementioned resurrection sequence rolls around - as filmmaker James Whale has infused this stretch with a visceral, palpably engrossing feel that's heightened by Clive's compelling (and unapologetically over-the-top) turn as the title protagonist. The movie's most potent weapon, however, is Boris Karloff; cast as the now-infamous monster, Karloff's spellbinding performance ensures that his nameless character becomes an unexpectedly sympathetic figure that the viewer can't help but root for. And although Garrett Fort and Francis Edward Faragoh's screenplay contains a heaping handful of superfluous elements - eg everything involving Frankenstein's crotchety old father - Frankenstein's growing emphasis on Karloff's monster paves the way for a climactic stretch that's far more compelling and affecting than one might've anticipated. The end result is a watchable yet consistently uneven horror flick that feels long even at 70 minutes, and it goes without saying that the film isn't quite able to live up to its place as a classic monster movie.