2.5, United States/Canada


1931 / James Whale > Regardless of what kind of classic status Whale’s Frankenstein may hold in the annals of cinema, the fact that it mostly circumvents the humanist touches of Mary Shelley’s original work keeps it from actually being a great film. So much of this hinges on the simple fact that the creature is never given a chance to grow and mature. In the novel, it’s Frankenstein’s fear that drives the creature into madness, but here it’s the doctor’s assistant making a mistake by providing an “abnormal brain” for the experiment. Therefore any sort of commentary the film tries to make becomes null. Criminal brains do criminal things, so where’s the lesson of morality and the God factor? Shelley tried to warn of taking life and death into the scientific framework whereas Whale gives us no particular basis to believe that it’s good or bad, simply that you have to make sure to pick the brain of a gentle, loving person in order to create a creature that may also be gentle and loving. When the viewer already expects the worst, then the compassion for the creature is lost, and in the process, so is the wonder and warning within the story.