Hello Geeks and Ghouls, Famous Monster here. Well, it’s finally October and you know what that means? Breast Cancer Awareness 5Ks? Good guess. Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Delicious, but no. Halloween? YES. Horror movies? DOUBLE YES!
Welcome to 31 Days of Horror, where I’ll cover two noteworthy horror films a day for the entirety of the month. That’s 31 Days of Horror and 62 Films perfect for watching on a cold, dark October night. Be sure to visit Geeks of Doom every day this month for a double-shot of chills and thrills!
Today’s monstrous double feature includes James Whale‘s 1931 film, Frankenstein, and Tim Burton‘s latest film, Frankenweenie, now in theaters!
Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive), a fervent young scientist, and his devoted assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye), a hunchback, piece together a human body with raw materials collected from grave robbing and breaking into mortuaries. Dr. Frankenstein’s consuming desire is to create human life, to become a God in his own right, through various electrical devices which he has perfected.
The good doctor hoists the dead, home-sewn creature on an operating table, high into the air, toward an opening at the top of the laboratory. With a crash of thunder and a strike of lightning, Frankenstein’s machines roar with power and spark life within the corpse, causing its fingers to move. Frankenstein’s monster (Boris Karloff) is alive, and it’s on the loose.
That Creepy Scene:
The Monster’s encounter with Maria (Marilyn Harris) is by far my favorite moment of Whale’s film. The small girl takes Karloff’s monster by the hand and leads him to edge of the lake. With child-like innocence, Frankenstein’s Monster joins in Maria’s game of tossing flowers into the water. “You have those, and I’ll have these. I can make a boat.” One by one, they throw flowers onto the surface of the lake, watching the petals float.
“See how mine float?” The Monster delights in this game with his new-found friend, but when the Monster’s flower blossoms are gone, he stares for a moment at his empty hands, and then innocently and ignorantly picks up the little girl. Maria screams as The Monster throws her in the water – expecting that she, too, will float like the flower petals. Maria flails and splashes about, sinking and drowning to the confusion and remorse of The Monster.
Still regarded as the definitive film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic tale of tragedy, Frankenstein made the unknown Boris Karloff a screen legend and created an iconic visage of horror. Along with the highly successful Dracula, released earlier that same year, it catapulted Universal Studio’s golden age of horror films and spawned countless sequels and spinoffs.
Frankenstein‘s greatness stems less from its barebones script than the stark, moody atmosphere created by director James Whale and cinematographer Arthur Edeson. Also memorable are Herman Rosse‘s set designs, inspired by German Expressionism, and Dr. Frankenstein’s whiz-bang laboratory equipment created by Kenneth Strickfaden.
Of course nothing is more memorable than the trademark look of Frankenstein’s Monster. Legendary makeup artist Jack Pierce slathered pounds of makeup on Karloff and had the actor wear heavy, asphalt shoes to create The Monster’s lurching gate. Of course, Karloff’s nuanced performance as the tormented, misunderstood monster is both horrifying and endearing – a lasting imprint on not just Shelley’s Frankenstein but the entire horror genre. Frankenstein remains the most Famous Monster of them all…
Make It A Double:
From director Tim Burton (Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands) comes Frankenweenie, an eerie, albeit heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog.
Based off Burton’s own 1984 live-action short film (which starred Daniel Stern and Shelley Duvall), Frankenweenie is a gothic, black-and-white love letter to Universal Studio’s classic horror pictures, including James Whale‘s 1931 film, Frankenstein.
After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) harnesses the blasphemous power of science to bring his best friend back to life. A few bolts of lightning later, Sparky’s his old self again – with a few modifications, of course. Sparky’s a patchwork of skin and stitches now, complete with those iconic Boris Karloff bolts in his neck.
Victor tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets loose, Victor’s fellow students attempt to unlock the secrets of Sparky’s reanimation and use the same technology for their science projects. Victor’s classmates head over to the town’s pet cemetery and start digging up test subjects for their mischievous experiments. Soon the peaceful town of New Holland is under attack by twisted perversions of science, causing the townspeople to pick up their torches and pitchforks and drive the monsters away.