AWESOME-tober-fest 2009: Watching a bunch of Frankenstein movies

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So, I watched the Edison Frankenstein and the first three Universal Frankenstein movies with Boris Karloff. What next? I decided to check out some other Frankenstein movies that aren’t the classic Universal monster movies. For instance, Hammer Films made like 7 Frankenstein movies. Andy Warhol made a near pornographic one and even Roger Corman took a shot at a Frankenstein movie.

There are literally dozens of Frankenstein movies to choose from.  I chose three.  I was really close to picking the Andy Warhol one because I heard it’s really weird, but I instead opted for three fairly mainstream choices.  One a direct adaptation of the novel, one a classic horror film and, to change things up a bit, a parody version of Frankenstein.

Let’s see how I did.

Gods and Monsters
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) — Directed by Kenneth Branagh, this movie takes its story solely from Shelley’s original novel. It is very faithful to the book, however, there are some changes Branagh made, one of which was to add a mentor character for Victor. The movie is packed with stars including Branagh, Helena Bonham-Carter, Ian Holm, John Cleese (playing the aforementioned mentor) and Robert DeNiro playing the titular creature. However, despite the pedigree, and the faithfulness to the book, the movie was a tad boring. Except for the creation sequence, I had trouble staying focused on the action. Also, I had trouble accepting Bonham-Carter as Elizabeth as I imagined her character differently while reading the book and DeNiro was somewhat wasted as the creature. The movie wasn’t bad, it just didn’t come together for me as a whole. So, I say check it out if you are interested, but don’t expect too much.  I guess I was also disappointed because I thought a straight adaptation of Shelley’s novel would somehow be better.  I guess not.

Curse of Frankenstein
Curse of Frankenstein (1957) – Hammer Films’ classic monster movie starring Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as The Monster.  It was originally to star Boris Karloff but Universal threatened a lawsuit if any element came near their Frankenstein movie so Hammer rewrote the script and changed up the makeup for the Creature.  Also, this was the first Frankenstein movie to be filmed in color.  It would launch Hammer Films as a horror powerhouse and garner six sequels.  It would also launch Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing into the just as popular Hammer Dracula series. The story in this doesn’t follow the novel, it actually is a variation on the Universal movie, almost a remake or reboot of the Universal movie. And thinking of it that way, it really works.
I see why so many people like these Hammer Horror films. They are good. The atmosphere is creepy and the horror is actually horrific, despite the effects being less than top shelf. Peter Cushing is great as the obsessed Dr Victor Frankenstein. He really brings across Victor’s obsession with creating life. Christopher Lee brings something different to the monster. Different, but just as good. I really enjoyed the pacing of the plot and the acting in this movie. I would definitely watch the next few Hammer Frankenstein movies as well as start the Hammer Dracula series.

Young Frankenstein
Young Frankenstein (1974) — This Mel Brooks comedy was not only a parody of horror films, but, more specifically, a parody of the first three Universal Frankenstein movies (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein). For me, this movie is Mel Brooks’ funniest movie and I’m including Blazing Saddles in that statement (Blazing Saddles is overrated, however Wilder and Kahn are brilliant in it). After watching the original Universal Frankenstein movies I am now, for the first time, completely on the same level with everything Brooks was trying to do.  Before, I just thought the movie was generally hilarious, but now I see what a clever parody of the Univeral movies it really is.  Gene Wilder’s character is a shadow of Basil Rathbone’s Wolf von Frankenstein in Son of Frankenstein.  Cloris Leachman’s character is a parody of the super screamer Minnie the housekeeper in Bride of Frankenstein.  There is even a 1 armed police inspector in Son of Frankenstein that is parodied to the hilt by Kenneth Mars in Brooks’ movie.  It’s utterly amazing how brilliant this movie is.  If it’s possible, I love it even more now that I’m “in” on the joke.
Like I said Gene Wilder kills in this movie, as does Madeline Khan, Terri Garr and Peter Boyle. The aforementioned Kenneth Mars is brilliant as the one-armed Inspector Kemp.  Many of the sets for this movie were from the Universal Frankenstein movies, especially the lab set. How cool is that? I can’t recommend this movie enough. It was even made into a Broadway play.


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