Book Review: Frankenstein
Instructor: Brian T. Crumley
15 February 2015
In this modern era, it is very easy to get lost in the recent advances in motion picture special effects. The introductions of computer graphic imagery and green screens helped movie studios globally to create exciting and eye appealing productions. In prior years, a movie encouraged more writers to focusing on complex characters, dynamic and tightly woven story plots. The 1931 Frankenstein movie was a masterpiece that introduced a great piece of Gothic literature, as it used state of the art effects of the time to weave a thought-provoking story around good theatrical actors. The result produced one of Universal Pictures first successes, as the studio adapted Peggy Webbing’s 1927 theatrical adaptation of Mary Shelly’s original novel. Universal Pictures weaved pieces of old myths and literature into a more digestible presentation and introduced it to a wider audience. The Frankenstein production was a dramatic horror in the tradition of Gothic Literature of the previous 100 years, which combined a frightening atmosphere with a sensual or romantic story line among the drama. According to the New Claxton Encyclopedia, gothic literature of the time came from intellectual cynicism against the “Enlightenment” era, from approximately 1700 to1800. Many intellectuals believed that the over-exuberance of rationalization and scientific reasoning, at the extreme would lead to the depersonalization and dehumanization of the human race. This counter-ideal caused many writers to pen expressions valuing the intangible experiences of human life, in areas of passions being unrestrained, social and internal isolation, and exotic or remote locations. The movie contains the same overtones of the theatrical play and novel, stating the questions of how far would “Enlightenment” take the human society and the consequences. Evil and good are very attractive in their own way, as each shines with the notion that the light will set us free, but caution should counsel each step. Doctor Henry Frankenstein’s scientific evil illustrates how “Enlightenment’s” optimism can take society too far. Henry disregards many social taboos; as Henry ‘grave robs” to build the creature, he deceitfully hides his scientific intentions, and he intentionally places others in jeopardy. Every action taken creates an equal reaction. For example, Henry is first excited about his creation, but after realizing the mistake of clumsiness by his assistant Fritz, he objectifies the Creature, thus denying the creature a name and an identity, in addition to the creature awaking from anesthesia as his dissection began. Almost anyone would commit murder and flee under those circumstances. During the following scenes, we see that the Creature is not morally corrupt, but possesses a slow abnormal brain, that learns by trial and error effectively. In many ways, the morality of the creature appears to be superior to the characters around him. The creature does briefly learn the foundations of speech and friendship with the blind man, tragically learns how to play with Mary at the lake, and not to trust Henry or villagers carrying pitchforks. The plight of Henry and his creation intertwines to mirror the human condition, as layered sets of tragic situations. The movie’s conflict swings from one extreme of the to the next, in the movie. The Creature and Henry are cursed wanderers as each try to find acceptance and deal with failure in the world, as all human beings. Henry tries to gain acceptance through his creation, as he wants the adoration of being the man who pushes back the darkness of death, while his creation just wants the adoration that comes from the warmth of a community. The badly conceived idea of the Creature’s creation and objectification gave rise to a natural desire to preserve itself. In...
Cited: American Film Institute. 100 Best Films of the 20th Century. 10 July 2007. 6 October 2012
Frankenstein. Dir. James Whale. Universal Pictures. 1931.2007.DVD
New King James Version Bible. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1982.
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. London: S. Simmons, 1674.
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