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They Might Be Giants … Movie Review

frankenstein original horror eventually

The original Frankenstein (1931), though it runs for only seventy-one minutes, can lay claim to attaining a mythic stature in its Faustian scientist who hungers to create life. Original prints deleted the line Colin Clive deliriously and blasphemously babbles after the creature first moves, “Now I know what it feels like to be God!” James Whale also directed the first sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935); the epic dimension in Son of Frankenstein (1939) largely comes from the spectacular, medieval sets by James Otterson. In one scene Wolf Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) and his family sit at dinner in a spacious hall under two spires capped with gargoyles that extend out over their table, a sinister and effective way of foreshadowing the dark doings still to come. Universal eventually started putting multiple monsters in their 1940s horror films, but not much else in these later films can claim distinction. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) takes a while to gets its action going, and House of Frankenstein, in spite of a title that promises something resembling an ancient Greek curse, is a disappointment. The sense of parody that eventually sets in when a genre has already peaked may be found in the enjoyable mixture of comedy and horror in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

The increasing emphasis on special effects that has marked so many movie genres since Star Wars has revealed itself in monster epics mostly through more gore. John Carpenter's 1982 remake of Howard Hawks' 1951 science-fiction thriller The Thing rejects the subtleties of the original in favor of a series of truly frightening set pieces in which the members of an Antarctic crew try to determine how many of their number have been possessed by the chameleon-like alien. A movement to get away from cinematic traditions of horror and return to literary source material may be seen in both Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994). The first, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is a much stronger film with a number of indelible images. Godzilla, the marketing blockbuster of the summer of 1998 with a reported budget of $120 million, organizes itself into a series of set pieces that eventually includes the need to kill off his/her babies.

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