Directed by: J. Searle Dawley
Starring: Augustus Phillips, Mary Fuller & Charles Ogle
Reviewed by: Brett H.
Lost films have a strange place in the world of cinema. While there may be no surviving prints of a certain picture, it isn’t like there aren’t a million movies out in the woodworks just waiting to be picked up and watched. And, if one hasn’t seen a film, is it not lost to the individual? Yet, there is that allure to experience a film few have, especially one as monumental as J. Searle Dawley’s screen adaptation of Frankenstein, the first of dozens based on the classic novel, made over 100 years ago and only recently made available for all to see.
The 12-minute story is simple and to the point, Frankenstein (Augustus Phillips) leaves his home and the love of his life to study science and while at school, he discovers the secrets of life. After writing a heartfelt letter to his fair maiden (Mary Fuller), he pours chemicals into a large vat and shuts the door, creating life he hopes to be amongst the best people every created. Instead, the evils of his mind and act against God create a hideous, jealous monster (Charles Ogle), that holds a kindred love to his creator that isn’t mutual. Frankenstein is an interesting find in the world of cinema, but doesn’t have the running time to build up a real story like Nosferatu and Faust would perfect in the third decade of the 20th century. Very different in nearly ever facet compared to the ’31 James Whale version, Dawley’s entry in the saga earns its place.
One of two of the most intriguing scenes of the film is obviously the creation of the monster, which is brought to life from the skeleton to the flesh via chemical reactions. The look of the monster is very good and oftentimes creepy, with a forehead big enough to screen the film itself, Orlok-like fingers, a lion’s scrappy mane and elongated feet. The monster is terrified of his disgusting reflection, and is infatuated with the Doctor’s fiancée. When once again he becomes face to face with himself in the mirror, he vanishes, but the deformed visage remains. When Frankenstein enters the room, he sees the monster as his own reflection and eventually overcomes his demons, in a great scene that is sure to stay with viewers for a long time. It is rare in horror films for one scene to be especially memorable, and here we are treated to two in the amount of time you can almost count on two hands. A very good, but not great little picture with an engrossing soundtrack; Frankenstein is a Buy it!
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