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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Son of Frankenstein (1939) - Rowland V. Lee

Son of Frankenstein is the inevitable return of one of the icons of horror. I couldn't tell you if anyone was seriously waiting for this one. They have filled the thing with heavyweight horror actors like Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone, Lionel Atwill, Dwight Frye and of course; Boris Karloff. This movie is so heavy on the acting side that it begins to collapse in on itself and actually takes away from other aspects of the film. It feels off...

This could have possibly been the greatest Frankenstein movie of all time; however, the plot does away with everything that the Monster learned in the previous film and pisses away all of the  character and story development that came with the original Bride of Frankenstein. The iconic look of the Monster is also severely tampered with; instead of wearing his usual dark suit as in the previous Frankenstein films he dons a fur vest and tall black boots. What? A fur vest? Who the hell does he think he is? 

The movie is about Dr. Frankenstein's son, Wolf Von Frankenstein, coming to receive his inheritance. That being his fathers estate and laboratory in the terrorized village of movies prior. It looks like Wolf Von Frankenstein is going to turn over a new leaf and clear his family's name in the village, however something clicks in his brain about 20 minuets into the movie and he decides to try and re-animate his fathers ravenous creation. Referred to earlier in the film as Wolf's half brother.

The movie has some incredible sets and the art direction is spectacular, you can really see the German Expressionist influences, and while the rest of the film is very well shot it lacks in certain areas. As I said before the character development hit a reset button with this movie and in doing so sort of lost the pace and momentum that the last two movies had built. And what makes a movie entertaining without an interesting monster and well developed characters?

The roles in the film are really kind of strange: Lionel Atwill gives a great performance as Inspector Krogh, Boris Karloff contributes a pretty mediocre one in his last portrayal of the Monster, Basil Rathbone is horrible, just horrible, and then there is Bela Lugosi who steals the show as Ygor. Ygor, the Monster's only "friend, was was hung but he somehow survived and goes through the entire movie with a wooden neck? This movie is hardly scary and I think serves as a weak follow-up to what many consider to be one of the greatest movies of all time.

It does its own thing. It could have been done a lot better or it could have just been left alone. If you want to judge for yourself go ahead and watch the Original, then Bride of Frankenstein, and then this movie. That should put everything in perspective.

Who is going to throw paint on the Monsters vest?

  • This is the first Frankenstein movie not directed by James Whale
  • Much of the film was written just before the scenes were shot
  • This is the final appearance of Karloff as the monster

J'Accuse (1938) - Abel Gance

This version of J'Accuse is actually a remake of Abel Gance's own 1919 Silent version. This movie is incredibly interesting as it is enormous for it's time. This movie is less of a horror movie and more of a war film that has horror elements. Those elements are some of the best I have seen to date and that's why I need to present this movie to you.

Abel Gance gives us a very raw and unfiltered look at the actual horrors of war. Our main character is a scientist that has been in the shit and wants it to stop. He starts his research for a machine that would stop all war, for all time. However, when the government ignores the man's research and starts to get into the great war he decides to raise the dead and torment the aggressors.

The movie is long and has subtitles. If you arn't used to watching movies like this then I would suggest looking for something else. Either that or you can check out the amazing, zombie scene below. J'Accuse! clocks in at just over two hours making it quite a long, foreign film. However, the pacing and detail in the actors lines really keeps you engaged. The film definitely uses the fear of Europe entering into World War 2 to its advantage. If I grew up in the thirties, this movie would have been a nail biter. 

The film is depressing and eye opening at the same time. Gance explores the dark parts of a mans soul after he has seen what cannot be unseen. The obvious political overtones are enough to choke on but serve as a very important piece of the puzzle. The director masterfully makes this movie equally clean as it is impressive. The use of stock war footage is great. His use of actual war victims and survivors makes this one of the most interesting features I've reviewed. 

The fear in this movie comes on in a very realistic type fashion. This movie deals with very real, everyday horrors and mixes that with things like raising the dead. There is one scene particular scene that shows the passion this scientist has in stopping war. He slips into a post-traumatic stress induced rant that is simply terrifying! Victor Francen was fantastic in this. He really fits the part. 

This film is fantastic. Powerful, important, and terrifying. It has that two hour run-time but it also has so many great scenes that stand out. If you are a film student than this movie is a must watch. It is that important. Not many horror films were made or released in the late thirties. This one is a gem in the rough. It works on so many levels. I definitely recommend.

  • Excuse My French: The word "merde" is repeated in a scene. This translates to "shit." 
  • Recycled but Relevant: This movie is a remake of Abel Gances own 1919 silent film.