Frankenstein, 1931 – ★★★½

It is unacceptable, I know, that it took me until 41 to watch this classic, but here we are.

Colin Clive is superb, manic, a little wild, just the right side of campy. He is the perfect actor for the film this actually is. Most of the rest of the cast (with two exceptions) are bland melodrama actors delivering bland melodrama performances. Karloff is also excellent, imbuing a surprising amount of “performance” to staggering and occasionally growling. The real standout in my mind, though, is the delightful performance by Frederick Kerr as Baron Frankenstein. This is clearly an actor who believes that his scripted dialog is only the skeleton on which he hangs the meat of a broad, and fun performance that, try as it might, never becomes silly. I’d never seen this actor before, but in a few short scenes he calls to mind the brilliance of Claude Raines and Sydney Greenstreet in Casablanca. There, unfortunately is where the film loses me. Taking bizarre leaps from the text, and condensing its story to nearly incomprehensible lengths, with an ending that is so sudden one might think a reel was missing. It’s easy to see this as a trailblazer, but hard to see as the brilliant piece of cinema it’s long been considered.

Oh, and why the hell is he named Henry?

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