Forgotten Frights is back! To celebrate the second anniversary of our annual horror movie roundup, every weekday for the next month we’re going to sound off on a scary good sequel (or, if we want some cheese with our corn syrup, a schlocky second), ruminating on the returns of our favourite monsters, murderers, heroes (or heroines), creepies, crawlies, chills and thrills.
What came before it: 1931’s Frankenstein, based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 classic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. The story follows mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein (strangely renamed Henry from the novel’s Victor) as he attempts to create life from lifeless body parts and the brain of a murderous criminal.
What remains: This story picks up right where the first left off, though not without a clever introduction from actors in the roles of Mary Shelley, her husband Percy and Lord Byron, in a setting much like what inspired the real-life Shelley to write Frankenstein. In this opening scene, Shelley tells Lord Byron that her story of Frankenstein wasn’t finished the first time around (flashing back to scenes from the first movie), and continues with the monster’s quest for a mate. Most of the original cast returns (at least those who matter), as does the director (though he almost didn’t).
Why you should give it a second (or third, or fourth) chance:
- A much better film than the first, a real rarity for a sequel.
- An immensely detailed and seemingly authentic sets.
- A more complex and well-rounded cast than the first. An array of characters small to significant are played by a very talented and entertaining cast.
- Boris Karloff credited as just Karloff, because he’s just that good.
- A well-placed, dramatic score that swells, fades and falls off just when it needs to.
- A better-than-expected interpretation of the monster, even moreso than the first. When I read the book, I was afraid that the movies might have played up his treacherousness too much, when actually he’s supposed to be a character we feel empathetic toward. However, this film truly maintains the integrity of Shelley’s characters. We really feel for the monster. He’s just like anyone else under his hideousness, and like us, he just wants someone to love and to be loved by.
- Some clever references to the first film, like the monster telling Dr. Frankenstein to “sit down” with the exact same motions.
- Brilliant special effects that aren’t even too shabby by today’s standards.
- A movie that’s still really entertaining 77 years after its release.