This is one of my favourite categories when I write these end of year reviews. I love falling in love with an old film that I have never seen before or re-discovering just how great a film I had previously seen really is. Past “winners” in this category have been Sergio Leone’s stunning “Once Upon A Time In The West” and Alain Resnais’ mesmerizing “Last Year At Marienbad”. This year the film that I am giving my “cinematic re-discovery” award to is for one that I had seen numerous times before and have always liked, but it wasn’t until my viewing this year that I truly realized just how brilliant a film it really was. The film in question is none other than James Whale’s 1931 masterpiece “Frankenstein” and it had the privilege of being the only film that I gave a perfect five stars to in 2012.
Contrary to popular critical opinion, I have always enjoyed the original “Frankenstein” more than its sequel “Bride Of Frankenstein” but it wasn’t until this year while reviewing all of the Universal Monsters films that I realized just how beautiful, touching and yes, perfect it really was. I just love the tone to the whole film; it is such a sad movie, with the monster being a tragic character. Rather than being scared of him, you just feel for the poor monster, whose life through no fault of his own is just so sad. He is beaten, tortured and abused, and when he fights back, he is then hunted and killed. Thanks to Boris Karloff’s brilliant performance as the monster, you can actually see that he is terrified of the mobs of people trying to inflict his death. The one moment of happiness, when he plays with the little girl by the river, is one of the most beautiful that has ever appeared in a horror film, and when the monster than accidently causes the death of the young girl, it is just heartbreaking. Again Karloff is sublime in these scenes.
The film just oozes in its gothic atmosphere and visually it is something to behold. Jack Pierce’s legendary make-up for the monster has never looked better than in this film which no doubt led to it becoming the iconic make-up for this iconic character. “Frankenstein” (along with its sequel) was also the final film that I saw theatrically in 2012, and seeing the film on the big screen for the first time was also something to behold. Click here to read my original review.