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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

FRANKENSTEIN


STATS
Frankenstein
1910
By Thomas Edison
Directed by J. Searle Dowley

SIGNIFICANCE:
This film is the beginning of horror movies. (And science fiction movies, arguably.) This ten-minute wonder is the first shaky footstep into modern genre filmmaking. Without this, we wouldn’t have E.T. or Hostel, Halloween or Spider-man.

PLOT:
Man creates a monster. Man flees because Monster is a total creeper. Man goes back to Wife and doesn’t talk about the months he spent playing with skeletons and stuff. Monster comes and freaks out Man and Wife. Monster disappears into a mirror. (What?)

This film is extremely short, but it’s also exhilarating, if for no other reason than the fact that you’re watching the birth of movies.

And the crazy-ripe sex appeal, of course.

That said, like any birth, this one isn’t always pretty.

Watch out. It’ll kill you with its big, floppy flipper hands.

The film attempts to melt the Frankenstein story into ten minutes of wild gestures and fainting.

Seriously. This scientist guy needs to take
some iron tablets or something.

Because of this, the novel’s questions about humanity and good vs. evil get seriously muddled. The title cards say that Frankenstein created a monster because of the evil in his heart, but we don’t really see him as evil.

He DOES hang out with a skeleton. They DO bond a lot.

And if he were evil, wouldn’t that make for a crappy ending for his new wife? Even worse, the monster himself isn’t exactly depicted as evil, just ugly and gesture-y.

Perhaps most frustrating, though, is the ending. Sure, it uses a nifty camera trick to make the monster disappear into a mirror.

Now you see him.

Now you don’t.

But what does that even mean? This is like an art film before art films existed. Sure, it’s one of the ten most important movies of all time, but… I just didn’t get it. Is that embarrassing?

OK. IS IT GAY?
The Frankenstein story is Gothic and wonderful (and way overwritten). It’s also a continually challenging story, which means that Frankenstein movies are often good and always interesting.

Like this one. Expect me to write a book on this guy.

Due to the nature of the story (outcasts and tragedy and love), Frankenstein movies tend to have an innate appeal to gay viewers. Bride of Frankenstein is pretty much the Holy Grail of gay-interest horror movies, as evidenced by Gods and Monsters… and by, well, the movie itself.

I loved this guy and his miniature people. Such a good character.

1910’s Frankenstein is much too primitive and brief to have much subtext of any kind, but it is important to start here when discussing gay horror. This isn’t exactly Andy Warhol’s Flesh for Frankenstein (What is?), but it directly resulted in so many wonderful horror stories about weirdos and outcasts.

If you have a chance, go on Youtube and check this out. It’ll be like homework, but important.


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