Tuesday, October 11, 2011

THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (Jimmy Sangster, 1970, UK)

Victor plays with divine fire but instead of giving it to mortals, hordes this messianic power to sate his voracious intellectual appetite, sacrificing morality for immortality. Director Jimmy Sangster stitches together droll comedy and horror tropes, revealing the origin of the failed protagonist from the four humours of bathos.

The horror of Victor Frankenstein resides not in the beast born of stitch and staple, but in the cold dark pit that substitutes for empathy, a carnivorous void that consumes knowledge for the sake of self. The story begins with Viktor idly dissecting the female anatomy as he sits through a boring lecture, lost in electric dreams. He challenges his professors and decides to leave school to focus upon his masters thesis: to create mankind by his own hand. After murdering his father, he inherits title and estate, as well as a buxom maid to fulfill his dietary needs and continues with his experiments.

Ralph Bates plays Frankenstein with a cold self assurance tinged with a wry humor, spitting aspersions and venom with a grin and firm handshake. It’s a wonderful performance because Victor’s actions are despicable, yet somehow he remains marginally sympathetic. He is adored by Elizabeth, the beautiful daughter of part number 25, and in her time of need subjugates her into physical and emotional bondage. Truly a cad! Once he finishes his pet project, the stumbling monster (played by David Prowse) initiates murder and mayhem which Viktor uses to his own advantage. The plastic and putty makeup is awful, with Prowse display the emotional range of a vole, neither imbuing the creature with sympathy or malevolence: it makes one yearn for the days of the sad eyed Christopher Lee as the tortured servant of a demented mind.

Sangster’s film is rarely laugh out loud funny but is laced with black humor: a horror noir. Frankenstein makes his monster in his own selfish image: a patchwork forgery.


Final Grade: (C)

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