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Thom

Speaking of Faust, check out this production still from Murnau's fittingly gloomy 1926 film version starring Emil Janning's as cruel, smirking Mephistopheles over at Filmscreed.

Brian

Great piece. I haven't seen the original film in quite a while but the Monster has long been my personal favorite of the classic Universal Horror creations.

Is it time to update the name of this blog to "Films of the Year"?

Thom

Thanks, Brian. I hadn't seen it in a long time either (though I read the novel earlier this year) and found so many things I never noticed before. Such as the way the sound of myriad electrical devices in Henry's lab, all arcing and sparking, and the thunderstorm give the creation scene it's impact; Frankenstein uses a radio device to "listen" for an appropriately violent lightning storm to jump-start the creature; long menacing shadows stretch up the castle interior walls in torchlight; the train on Elizabeth's wedding dress reaches all the way across the screen to serve as a leading line followed by the monster when he sneaks up behind her; XCU shots of the bottled brains reveal ABNORMAL written in large grease pencil letters (even though the lettering is typed in the previous medium shot) so we don't miss that fact; Frye's Fritz (rivalling his madcap performance of Renfield in Dracula) says "here he comes!" when he and Henry pull a coffin out of a grave in the moonlight and Henry replies "he's only resting"... good creepy stuff.

Films of the year. That's a nice compliment. That's an idea I've considered ever since I watched all eighty-plus Lumiere films after the first post. It can be frustrating at times but I think I like confining myself to writing about just one per. hmm...I'll keep it in mind. I'm experimenting with multiple posts for this year, 1931, simply for the fun of doing something different.

goatdog

It's odd that you say there's no score, because I could have sworn there was some music, at least over the opening credits. IMDB says there's uncredited music by Bernhard Kaun, information that TCMDB says comes from "modern sources," whatever that means.

Thom

Sorry about the oversight. I was referring to a lack of music underlying the feature itself. I do recall music playing under the credits (which are gruesomely presented over a swirling collage of eyes), and a second bit of music at the very end when they recall the cast credits. Maybe I was too engrossed in the nightmare images but I don't remember music under the picture itself.

goatdog

That makes sense. I don't know the technology behind it, but I think at that point they still couldn't do more than one sound track at a time, which would be required if they wanted music underlying the dialog. Does that sound right? My books, my books; I miss them.

Thom

I think you're on the mark, Mike. According to Thompson and Bordwell's Film History: An Introduction, multitrack recording wasn't developed until late 1932. Multitrack recording would make mixing sync'd dialog, sound effects, and music to mono much easier. But, since in Frankenstein background music wouldn't necessarily have to be closely sync'd (no one is singing, etc) I don't see why music couldn't be recorded separately, timed to the picture, and then both music and dialog, from two different sources, mixed to a finished print. To get to the bottom of it we need a good source text for pre-multitrack motion picture sound tecniques and/or an interview with the sound team on Frank, I think.

Pierre Fournier

Excellent post, Thom. Very perceptive comments about the soundscape of the film. Made me realize that, though the film has no music, that you never miss it.

Regarding James Whale, it has been reported that he screened Wegener’s Golem and Rex Ingram’s The Magician for inspiration. There are certainly recognizable elements from both of those in Frankenstein.

About your conclusion, you’re right, this Frankenstein doesn’t scare anyone anymore. But its magic is intact.

Thom

Pierre - Thank you for the feedback. I've never seen Ingram's film, so thanks for mentioning it. This film, and the original novel, do indeed retain their magic. The basic questions they raise about humans seeking to answer enduring questions through science are still valid. I look forward to exploring more about this topic at your Frankenstein blog.

Levent Mollamustafaoglu

My blog post on Mary Shelley's frankenstein is at

http://leventskaleidoscope.blogspot.com/2006/03/whos-afraid-of-frankensteins-monster_04.html

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