Friday, May 26, 2017

Franchise Run-Through - Universal’s Frankenstein Series

So, we're back for another effort, and this time we're going to talk about one of the classic series in the genre which is one of the most iconic and influential series in the entire genre. Today, we're going to talk about the Universal series of Frankenstein films.

Now, usually I go through an extended setup regarding the history of the chosen franchise and its impact, but rather I'll skip that instead for several reasons. One, I have bigger and better plans in the future regarding this series as well as many other adaptations to turn that into one huge article about the novels' adaptations over the years which is of more pressing concern for retelling a lot of the history and influence. As well, there's also the fact that this one manages to have such a complex and twisting backstory throughout it's production and release that detailing all of it in this blog would render it twice the length that I would like to keep it to for these kinds of articles as, lastly, I've been fighting back a cold for most of the week and researching the whole of it is a little more than I can handle for the week.

Instead, then, we're going to skip over that section and instead go for the personal history of the series. Now, this is one that I have had quite a confusing watch-history for the series as I came to Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein first when that aired as part of a celebration of their work on TV right around the time I started getting into the genre back in the late 90s. After this one, I got to the original and Bride rather quickly, but then it took me years to catch another franchise entry which actually ended up being the back-to-back efforts House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, then about a month later, Son showed up on TV. Lastly, it took me picking up the original Franchise Legacy collection set to finally get to Ghost as that, ironically, was the reasoning for buying that first DVD set. So, as you can see this is a rather odd take to get through the franchise as a whole which is why I love discussing that type of personal history.

And now, onto the films themselves.

Frankenstein

Frankly, this still one of the more important and impressive films in the genre. This one still retains its power with the legendary resurrection scene that comes off as incredibly exciting even before the creature stirs beneath the sheets which are still some of the most visually-arresting and chilling scenes in the genre. Taking plenty of advantage of the opulent Gothic sets, filled with all manner of electronic gadgets and fanciful equipment which really brings out the grand location as the second half goes into the great scenes of them attempting to control it in the laboratory which proves incredibly difficult with his violent tendencies and begins lashing out at them forcing the need to dispose of it before it escapes which is where there's plenty of fun to be had here with the creature loose in the countryside generating more solid fun. Finally, the action-packed spectacle that is the finale is one of the best in the genre with its full-scale hunting of the creature leading to the big battle at the windmill where not only is there the torch-wielding mob to contend with but also the brawling of the doctor that makes for a rather spectacular finish needed in this kind of movie. Though it gets a little slow at places with the final half with the atrocious dance number and lack of creature scenes featured, there's a lot to really like in this one. (10/10)


Bride of Frankenstein

This here was quite the exceptional sequel. Much like the original, this one exploits the concepts of life and death only to a much greater degree here. The central scene in the hermits' cottage emphasizes this quite effectively with the monster able to show compassion and friendship despite not having any need for doing so based on previous experience, and the concept of this shows this off far better than anything possible out there to attempt this and offers a great side to him that wasn't possible before hand. While this here is quite fun, the fact that there's such a plentiful amount of action here gives this a fantastic pace as there's the absolutely spectacular opening, the following chase through the woods showing the villagers forcing him through the area is really exciting as the halting chases are utterly enjoyable as he escapes several times leading to even more encounters and the film's main centerpiece sequence with the Bride at the finale. There's so much to really love with the intensity of the creature matching the original and it lifting off the table elicits the same eerie chills, and with it again playing into the life and death there's absolutely crazy finale in the castle tower which is the explosive, frenzied spectacle of the whole place coming and burying everything inside which is rather fun. Alongside the fine monster makeup for both creatures, these here are what make this one hold up incredibly well. There's only one flaw here, which is that the Bride comes into play so late in the film and doesn't really do much that it seems almost like an afterthought as there's so little screen time that it doesn't have much to do beyond its appearance. This here is what really holds it back. (10/10)


Son of Frankenstein

This here was quite the fun if overlong effort. It still holds up rather nicely with the great creature discovery and the detailed work to get him back to life as the scenes in the laboratory trying to get him repaired give this some nice scenes here. As well, once it gets the creature out this one has plenty of fun with the rampage through the castle at the end following the energetic brawl which really ends this one on a nice note. Filled to the brim with opulent Gothic atmosphere as the strange house makes for a chilling location for all the action throughout here, it does have some nice pluses here which brings this up over the fact that what really short-changes this one is the extremely long running time that slows this one considerably as the build-up to getting the creature to live again really feels way too drawn-out. Though settling the issue of what's going on and getting many of the story lines set up, the fact that it goes into overdrive with the detail of the villagers' distrust of him and their coldness towards the family as well as settling into the castle and preparing to reanimate the creature as there's quite a long time here before anything happens and altogether drags this one out far longer than it really should've been. The endless banter between everyone in the final half is a little much as well, but on the whole, it's still got some good points here. (8.25/10)


Ghost of Frankenstein

This is a surprisingly enjoyable and effective entry in the series. What really gives this one a lot to like is the fact that it's got far more action scenes than expected, really offering up a far more engaging plot than expected which is exceptionally fun. The first half has a lot of exciting scenes, and once it gets to the village scenes the return of his sympathetic side gives these some surprising pathos that holds this up quite nicely. The brain-swapping and double-crossing that carries it on through the frantic finale is another big plus and makes the film much more enjoyable as it holds it up over the flaws. Once again, we have villagers who seem fine with the family arriving and then start flipping between being outraged at their presence or ignoring them all together which is pretty inconsistent, yet it's not a huge detriment to it in any way. (9/10)


House of Frankenstein

Overall this one wasn't all that bad but did have some flaws. What this one really does well is to celebrate the big action usually required in the genre, featuring plenty of great moments here with the initial resurrection, the rampage through the woods and the high-energy finale in the castle at the end which is exceptionally fun using the atmosphere of the area to great effect. Given that there's a lot to like here with the transformation sequences features a rather startling amount of great special effects work on getting each of the monsters a big shining moment. It does have a few flaws, in that the dropping of one of the monsters halfway through is a bit of a mistake, making it seem the creature is an afterthought and turning the film into a strange conglomeration of featuring one monster for half the movie and then switching gears with the others for the remaining half. Even giving up the rather familiar turn of the off-screen kills done in silhouette which does get a little old here, this one does have some nice positives that are held down somewhat. (7.75/10)


House of Dracula

This was a rather decent effort in the series. When this one works, it's due to the rather impressive idea of having the concept of vampirism as a blood disease that can be transferred to a person rather than letting it be considered a more traditional variation of using it as a form of feeding on people. That this takes up a majority of the first half gives this a unique feel before turning over to the monster action in the second half where pretty much every one of the monsters gets a lot of screentime to really shine and moves this along at a much more frantic clip. There are several issues which do hold this back, which starts with the flimsy plot that makes no sense why the creatures are coming together and seems to just have them out for the sake of getting them on-screen. With a disappointing finale that doesn't really excite as much as possible and a lot of the special effects work looks a little flimsy that holds it back, this one is quite decent overall. (7.25/10)


Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

This is one of the greatest horror comedies ever made. What makes this so much fun is the fact that this one allows the duo plenty of familiar reign for their traditional comedy, which is wholly enjoyable here. Keeping the monsters serious and instead featuring their broad comedic chops in the initial reactions to the creatures as well as the just hilarious sight gags and wordplay that are part and parcel of their routines. Given the fact that it mixes these two themes together, from the great slapstick to startling monster action, gives this one a lot to really enjoy here makes this stand out so well here even before getting to the amazing action in the finale as the big finish at the castle gives it a strong, high-energy way to finish. About the only flaw here is to be found with those that don't prefer this kind of effort with their slapstick routines and generally fast-paced comedic timing which is possible to find but is really the only thing to do that can knock this down. (10/10)


And as usual, the ranking of the series is as follows:

1. Frankenstein (10)
2. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (10)
3. Bride of Frankenstein (10)
4. Ghost of Frankenstein (9)
5. Son of Frankenstein (8.25)
6. House of Frankenstein (7.75)
7. House of Dracula (7.25)

And with that, we're done. Hopefully, I'll do a little more as I'll be back to full health by then. Thanks for reading, and see you all next time.