Man-made monsters

The Invisible Man

The most distinctly science fictional of Universal’s classic horror franchise, this 1933 movie directed by James Whale took the world by storm thanks to the terrific acting of Claude Rains, astounding special effects and a witty script laced with dark comedy. By many considered the best H.G. Wells adaptation ever made. 8/10.

Island of Lost Souls

Paramount’s 1932 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novella The Island of Dr. Moreau is the best of all the legendary 1930s sci-fi/horror movies. The daring script touches upon highly controversial subjects, Karl Struss’ fantastic cinematography and lighting create a feverish tropical nightmare, Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi are mesmerising in their roles and Charles Gemora’s makeup is some of the best ever created. 10/10

Doctor X

This early colour film (1932), impeccably directed by Casablanca-maker Michael Curtiz, is a stylish and atmospheric old dark house thriller with a gruesome sci-fi twist. Unfortunately it’s also an attempt at Groucho Marx-style comedy with a Lee Tracy in the lead as a wise-cracking reporter, whose comedy repertoire isn’t up to the task. Fay Wray and Lionel Atwill shine, and the whole thing has the delicious look and feel of a faded pulp magazine. 7/10

Frankenstein

Frankenstein (1931) is a masterpiece of camera, light and sound, which proved that sound films didn’t have to be static and clunky. By placing humanity at the film’s core and teasing superb performances out of Boris Karloff and Colin Clive, director James Whale saves it from a creaky script. A seminal piece for SF, horror and films in general. 9/10

Alraune

The fourth film about the most prolific female mainstream movie monster of all time — Alraune — was the first one in sound. Movie star Brigitte Helm reprised her role as the artificially created man-eater in this German 1930 production. Director Richard Oswald tried to modernise the tale, but the result is a surprisingly uninspired potboiler. 4/10

Alraune

A misogynist but still fairly entertaining sci-fi/fantasy film from Germany about a soulless woman artificially produced from the semen of a hanged murderer and the womb of a prostitute. Worth watching for the ever alluring Brigitte Helm in the lead. (5/10)

Metropolis

The plot may be meandering and the political message naive, but the thematic and visual influence of Austrian director Fritz Lang’s exciting 1927 masterpiece Metropolis is rivalled by few in science fiction and in film in general. A great, entertaining, sprawling epic in a future tower of Babylon. (10/10)

L’uomo meccanico

NO RATING: PARTIALLY LOST FILM Partially lost Italian silent sci-fi action comedy from 1921, notable for being the first feature film to revolve around a robot. Comedy superstar André Deed […]

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

In a career-defining role as Jekyll/Hyde screen legend John Barrymore elevates this 1920 adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel from a run-of-the-mill potboiler to a minor masterpiece. Barrymore’s amazing physical […]

The Master Mystery

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (4/10) In a nutshell: This 1919 serial starring Harry Houdini is fast-paced, action-packed and well filmed, and features the first robot in a lengthy American feature. A thin, repetitive […]

Homunculus

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (8/10) A huge success upon its release, this German 1916 6-part epic film series follows the exploits of the soulless supervillain Homunculus, a creature created by science, as he […]

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (4/10) The earliest surviving adaptation of R.L. Stevenson’s novella was produced by American independent Thanhouser in 1912. The 12 minute short has some fair acting and decent production, but […]