Monsters

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

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

By many considered as the best version of Stevenson’s classic book, this 1931 film resulted in an Oscar win for actor Fredric March. Beautifully filmed by Rouben Mamoulian and well acted across the board. It also features some stunning visual tricks and strong pre-Code sexual content. 8/10

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

The Mysterious Island

Borrowing the name of Jules Verne’s bestseller, this problem-ridden 1926-1929 production features good acting, some remarkable special effects and a solid-ish script, but alas, the schizophrenic semi-talkie-semi-silent film is just as equally horrible in many ways, with toy submarines and crocodiles substituting for dinos. (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)

The Lost World

The original dinosaur blockbuster was released in 1925 by First National Pictures. With stop-motion animation by legendary Willis O’Brien and cinematography by multiple Oscar nominee Arthur Edeson, the film is a beauty to behold, even if the plot and pacing suffers from director Harry Hoyt’s determination to get as much dino action into the picture as possible. (8/10)

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

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (8/10) 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 […]

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 […]

The Conquest of the Pole

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (6/10) Georges Méliès’ last science fiction film, released in 1912, was a magnificent swansong for an era of filmmaking. Perhaps his most accomplished film technically, but the polar adventure […]