Dr. Henry Frankenstein attempts to create life by assembling a creature from body parts of the deceased. Aided by his loyal misshapen assistant, Fritz, Frankenstein succeeds in animating his monster, but, confused and traumatized, it escapes into the countryside and begins to wreak havoc. Frankenstein searches for the elusive being and eventually must confront his tormented creation.
- Dr. Henry Frankenstein: Colin Clive
- Elizabeth: Mae Clarke
- Victor Moritz: John Boles
- The Monster: Boris Karloff
- Dr. Waldman: Edward Van Sloan
- Baron Frankenstein: Frederick Kerr
- Fritz: Dwight Frye
- Herr Vogel, the Burgomaster: Lionel Belmore
- Maria: Marilyn Harris
- Villager (uncredited): Ted Billings
- Screaming Maid (uncredited): Mae Bruce
- Villager (uncredited): Jack Curtis
- Bridesmaid (uncredited): Arletta Duncan
- Gravedigger (uncredited): William Dyer
- Hans (uncredited): Francis Ford
- Mourner (uncredited): Soledad Jiménez
- Little Girl (uncredited): Carmencita Johnson
- Little Girl (uncredited): Sessel Anne Johnson
- Mourner (uncredited): Margaret Mann
- Ludwig (uncredited): Michael Mark
- Bridesmaid (uncredited): Pauline Moore
- Villager (uncredited): Inez Palange
- Mourner (uncredited): Paul Panzer
- Maid (uncredited): Cecilia Parker
- Villager (uncredited): Rose Plumer
- Waldman’s Secretary (uncredited): Cecil Reynolds
- Medical Student (uncredited): Ellinor Vanderveer
- Associate Producer: E. M. Asher
- Producer: Carl Laemmle Jr.
- Art Direction: Charles D. Hall
- Recording Supervision: C. Roy Hunter
- Supervising Film Editor: Maurice Pivar
- Director of Photography: Arthur Edeson
- Director: James Whale
- Presenter: Carl Laemmle
- Novel: Mary Shelley
- Theatre Play: Peggy Webling
- Screenplay: Francis Edward Faragoh
- Screenplay: Garrett Fort
- Writer: Robert Florey
- Original Music Composer: Bernhard Kaun
- Director of Photography: Paul Ivano
- Editor: Clarence Kolster
- Makeup Artist: Jack Pierce
- Script Editor: Richard Schayer
- Special Effects: John P. Fulton
- Sound Recordist: William Hedgcock
- Dsnake1: Frankenstein, a movie primarily about how Doctor Henry Frankenstein deals with the fallout of his monster actually coming to life, holds up very well almost ninety years from its release.
Starting with the monster itself, we find a fantastic character. Without any lines of dialogue, the filmmakers and Boris Karloff had to use actions and emotions to display the motivations of the monster, and they did a fantastic job of it. The fear, confusion, and longing that the novel describes are evident in the monster’s actions, to the point of pushing the audience to root for him.
The rest of the characters are also a bit of fun. Baron Frankenstein, played by Fred Kerr, was also a hoot. He played a no-nonsense character that functioned well in the comic-relief role needed with Edward Van Sloan’s Dr. Wladman and Mae Clarke’s Elizabeth being quite serious, even dramatic. Colin Clive, the man who played Doctor Henry, did a decent job in his role as well, pulling off the role of being consumed by his work, even when he desired to be free from it.
The acting, overall, was a touch more theatrical than I would prefer in a horror movie, but it wasn’t so distracting that it pulled me out of the film. The film is a ton of fun to watch, but I do have to say it isn’t exactly terrifying. The atmospheric creepiness is somewhat lacking compared to modern-era horror, even going back fifty years. That being said, the movie, if thought about and rewatched, does a good job of displaying how the fear of the unknown, and letting that fear take over, can be the real monster.
- John Chard: Oh, in the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!
We will always see debates about which of the original wave of Universal Monster movies is the most important. With Dracula being released just under a year before Frankenstein, that tends to give the vampire crowd a sense of justifiable cause for a trumpet fanfare. Perhaps the more pertinent question is which is the better movie? Surely the most hardened of Dracula fans have to bow their heads in acknowledgement that Frankenstein quite simply is superior on every level – even if it itself is not as good as its sequel…
Narrative doesn’t quite follow Mary Shelley’s original source material (what a brain that lady had!), but the core essence of a tragic tale holds tight. Directing was one James Whale, who here was in his directorial infancy, he himself up for debate about greatest horror genre directors, but his masterful sense of theatrical staging, and that of the terror incarnate for the era, is sublime to the point that come 100 years after its release this will still be held up as a timeless horror classic.
The thematics of the story pulse with brilliance, the advent of berserker science, the alienation and confusion flow of the creature grips and stings the heart equally. The later camp of Whale’s horror ventures is mostly absent here, instead we have a dark almost miserably bleak tone, which exists right up to the end title card which brings closure after the brilliant and iconic finale has made its mark. Jack Pierce’s marvelous make-up and the birth of Karloff as a genre legend seals the deal on what is without doubt one of the genre’s most important films. 9/10
- Gimly: Not a totally faithful adaptation of the Mary Shelley book, still extremely important for not just horror movies, but movies as a whole. I thought about coming at this review from the perspective of what 1931’s _Frankenstein_ meant for the future of cinema, and how it was still essentially in its infancy and doing anything even close to what _Frankenstein_ did, changing the culture forever and remaining in the zeitgeist even now, almost a hundred years later, is a monumental achievement and should be viewed as such. But that’s never really been my jam. _Frankenstein_ might have been great for the time, I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but I personally only ever found it to be okay. Re-watching it this Halloween was, I think the fourth time I’ve given it a go, and it’s really not as enthralling as people seem to give it credit for. My roommate fell asleep. It’s not that it’s black and white either, it just doesn’t have as clear a philosophical intention as the book, nor as gripping an output as more modern offerings.
_Final rating:★★½ – Not quite for me, but I definitely get the appeal._
- JPV852: Very well made monster movie featuring fine performances all around, even Boris Karloff as the Monster even though he only grunts throughout. Some good set pieces and just an all around entertaining flick. **4.25/5**