Frankenstein (1931)

frankenstein poster 1931 movie
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Classic monster horror

Alters Mary Shelley's story a lot

Movie Info

Movie Name: Frankenstein

Studio: Universal Studios

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s): November 21, 1931

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

frankenstein its alive colin clive

It’s alive!!! It’s alive!!!

Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) has a dream…to bring life to the dead. His creation (Boris Karloff), piecemealed from body parts, has been given life…but with a defective, deranged brain. Now the Monster is loose, and Henry must find a way to stop the Monster to which he gave life before it takes another.

Directed by James Whales, Frankenstein is a Universal monster horror movie.  It is based upon the 1818 novel by Mary Shelley, but the film also incorporates aspects of the 1927 stage play by Peggy Webling.  The movie was released to critical acclaim and huge box office returns, but also faced censorship and criticism due to the horror aspect of the film.  The movie was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1991.

Frankenstein is a classic that cannot be separated from childhood.  He is one of the first monsters that most kids are introduced to, and Boris Karloff’s iconic look for the creature is the version that most associate with it.  The movie is a must see for all…horror fans or not.

frankenstein makeup monster boris karloff

You look how I feel….

The film really skewers the ideas of the novel which focuses more on motives and the reasons behind the Monster’s actions.  Here, the Monster is really just a monster with a bad brain.  There is some exploration of Frankenstein’s part in the creation of the Monster, but the movie really amplifies the horror over the god-complex story (the story does have Frankenstein proclaiming that he knew what it was like to be God in his famous “It’s Alive!” speech, but many censors asked it be removed).

Colin Clive’s performance really jumps off the screen, but it is Karloff that truly brings the creature to life.  The role almost went to Bela Lugosi (who also was considered for Victor Frankenstein), but Lugosi left the movie after make-up tests.  Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr. both ended up playing the Monster in later films in the series.

frankenstein monster boris karloff mae clarke

Can I have first dance?

Whales really gives the film an iconic look as well.  The book is very vague on the Monster’s creation (it simply wakes up…no mention of how it comes to life is given) and that all had to be invented by the filmmakers. The bolts on the neck, the lightning…all part of the envisioning.  Karloff’s lumbering form now is completely associated with the monster and has rarely altered (though there have been attempts to make it more of a traditional Monster).

The movie is just a classic. It looks and feels exactly what you expect from an old horror movie. When compared to Dracula, it looks and sound superior.  It is also of note that Whales handling of the film also adds a bit of class. His life had a fictionalized account in the movie Gods and Monsters and it is interesting to see how this movie ties in with Frankenstein and its sequel.  Unlike many of the Universal monster movies, Frankenstein really feels like it fits with its sequel. Whales directed both films, and Frankenstein flows much better into The Bride of Frankenstein which was released in 1935.

Related Links:

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Son of Frankenstein (1939)

The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

House of Frankenstein (1944)

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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