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Frankenstein

Colin Clive , Mae Clarke , James Whale    Unrated   VHS Tape
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)

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"It's alive! Alive!" shouts Colin Clive's triumphant Dr. Frankenstein as electricity buzzes over the hulking body of a revived corpse. "In the name of God now I know what it's like to be God!" For years unheard, this line has been restored, along with the legendary scene of the childlike monster tossing a little girl into a lake, in James Whale's Frankenstein, one of the most famous and influential horror movies ever made. Coming off the tremendous success of Dracula, Universal assigned sophomore director Whale to helm an adaptation of Mary Shelley's famous novel with Bela Lugosi as the monster. When Lugosi declined the role, Whale cast the largely unknown character actor Boris Karloff and together with makeup designer Jack Pierce they created the most memorable monster in movie history: a towering, lumbering creature with sunken eyes, a flat head, and a jagged scar running down his forehead. Whale and Karloff made this mute, misunderstood brute, who has the brain of a madman (the most obvious of the many liberties taken with Shelley's story), the most pitiable freak of nature to stumble across the screen. Clive's Dr. Frankenstein is intense and twitchy and Dwight Frye set the standard for mad-scientist sidekicks as the wild-eyed hunchback assistant. Whale's later films, notably the spooky spoof The Old Dark House and the deliriously stylized sequel The Bride of Frankenstein, display a surer cinematic hand than seen here and add a subversive twist of black comedy, but given the restraints of early sound films, Whale breaks the film free from static stillness and adorns it with striking design and expressionist flourishes. --Sean Axmaker

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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Horror Movie Masterpiece Oct. 13 2003
Format:VHS Tape
Frankenstein is the kind of horror movie that I remember watching on late Saturday nights growing up. These old-time horror movies relied on psychological terror and strong acting performances rather than blood and guts to captivate an audience. Frankenstein succeeds on both of these counts.
Colin Clive stars as Dr. Henry Frankenstein and Dwight Frye stars as his hunch-backed assistant Fritz. Dr. Frankenstein has taken to robbing graves in his effort to create his own human being. In his search for a human brain, Fritz inadvertantly steals a brain from an evil person. Frankenstein is unaware of this as he transplants the brain into his human. What results is Boris Karloff's monster. However, Frankenstein's monster isn't the "killing machine" that we see in today's horror movies. Rather, the monster seems to be searching for his own identity (witness the scene with the little girl near the river). The people of the town perceive him to be evil when perhaps he is merely searching for acceptance.
The acting in the movie is excellent. Colin Clive does a masterful job as Dr. Frankenstein, while Dwight Frye is excellent as Fritz. The scenework, such as the shots of Dr. Frankenstein's castle and the final scene at the windmill are captivating as well. I highly recommend this movie along with other classic horror movies of this time period. They will bring back memories of sitting around the TV on dark Saturday nights and jumping up from your seat at each scary scene.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gothic Classic! Aug. 28 2002
Format:DVD
The film is based on the first half of Mary Shelley's gothic novel Frankenstein where Dr. Frankenstein reanimates life. The being that he creates becomes a product of its' environment while continuing to learn through trial and error. Unfortunately, its' errors become magnified by its' physical attributions, which causes unrest among those it comes in contact with through simple attempts at communication. Whale's horror creation was made over 70 years ago; however, one catch phrase, "It's alive!", that terrified audiences in the 30s, still produces chills in audiences today. Therefore, regardless of age, the film still provides a tremendous cinematic experience.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
James Whale's adaptation of "Frankenstein" is the most well-known version of Mary Shelley's tale. Purists have objected to the artistic liberties the filmmakers took with the original work, but the passage of time has firmly established the lumbering Boris Karloff as the definitive representation of the Frankenstein monster in the minds of the general public.
Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) leaves medical school to pursue his experiments in re-animation. In the privacy of a Bavarian castle, the scientist pieces together a single body from assorted corpses and screams in ecstasy when he succeeds in brining it to life on a stormy night. However, his enthusiasm wanes when the brutish creature (Karloff) he created proves difficult to control. Doctor Waldman (Edward Van Sloan) eventually convinces his former student to destroy his creation but it escapes into the countryside. The creature is then hunted down by villagers after it kills a young girl (Marilyn Harris) and terrorizes Frankenstein's fiancée, Elizabeth (Mae Clarke).
The story of "Frankenstein" is today more relevant than ever with the dramatic advances in the field of genetics and the ethical dilemmas that have accompanied them. Yet at its heart, the film is a good old-fashioned scare-fest full of creepy shadows and chilling images. "Frankenstein" is a not a slasher film that relies on gore to create cheap thrills. It generates its suspense by way of careful storytelling and it generates its scares by way of careful filmmaking craftsmanship. Clive delivers an amazing performance as the mad genius who is driven to prove his theories true. He is wonderfully complemented by Karloff who delivers spectacularly in the role of his career. Not many films contain a performance that becomes iconic in the annals of pop culture - "Frankenstein" has the good fortune of having a pair of them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest April 1 2012
By Dean Wirth TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
I feel this is the eeriest horror movie ever made. The sequel and Robert deniro remake were great but this is the one.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frankenstein Jan. 5 2003
Format:VHS Tape
A classic. A truly scary movie and sad without the graphics and
video manipulation of todays movies.
Any real collector must have a copy of this movie.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FRANKENSTEIN AHEAD OF ITS TIME. March 16 2004
Format:VHS Tape
This movie classic was the best for its time.. Just imagine what it must of been like being at Radio City Music Hall when this film first came to the big screen.Boris Korloff, was the greatest movie monster of all time. James Whale was a genius.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully crafted Universal classic March 20 2011
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Say what you will, but the classic Universal Monsters had style, grace and class. Often considered outrageously lurid and shocking in their own time, they now function as models of restraint compared to their contemporary successors. Heck, even Frankenstein's monster has the good manners to wear a suit whilst conducting his murderous rampage throughout the countryside!

Having grown up watching Universal's Dracula (1931), I came pretty late to the party when developing a similar affinity for this film. I'd always preferred "Dracula"'s stately, mannered, gothic atmosphere, so it took me many years -- and the perspective of adulthood -- to appreciate this film's more aggressive, darkly humourous tone.

While less flamboyant (read: camp) than its somewhat more comedic sequel, the 1931 Universal "Frankenstein" adapts Mary Shelley's original 1818 novel as a straight up, tightly wound little horror film, infused with a gleefully grotesque sense of wit. Karloff's portrayal of the monster is an accomplished pantomime; a combination of pathos, innocence and rage that favourably compares to some of the greatest silent film performances from films like Sunrise and The Passion of Joan of Arc. The film itself is an intriguing stylistic amalgam of theatrical histrionics, shadowy German Expressionism and technical showmanship that, in these DVD restorations, is truly wondrous to behold.

As of this writing, Universal have released no fewer than three separate DVD editions of "Frankenstein.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars one of the first spooky books.
I have heard about the Frankinstein story since my childhood and finally read it. It was not quite what I expected but was worth getting it to see the true story. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Woody
4.0 out of 5 stars Finally!
Believe it or not I had never seen the original 1931 Frankenstein until now. Except for some clips on television over the years all I really knew was the origins of the story, the... Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2010 by Ray Lefebvre
5.0 out of 5 stars After 73 years, IT'S STILL ALIVE!!!!!!!
Frankenstein (1931) is the second of many classic monster movies made by Universal Studios, and in my opinion it is simply the best. Read more
Published on April 14 2004 by Richard Stange
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful filmmaking!
The problem with this film is that it's a very poor adaptation of Mary Shelley's gothic novel. If I recall, the first scene is of Dr. F-- at a cemetery to exhume body parts. Read more
Published on March 6 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Monster Movie
No class on horror films would be complete without this movie. It was one of the first and still one of the best ever made. The movie that made Boris Karloff and Colin Clive. Read more
Published on Nov. 13 2003 by Michael A. Newman
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Still Very Much Alive After All These Years
After repeated attempts of securing a Frankenstein, director James Whale hired a middle-aged character actor named William Henry Pratt (stage name: Boris Karloff) who had... Read more
Published on Nov. 12 2003 by Bruce Lee Pullen
3.0 out of 5 stars Frankenstein 1931
Boris Karloff is the only Frankenstein. This movie brings back memories of Nightmare Theater in Dallas in the early 1960's on TV channel 11. Read more
Published on Nov. 11 2003 by G. Jensen
4.0 out of 5 stars "Alive!" & Chilling Universal Horror Flick
The Monster - ?
That's how the credits give recognition to the great Boris Karloff. This is a chilling film starring Colin Clive as 'Henry Frankenstein', Mae Clarke as... Read more
Published on Oct. 30 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Over-Acted Mary Shelly Story -- 1935 Sequel MUCH Better!
Boris Karloff gives birth to his legendary "Monster" creature. Dark and dreary with many effects considered tops in its day. Read more
Published on Oct. 18 2003 by Michael Mathena
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