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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
It is Boris Karloff's indisputably iconic and singularly haunting performance as the child-like brute, misunderstood and despised by all, who's only longing and desire is to be loved and cared for by others that continues to be one of cinema's timeless jewels of acting perfection, dramatic magnitude, and note-fully seamless pathos. Karloff's monster, like Anthony Perkins's Norman Bates or Robert De Nero's Travis Bickle, is one of cinema's fortunate accidents of how the exact casting of just the right perfect someone can unbelievably bolster the film. Karloff's casting as the inevitably sympathetic artificial concoction of a mad scientist with a deity complex turned out to be one of many grandiose happy accidents that has allowed this 70 year-old Gothic horror film to continue to be copiously admired, internationally beloved, and enthusiastically cherished up to contemporary times.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on Dec 16 2012 by Woody
I feel this is the eeriest horror movie ever made. The sequel and Robert deniro remake were great but this is the one.Published on April 1 2012 by Dean Wirth
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 morePublished on Sept. 25 2010 by Ray Lefebvre
Frankenstein (1931) is the second of many classic monster movies made by Universal Studios, and in my opinion it is simply the best. Read morePublished on April 14 2004 by Richard Stange
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. Read morePublished on March 16 2004 by Michael P. Wilder
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 morePublished on March 6 2004
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