|Formats:||PG DVD, Blu-ray|
|Starring:||Michael Mark, Boris Karloff, Lionel Belmore, Colin Clive, Dwight Frye, Pauline Moore, Edward Van Sloan, Mae Clarke, Marilyn Harris, Frederick Kerr, Arletta Duncan, John Boles, Francis Ford|
|Studio:||UNIVERSAL MUSIC OPERATIONS|
|Collections:||American Film Institute's top 100|
|Run time:||1 hour 9 minutes|
|Rental release:||Limited availability|
Most helpful review
Classic HorrorBy Philip Concannon from London , 17 Aug 2004
[Highly rated reviewer]James Whale's fantastic 1931 film remains the definitive screen adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel and still stands as one of the best horror films ever made. Whale's combination of a beautifully simplistic tale with the potent topic of man vs. nature continues to terrify and delight audiences more than seven decades after its release.
Colin Clive plays Dr. Henry Frankenstein: a mad scientist who has become obsessed with the possibility of creating human life. Frankenstein and his assistant Fritz(Dwight Frye) lurk around the edges of funerals, waiting for the mourners to leave so they can retrieve the body from the ground. Once he's stitched together the body parts and Fritz has stolen a brain, the Monster(Boris Karloff) is complete. However, The Monster is soon loose and the terrified locals turn on him viciously.
So many of the scenes from these films have been copied and spoofed down the years but the original still holds an extraordinary power. Frankenstein screaming 'It's Alive!', The Monster's first look at sunlight, His memorable encounter with a small girl by the river and the superb climax, are all moments that have passed into cinema history.
While most horror films of the era were cheap knock-offs made by hack directors, Whale was a meticulous craftsman who took great pride in every frame of his pictures. His two stars are also wonderful. Clive is the archetypal mad scientist, his unhinged performance proved the blueprint for similar characters throughout the years. Karloff's performance as The Monster is simply flawless. He gives a wonderfully subtle and moving display, gaining the audience's sympathy which makes the climax even more powerful.
God only knows what impact this magnificent film would have had on a 1931 audience. Still as effective today, it's the monster movie against which all others must be judged.
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It's Alive!!By Bassman71 (696 reviews) from Didsbury, England , 19 Dec 2011Mad Doctor and assistant steal dead body parts, want to recreate human life, Doctors fiancée gets worried, gets another Doctor involved, its alive!!
Mary Shelleys classic novel given the early 1930s film version treatment and, despite some dodgy acting and dialogue, Boris Karloff still is the one and only Frankensteins monster.
As with Tod Brownings Dracula from the same year the sets are fantastic especially Frankensteins lab with its huge apparatus and electrical currents.
Most of the acting does tend to be hammy although Edward van Sloan is great as usual and some excellent light relief from Frederick Kerr.
Some of the scenes are a bit silly but it still has the iconic ending the has been ripped off many times and Karloffs fantastic make-up.
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fear over substanceBy lukasz84 (75 reviews) , 16 Dec 2011the work of james whale has been credited with fathering the horror genre, and received much applause for its stylish expressionism. its delight in fear and ambience, however, sadly subdues the philosophical potential the story could have invested in. liberties taken with mary shelly's orignal concept, flat, if potentially cynical ending, impoverish the complexities of the story. style over substance prevails, with the exception of the monster's encounter and murder of a village girl where direction is more subtle allowing the interesting conflict and paradox to surface.
An icon with enduring appeal!By Turino (40 reviews) from Bracknell , 09 Jun 2011James Whales original film version of Mary Shelleys Frankenstein story is an undisputed classic of the horror genre. While lacking in the scares and gore of more contemporary entries into the genre, the ideas and themes played out here are smarter than many a modern day science fiction/horror mash-up. The film is unlikely to make a young audience of today scream with terror but it still manages to muster sympathy for the hopeless story of the victimized monster. Watching the film now conjures memories of many films it has influenced. Sympathetic, misunderstood monsters, crazed arrogant scientists and a screaming damsel in distress all feel overly familiar now but this film would have served up a powerful and original telling of an original tale back in the 1930s. More modern films that spring to mind while watching Frankenstein included 28 Days Later with its chained monster being provoked by an unsympathetic captor, Edward Scissorhands with its misunderstood protagonist chased out of town by angry villagers/suburbanites and The Terminator with its unstoppable man-made monster on the rampage (to name just a few!) The influence of this film on contemporary cinema is immeasurable. The less said about recent rip-off Splice, the better.
The story is tightly structured and the script has its faults but keeps the action rattling along at a brusque pace. The opening scenes of body-snatching are intriguing and followed by some grating scenes of exposition. However this is soon forgotten as the creation of the monster becomes a great set-piece that builds suspense and climaxes with the iconic cry of Its Alive! The supporting cast is lumbered with a fair share of exposition-spouting, theatrically-staged scenes and the tone of the film veers wildly between moments of dread and horror and moments of comic relief with Frankensteins father but the progression of the narrative is overall logical, well-crafted and fast-paced (particularly for a film of this age).
Frederick Kerr plays the Baron Frankenstein with an easy comic touch, mumbling and bumbling like a grumpy but amiable old git. Colin Clive delivers a performance that is far from subtle and contains far too much of the familiar theatrical style of acting from so many classic old movies where the character stares just off camera into the distance when thinking. However the award for really over doing this has to go to Mae Clarke playing Elizabeth whose performance would be ridiculed if it was in a modern film. Karloff plays the monster perfectly, inviting sympathy with his tragic mix of innocence and rage.
The actors work well together and despite some overly theatrical thesping, the cast is generally believable and carry the narrative convincingly. Whale never allows the pace to slow and there are some moments of interesting cinematography. However the majority of the camerawork is simple and functional, restricted as they were with the technology of the time. There is a distinct lack of musical soundtrack and this is a blessing as overly powerful orchestral scores can be a distraction in many classics from the thirties.
The special effects and set design are also worth mentioning as the interior of the windmill is an iconic construction filled with convincing contraptions that create memorable, iconic moments of the (re)birth of the monster. Karloffs scars and screws add to this to ensure the monster is one of the most enduring and recognizable images of horror cinema.
The idea that God must not be challenged and that scientific progress will KILL US ALL is persistent but not forced down throats with quotes from the Bible. The arrogance and madness of the scientist is punished. However the innocence of the monster and the guilt of the aristocratic protagonists are not fully explored. The manipulation of the masses by the aristocrats is touched on but not overtly dealt with as a major theme.
At barely over an hour long the film is over before anyone could possibly have a chance to get bored of it. In fact the climax feels rushed and could have been more drawn out. More sympathy could have been created for the monster and the connection between creator and creation could have been explored further with a longer third act.
Frankenstein is very enjoyable and clearly a hugely influential work in the cinematic horror genre. It is an easy watch even for viewers raised on blood, guts, slashers and torture porn. Iconic, sympathetic and deserving of its classic status.
"?" becomes a screen legendBy parky69 (6 reviews) , 26 Apr 2011There have been so many copies of this film and these characters, it is wonderful to see the original. Whilst some of the acting is quite wooden, a number of performances really stand out.
It goes without saying that Boris Karloff is extraordinary, managing to summon a whole character, without any words. The problem is that it isn't actually the character from the book.
The original has a much greater subtlety which is lost in this film, and many of those that copied it years later.
What seems to be a mistake in the credits isn't : Mary Shelley (the author) is credited is Mrs Percy B Shelley (i.e. the wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley, poet and philosopher).
Another great performance is Frederick Kerr, as the Baron, Watch him as he goes up the stairs in the windmill, muttering and complaining so naturally, like any grumpy old Great Uncle that you've ever met, that it doesn't even sound scripted.
Some of the other acting isn't nearly as convincing, which may have been due to the actors struggling to the project their voices sufficiently to be picked up by the microphones.
As with any really good film it leaves you wanting more - but it is all over so quickly.
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It's Alive!By 1001FilMs (11 reviews) from Wiltshire , 21 Sep 2010I so enjoyed this film! Boris Karloff's portrayal of the monster was both frightening and pathetic - I found it very moving in places with good pacing and good acting from all the cast. A must watch for horror fans wanting to get back to the beginning.