Film Review - Frankenstein

Starring - Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles, Dwight Frye | Directed by James Whale | Universal DVD FF Not Rated 71min 1931

Review By Xmortis

This is the first film in the Universal Frankenstein series and marks the start of my look at this amazing franchise. So sit back and enjoy.

Henry Frankenstein is a brilliant man who works along side Fritz (a hunchback) in an abandoned watch tower. He has become obsessed with playing God and creating life. Henry and Fritz rob fresh graves for the body parts that will make up their super being, but they lack a good brain. Fritz breaks into a college classroom and steals a brain of a lunatic, and they use it for the experiment. Henry's girlfriend Elizabeth is worried that he's shut himself off from the outside world. She and a friend, Victor, visit the watch tower, as Henry is about to make history with his final experiment. He invites them in, and they witness the birth of a new man. Days pass as they see that this new man is nothing more then a Monster. After it kills Fritz, Henry tries to subdue it and falls ill from the stress. When a college doctor tries to operate on the Monster, it awakens and roams the country side causing terror and panic. Time passes and Henry and Elizabeth are slated to be married. Meanwhile the Monster strikes and accidentally kills a young girl. It creeps up on Elizabeth making her faint, sparking the villagers to go on a manhunt headed by Henry. In the end Henry and the villagers corner the Monster in an old wind mill where Henry is severely wounded and the Monster is believed to be dead when they set the mill on fire.

This is an amazing film and shows just how great Universal Horror was. While very loosely based on the Mary Shelly novel, this film adds enough new material to make it a masterpiece in its own right. The plot centers on Henry, a man who wants to play God and make a perfect person but instead makes a brute monster. Henry must battle his abomination and worries about his marriage and his love, Elizabeth. The story is simple but yet deep and touches on the subject of man wanting to play God but instead of making something for the good, making something that harms mankind. Colin Clive plays Henry Frankenstein, a man who is smart yet mad with the thought of power and fame. Clive does a wonderful job at playing the role and is second at being the best Dr. Frankenstein just behind Peter Cushing. The way Clive snapped into madness when his monster came alive is iconic. Boris Karloff is the Monster ,and while many have tried to play this role, none have came close to his performance. Karloff is a master of movements, facial expressions and grunts that shows emotions better then any words. Plus his build and make up done by Jack Pierce helped burn this image and versions of the look of the monster in everyone's mind. The Monster is misunderstood but still tries to do good. The rest of the cast also are amazing with Mae Clarke playing Elizabeth. She is not only beautiful but also very talented. Universal Dracula veterans Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan round out the cast. The film is shot really well for this era, and the sets and background, while at times nothing more than painted on or models, still look great alongside the real buildings. This film is an iconic piece of cinema and for good reason. While it is dated in spots, its simple appeal keeps it fresh after all these years. The monster's death is horrific and sad as you witness it scream in terror and pain. You can't help but be sad for him. Over all this is a nearly perfect film and is one of Universals best horror pictures to date! I say this is a must own for any fan of classic horror or cinema in general.

This DVD has some amazing extras that are sure to fill you with even more old school fright. Extras include commentary from a film historian, a documentary about the film, original trailer, Boo! short film, production notes, production archives and bios of the cast and crew.

This film was a huge hit for Universal pictures and sparked three sequels, three monster mash up films and one comedy film. This film is still loved and respected and rightfully so. I have fond memories of this film from my youth, and I love this collectors' edition DVD. It will always have a place in my collection. By the way, Bela Lugosi was supposed to play the Monster, and turning the role down was one of the biggest mistakes in his career.

Up next is 1935's sequel, Bride of Frankenstein. Does it hold up as well as this film? Read the review and find out!