"Crazy, am I? We'll see whether I'm crazy or not."
Frankenstein (1931) is a classic monster movie, loosely based on Mary Shelly's original novel.
I really love the story of this classic film. They opted to not follow the novel very closely at all, but there are moments that were obviously lifted. Instead this movie tells an mostly different and original story, but still manages to be very dark and creepy. The film poses some cool questions about religion and god that I love, and (although different from the novel) still paints The Monster in a somewhat innocent light.
Director James Whale's sense of humor is present in this film, as all of his other films I've seen. While not as prevelant as in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) this film still has plenty if you're not too busy being horrified! Also want to mention that I was surprised how modern the camera workis on this film. It's got moments that don't really work, but you can tell that someone put a lot of creative thought into the camera moves and setups.
Like many movies from this era the film seems a bit dated when viewed today, although interestingly not half as bad as Dracula (1931) which came out the same year and was produced by the same studio. Some of the dialogue is weak, character throughlines aren't fully completed and some elements are a bit forced into the story soley for their thematic impact.
One of the most amazing things about this film is the acting. There's a great cast and they pretty much all play very memorable parts. Shining star of the film would have to be Dr. Henry Frankenstein played by Colin Clive, he dances the line of insanity and ernest so well it blows me away everytime I see it. Followed closely by Boris Karloff's portrayal of The Monster, he brings such an awesome level of depth to something that could have easily just been a man in a monster suit. Comic relief is mainly split between Henry's amusing hunchbacked assistant Fritz, played by the always amazing character actor Dwight Frye, and Henry's father the Baron Frankenstein (played by Frederick Kerr) who's humorus comments bring a lot of light to some otherwise very dark moments.
Looking back on this film it's easy to forget to mention Jack Pierce's makeup and design of The Monster. This image for the Monster is so engraved into us these days that it's interesting to wonder about Peirce's inspiration for this design. The end result is a very original look that really makes you forget there's an actor behind all of it and let's you just see The Monster in front of you!
Frankenstein (1931) is a bit dated today but one of those very early movies that shows a lot of thought and potential, and is still very enjoyable in my opinion. And this movie was crazy infuential, there's parts of this movie that everyone knows (or at least knows of). Such a wide impact like that from a film is very hard to come by. 4/5 stars.
For further stimulation:
Check out my review of the wonderful sequel to this film: Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
Also check out my good friend Daimeon's recent review of these films here.
And be sure to see his great review of the original novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Part of his awesome series 13 Frightening Fictions (for free!)
Did you know that Universal just released 8 of their classic monster movies on blu-ray in one set!? You can support this blog by buying this film (and 7 other classics) through these links: