Frankenstein 1931 Movie

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Welcome fiends, to another review of classic horror monster movies! This time, I wanted to talk about the legendary Frankenstein 1931 movie starring Boris Karloff!

 

 

Frankenstein 1931 movie

 

 

 

 

…From the immortalised classic by Mary Shelley

 

 

 

 

Starring: Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff,

Directed by: James Whale

Ratings: Internet Movie Data Base; 8/10 …Rotten Tomatoes; 100%

Our Rating; 7.5/10

Available from: Amazon and eBay

 

 

 

 

Frankenstein 1931

Boris Karloff – Forever Famous

Frankenstein (1931). As the saying goes, the scene is indeed set when actor Edward Van Sloan appears onstage to tell the audience of the strange tale which will soon follow. One which will thrill, shock, even horrify!

He goes on to offer a warning for members that if their nerves are not up to such strain…”Well”, he says, “We’ve warned you”.

 

The opening scene proper is nothing short of chilling! We’re at a funeral with the sound of sobs and shudders…a priest’s sermon and funeral bell as a coffin is lowered into the ground.

The camera moves slowly over the shapes and faces of the small gathering of mourners, past Gothic headstones,  statues and grey morbid sky’s, down onto two mysterious faces lying hidden behind the gravestones…waiting for their chance to appear.

 

Totally Captivating!

An incredibly dramatic and graphic scene. One can imagine how it must have transfixed audiences when first shown.

The entire sequence of Victor Frankenstein and his assistant Fritz rifling the freshly filled grave then cutting a body down from the gallows is so iconic, so eerie as to mark firmly the advent and power of the horror movie.

 

 

The movie then cuts to Victor Frankenstein’s concerned fiancé. She’s distressed over his latest letter and obsession with his recent ‘experiments’.

With the help of a friend and suitor, she endeavors to go see Victor’s old university professor with the hope that he be able to persuade his former student to give up this melancholy pursuit that’s keeping him from focusing on their wedding plans.

 

Iconic Scenes

The three venture to the abandoned old watchtower which has become the laboratory of the increasingly mad scientist. Grudgingly, they’re allowed to enter and then become witness to the extraordinary culmination of Frankenstein’s work; the animation by lightning of this body built from the parts of dead human beings!

The scene is breathtaking. A masterful sequence of suspense. It’s here we hear Dr Frankenstein yell those immortal lines;

“It’s alive!”

 

 

It Comes To Life!

The Monster’s first appearance is spellbinding. He approaches with slow, heavy footsteps as the professor is telling Frankenstein that the brain he and Fritz stole to use in the experiment was in fact the abnormal brain of a murderous criminal.

Then it makes it’s appearance…

Boris Karloff-Frankenstein 1931

The Monster makes his appearance!

 

We’re given the creature’s size and shape as he turns slowly in the doorway.

Then close up’s of the face and make-up which has left a permanent mark on the psyche of generations to come.

Karloff actually looks like a living, walking corpse as he stares at you with heavy, drooping eyes, leans forward and moves so slowly, heavily, frighteningly…

He is the essence of horrifying!

 

Like Dracula before it, these iconic scenes are played out without need for music as the viewer is mesmerised.

 

Continued Effectiveness?

Sadly, I feel that much of the potency of the film does not continue in comparison with this initial build up. It’s a pity the same approach to play The Monster does not continue. 

Karloff begins to move all too quickly during poorly choreographed struggles, growling, screaming and murmuring like a frightened child. Not at all like a giant ‘thing’ with the brain of a murderer.

 

For me, It just doesn’t fit with the monster’s initial suggestion of style and appearance.

Director James Whale’s attempt to elicit sympathy for The Monster is of coarse the aim here. In my opinion though, this inadvertently takes away from the potential menacing power inherent within Karloff’s character.

 

After escaping by murdering professor Waldman, The Monster accidentally drowns a little girl in a controversial scene which was partly edited out (but has since been restored). Somehow, he then makes his way to the house of his creator and terrifies Frankenstein’s bride-to-be, Elizabeth.

After this and the discovery of the little girl, the hunt is on by the angry townsfolk to locate the fiend responsible and put an end to his reign of terror.

 

Beautiful scenes are filmed atop the rocky mountainside and within an old windmill as picturesque grey sky’s play backdrop to Dr. Frankenstein and his creation, once again coming face to face.

 

Summing Up

As stated elsewhere, I think a musical score would have aided some of the more ‘hollow’ sounding scenes. Although, like Dracula, there are times where it is definitely not needed.

Great, solid performances by Colin Clive (Henry Frankenstein), Mae Clarke (Elizabeth), Dwight Frye (Fritz), Edward Van Sloan (Dr Waldman) and Frederick Kerr who’s brilliantly funny as the cranky old eccentric dad, Baron Frankenstein.

Karloff’s performance is of coarse, eternally memorable even though it seems as if he/the studio were not quite able to or were not allowed to put forward a more dreadful interpretation of The Monster in some specific scenes.

 

 

 

Thanks for checking out my take on the Frankenstein 1931 movie. Please let me know what you think in the space below. ∼ Jamie.

 

 

 

Available here from Amazon and eBay

 

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14 Comments

  • Chris says:

    Wow what a classic movie – love the way you cover these sorts of classics on this site!
    When I think about all the Hammer horror classics that came from this movie directly – Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing…awesome horror actors. Great review, love this site! Do you also like the Dracula classics?

  • Jeff Smith says:

    Hi great post! I’m having a lazy Saturday so this site was perfect. I think I’ll be checking out some old horror classics today. It shows you are passionate about these movies. I too am a big fan and I’ll be checking out some others on your site as well. all in all it’s a Great review. I’ve shared your site with a friend who is also a big movie fan.

    • admin says:

      Hey Jeff. Hope you had a fiendishly good time watching some horror classics on your lazy Saturday. I appreciate you taking the time to comment and share too!

      All the very best, Jamie.

  • Damian says:

    Awesome site my friend! I know a ffew of my family members like to get together once in a while and have a classic horror film marathon. I think this site will definitely help them out! I will refer it to them.

    Quick note, Your content is a little hard to read due to the transparency of your text boxes. Maybe decrease the transparency a bit, will make it much more appealing.

    All the best.

  • Saber says:

    Hi, great review of the Frankenstein movie. This is really a very old classic horror monster movie! I have heard about this movie a long time ago but didn’t really have a chance to watch it. I’ll definitely share this with my mom and watch this movie with her. I’m sure that she will enjoy it! 🙂

    • admin says:

      Very cool Saber, I’m glad you liked the review. You’re so right, it’s very old and antiquated. I think that’s why I love ’em so much, these old movies….They’re so historic and important. Jamie.

  • Chris says:

    Really enjoyed this post on Frankenstein. I have never seen this classic but I have always been interested in watching them, with the spoils of HD and just having color in the movies, watching black and grey movies can feel dull at times. I remember watching Double Indemnity, really enjoyed the movie but really dislike some scenes simply because it was hard to tell what was happening because of the black and white picture.

    Would you say Jason, Freddy and Halloween, movies that essentially came out during the 70’s & 80’s would be considered classics now?

    Great Review, Hoping to watch a few of these this Fall with my wife.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for reading Chris and I’m happy you liked the post. The old black and white flicks are an acquired taste I think. They really grow on you trust me! Old horror, especially, seems even more authentic in black and white.

      Jason, Freddy and Halloween would surely be regarded as classics now. As would The Exorcist, The Omen, The shining etc. As absolutely superb as those films are, I wanted to focus on the historic/innovative pieces from the silent era, through the 30’s, 40’s and up until the coming of Sci-Fi films in the 1950’s.

      These are the ones which have interested me the most, from a historical perspective. They held the first images of such classic characters that have left a permanent mark on our minds. Jamie

  • Boyo says:

    Having recently watched I, Frankenstein with the kids we were discussing why movies are always being remade. They are of the opinion that the newer movies are far better than the old ones! Once this movie arrives in the post I hope to show them that even black and white films can be classics!!

    • admin says:

      Hi there Boyo. I really relate to your kids’ opinions of modern movies…I definitely thought the same thing when I was a lot younger. Wanting to find out where those movies came from, i.e. the originals, was what got me curious about watching the first ever versions. I totally fell in love with them! Hope you really like Frankenstein. It will be majorly different from the new one of coarse but I think it’s to be appreciated for what it was at the time and for it’s continued influence. If you enjoy what you see, definitely go ahead and check out two more progressively better movies in the series, “Bride of Frankenstein” and “Son of Frankenstein” (favorite!). Thanks for purchasing. Jamie.

  • Matt says:

    Thanks for another sterling review. I like what you say about the impact this movie and its scenes must have had on people when it first came out. We kind of take movies for granted nowadays, and its easy to forget how some things we think of as passe or hokey were actually totally new once and maybe even shocking for their time. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll be sharing this review and your site!

    • admin says:

      Thanks a million Matt. This film would have been such a shock for sure! It’s influence cannot be overstated! The shock of these original classics and a film like Frankenstein in particular, has reverberated down through generations!! I personally like to watch these gems with their original audiences in mind. I try to put myself in their shoes. People had never seen this king of thing before!! That to me is very special. Very important.

      Thanks a bunch for commenting and sharing Matt! Appreciate your visit!

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