A film crew goes to a tropical island for an exotic location shoot and discovers a colossal giant gorilla who takes a shine to their female blonde star. He is then captured and brought back to New York City for public exhibition.
Henry Frankenstein is a doctor who is trying to discover a way to make the dead walk. He succeeds and creates a monster that has to deal with living again. Written by
Josh Pasnak <email@example.com>
Boris Karloff offered to remove his partial bridgework as part of the monster make-up process to create the sunken cheek look. See more »
According to DVD commentary for this film, director James Whale intended this film to take place in an "alternate universe" and therefore freely mixed 19th Century and 1930s technology, hair fashions, etc. See more »
The opening credits say "Based upon the composition by John L. Balderston", without elaborating on what "Based upon the composition" really means, especially in this case, where there is already one original writer (Mrs. Percy B. Shelley) credited, along with a playwright, two screenwriters, and one scenario editor. See more »
Just as the Beatles influenced popular music for decades after they came and went, so did "Frankenstein" shape the landscape for cinematic horror. Had this film been an artistic and/or commercial failure, the American Horror Film would have evolved in a totally different direction, had it survived at all.
It is remarkable that the conventions established in this early talking film would continue to be utilized by serious filmmakers for over four decades, until "The Exorcist" (1973) changed the rules.
However, "Frankenstein" remains a flawed classic, partially because it's characters have, over time, become almost comical (even without the endless satires), partially because of some of the supporting performances (which inspired the endless satires), and partially because of the primitive technology available at Universal Studios in 1931. Even the tiny Hal Roach Studios produced more sophisticated product at the time.
But what of the assets? Charles D. Hall's art direction is striking, as are some of Arthur Edeson's photographic compositions. Colin Clive remains compelling as Henry Frankenstein, the intense medical adventurer, although he seems pushed to the brink at times by director James Whale, a smart, imaginative filmmaker who didn't always know when to apply restraint.
Then there is Boris Karloff as the monster; Karloff was (and is) underrated as an actor, mainly because he became content to lend himself more as a personality rather than as a performer in numerous films, especially after the mid-1940's. But Karloff, aided by magnificent makeup designed by Jack Pierce, perfectly captured the misery, desperation and loneliness of an artificially fabricated creature in this film, guided by Whale's unexpectedly sensitive direction.
"Frankenstein" survives as a flawed, but historic -- and necessary -- document that set the course for one of cinema's most enduring genres.
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