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Colin Clive, Boris Karloff, Mae Clarke, John Boles, Dwight Frye ... see more see more... , Edward Van Sloan , Frederick Kerr , Pauline Moore , Michael Mark , Francis Ford , Arletta Duncan , Lionel Belmore , Marilyn Harris

"Frankenstein" is a film about a mad, obsessed scientist, Dr. Henry Frankenstein", who creates a monster, by taking body parts from dead people. Upon placing a brain inside the head of the monster, He... read more read more...nry and his assistant Fritz are amazed that the experiment is alive. When the monster mistakenly kills Maria, a young girl he meets down by the river, the town is up in arms and aims to bring the monster to justice. They find the monster and his creator in an old windmill, where the monster is attempting to kill his maker.

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87% liked it

40,213 ratings


100% liked it

42 critics

Unrated, 1 hr. 10 min.

Directed by: James Whale

Release Date: November 21, 1931

Keywords: horror, monster

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DVD Release Date: August 28, 2001

Stats: 1,757 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (1,757)

  • January 25, 2014
    A timeless classic, perhaps the most notable and influential of the Universal monsters, and even if more amusing than terrifying for today's standards, it remains a striking experience, with stunning visuals that owe their inspiration to German Expressionism.
  • October 14, 2013
    The very original monster movie, based upon the book by Mary Shelley, James Whale's cinematic masterpiece remains one of the best horror movies of all time. It remains a highly adapted piece of fiction, and this was the first film adaptation. It was also the birth of the Universa... read morel monster movie canon, which would later include the films "The Wolfman" and "The Mummy". This is the epitome of good creature feature while retaining intelligence and posterity for the world of the unknown. It's a film that still remains creepy even eighty years later, and though its subject matter has been twisted and changed for many different mediums, it still stands alone as an immense achievement. Veering from the original subject matter consistently, this version has Dr. Frankenstein locked away in an old tower with an assistant, trying to reanimate dead tissue on a laboratory table, and digging up dead bodies to get what he needs. He reanimates the creature using an abnormal brain stolen from a medical college, but the beast gets loose. He goes about terrorizing the countryside, but is felled and the doctor marries his darling Elizabeth. Even with the changes in script the film retains its poignancy for the gothic, and the transparency of human life rebuilt to accommodate the lunacy of a madman. Every player in this story is significant, every moment of horror at the grotesque appearance of the monster is appreciated, and the entire cast gives enlightening performances. Boris Karloff as the monster has to be the greatest of a Universal monsters besides Bela Lugosi as Dracula. Colin Clive is the seminal Dr. Frankenstein, unmatched in any adaptation as he is both ruthless for the power of God and mad with his own crazed psychosis. The sets look amazing, the mood and tone remain classic, and it gives a lot of insight into the world of monsters, which became apropos in the thirties. Simply a must see for anyone.
  • fb733768972
    October 21, 2012
    This is probably my favourite horror classic! As a non-horror fan, I can honestly say that this film blew me away, from the great tone, to the great acting, to the fantastic camerawork, it just adds to the perfection of the story. Dr. Frankenstein creates a monster that has lived... read more on from generation to generation and even with an age of 90 years, the monster is quite terrifying. I was so invested in the story that the funny practical effects that don't really hold up, didn't even phase me. I was drawn into this story until the very last moment, which is extremely intense by the way. "Frankenstein" is a masterwork!
  • fb100000716838411
    October 1, 2012
    It's finally October and I've decided to do reviews of notable horror movies for the whole month. Any review I post (other than the ones of movies that are released into theaters) will be a review of a horror film, so let's begin wuth 1931's Frankenstein. It's based off of Mary S... read morehelley's novel about a mad scientist who creates a monster in his attempt to play God. Boris Karloff plays the monster and he is just fantastic. Karloff's performance required him to be completely covered in makeup and the actual design of the monster looks great. It's a face that will be forever remembered when it comes to movie monsters. Karloff is one of the greatest horror icons of all time and this movie is what introduced him into the mainstream. Colin Clive is also great as Dr. Frankenstein and Dwight Frye is excellent as Fritz, the hunchbacked assistant of Frankenstein. The set design for the movie is terrific. Parts of the movie have scenes in a laboratory and the overall design of the lab in this movie is so good. I didn't feel like I was watching just some phony set, I really believed that this was the lab of a crazed scientist. The movie also includes shots a villages and castles and those are also great. While the film is visually stunning, the story also holds up, even to this day. There are parts where you actually sympathize with the monster. He's really nothing more of a freak of nature part of an experiment that went awry. He's a curious thing, but people still scream at him and want to burn him. One scene that always stands out in the movie is when the monster is sitting by a lake with a little girl and she's acting all innocent and sweet and out of nowhere, the monster grabs her, throws her in the lake and drowns her. The little girl didn't even do anything, yet the monster kills her anyway. (Sigh) What a lovable dumbshit. That's really one of a lot of memorable scenes in the movie. It all ranges from the part where Dr. Frankenstein yells "It's Alive!" to the climax of the movie. The movie even has its fair share of themes including the darkest side of Xenophobia and the consequences of playing God. One thing that I want to address is that nowadays people refer to the monster as Frankenstein even though Frankenstein is the name of the doctor who created the monster. I've never understood how people started that. Anyway, Frankenstein is one of the greatest monster films of all time and it's a staple of Halloween pop culture. Boris Karloff's outstanding performance is what brought the monster to the light of day. From what I've heard, the movie doesn't really follow the novel by Mary Shelley, but I really don't think that matters. Frankenstein is great either way and it really does stand the test of time.
  • fb100000257973100
    May 13, 2012
    I might as well say right now that if you are looking for a straight adaption of the Frankenstein story, you are in the wrong place. Being someone who has read the book outside of literature classes, this film never really follows the original tale at all. In fact, it actually im... read moreproves the tale. In the original novel, there was quite a few times in which the feel of Shelly being the immature writer (not having that must experience in writing) was very overpowering. But taking the script for a stage play adaption of the novel (just like with Dracula), what we get is probably one of the best telling of Man's attempt to be God.
    The story we all know by heart: screwed up doctor tries to play God by making man. But what a lot of people don't do is really look at the film for this film is not about Dr. Frankenstein (yeah people: the doctor is named Frankenstein. Not the monster. GET IT BLOODY RIGHT!), but about the symbolism of The Monster. One thing you tend to notice about the classic horror stories is the symbolism each of the monsters stand for. Dracula stood for depression (being alone for centuries). The Wolf Man for a woman's period (watch the film, and you will get why I even say that). The Creature Of The Black Lagoon for puberty (a hideous man trying to win the heart of a gorgeous woman). With Frankenstein, the symbolism is being unaccepted. Once The Monster is free from Frankenstein, it tries to be part of society and be accepted. But due to him literally having the brain of a mass murderer (damn you, Fritz!), he can't help himself and like most misunderstood people, he is hated by everyone. Even his maker. That is why James Whale's adaption strikes such a strong chord with people: it is all about a person that no one understands. No one gets. And Whale shows this perfectly in his flawless direction. He shows this while still providing the morality tale of Man trying to be God and the end results.
    There are only two people that need mentioning in this film in terms of acting: Boris Karloff and Dwight Frye. First off with Karloff. Like most people, they have to credit this film to him. He seriously sells this film with his timeless portrayal as The Monster. I honestly do not know how to do this review justice. This is one of those performances that just speaks for itself. Everything from the way he moves to his grunts. I am not going to review that performance. All I will say: it is legendary for a reason. I love Dwight Frye. I adore this man's ability to act. In Dracula, I liked how he played a sane man and then turned into an insane maniac while swapping back and forth. Here I love how he plays a mentally disturbed assistant that, in my observation, might have a deeper meaning. Okay, bare with me for a bit. It is known that James Whale was openly homosexual and in his films there are some undertones that suggest his sexuality. With Frankenstein, my believe is that Fritz became jealous of The Monster's relationship with Frankenstein and as such why he has such a strong hatred for the Monster. It is all about jealousy and the feeling that you are going to be replaced by someone you have grown to love. I believe that Frye used that to his advantage and helped to create this hunched back maniac. Brilliant.
    The rest of the actors (mainly Colin Clive and Edward Van Sloan) do their characters justice in bringing them all to life. But none of their performances actually stand out to me in this film. Hence why I won't go into detail about their acting.
    When I decided to review there classic horror films, I had to go and see if their horror still lives up. Like with Dracula (and I am guessing like with the rest), it does not. But as a drama and a tale of man's desire to be God, this film lives on for a reason. I have seen numerous adaptions of this tale, and while as an adaption this is terrible, as a film it works. Even 80 years after it's release. So, why only four and a half stars? Simple: While it did touch me in the way that I could relate to the monster, I would have liked it if they expanded on the characters a bit more.
  • January 3, 2012
    One of the most famous horror films ever filmed, Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff is a must see for every horror fan. Universal Studios brought horror to a mainstream audience with such titles as this. Frankenstein has got to be one of the most famous horror films in the histo... read morery of cinema, and with good reason. This 1931 horror classic secured Karloff's reputation and made him famous. Loosely based on Mary Shelly's book of the same name, this adaptation was changed quite a bit, but nonetheless is very exciting to watch. If you're a fan of old school horror films, then this 1931 version of Frankenstein is the one to watch. This is a must see monster flick, and after all the years, still manages to terrify and thrill the audience. Boris Karloff is a horror icon, and though his role in The Mummy cemented his reputation even further, his role as the monster in Frankenstein is his ultimate performance. Director James Whale crafts a solid film and every cast member delivers a strong performance. Of course I think the best performance of all belongs to Boris Karloff as he really brings a certain quality of innocence to the monster, which makes the viewer sympathetic towards him. Overall this is a fine horror classic that should be on the list of horror films to see by every horror fan. A flawless film, Frankenstein may differ from Mary Shelly's classic, but for what it is, this is a unique twist on a classic horror tale. I very much loved the film, and if you want to explore the genre than the regular horror flicks of today, and watch something different, and great, then this is a terrific monster flick to watch.
  • November 1, 2011
    James Whale's landmark 1931 release of Frankenstein is one of cinema's most engaging and thought provoking pieces of material. Not quite the horror film one might expect, it delves into the subject of xenophobia. Colin Clive's performance as the mad scientist is absolutely wonder... read moreful, as is Boris Karloff's career-defining portrayal as The Monster. I find this to be an annual film to watch every Halloween. It's such a wonderful film, regardless of the year it was made or how much it ages as time goes on. The story and themes themselves don't age.
  • fb1664868775
    October 27, 2011
    A horror classic. For me, honestly I think it's lost a little of it's magic over time but still has some shocking and beautiful moments. The scene where the monster meets the little girl is great. Also the image of her father carrying her dead body through town, with all the laug... read morehing people suddenly noticing her and looking in silence is one of my favorites.
  • November 27, 2010
    Truthfully I dont really know why people always overrate this movie over the Original Dracula wich was much better on so many levels. Yes some of the acting ine Dracula might have been over the top but you cant tell me the same is not true for this movie. Besides that prejudice I... read more hold this is a great classic horror movie so I love it. :)
  • November 15, 2010
    although the sequel is usually considered the better film, i prefer this original in most aspects. the acting and story are better and the images a bit more iconic, although the sequel produced many great images as well. the philosophy behind mans attempt to play God shines thr... read moreough in the film as much as the novel, and for a 1931 film the subject matter was challenging. one of the truest classic horror films in history.

Critic Reviews

October 7, 2008
TIME Magazine

[Whale] did it in the Grand Guignol manner, with as many queer sounds, dark corners, false faces and cellar stairs as could possibly be inserted. Full Review

Alfred Rushford Greason
September 24, 2007
Alfred Rushford Greason, Variety

Maximum of stimulating shock is there, but the thing is handled with subtle change of pace and shift of tempo that keeps attention absorbed to a high voltage climax. Full Review

Don Druker
June 5, 2007
Don Druker, Chicago Reader

One of the most deservedly famous and chilling horror films of all time. Full Review

January 26, 2006
Time Out

The film is unique in Whale's work in that the horror is played absolutely straight, and it has a weird fairytale beauty not matched until Cocteau made La Belle et la Bęte. Full Review

Mordaunt Hall
May 20, 2003
Mordaunt Hall, New York Times

A stirring grand-guignol type of picture, one that aroused so much excitement at the Mayfair yesterday that many in the audience laughed to cover their true feelings. Full Review

James Berardinelli
January 1, 2000
James Berardinelli, ReelViews

As much as the later movies diluted the character of the Frankenstein creature, nothing could blunt the impact made by Karloff in the role of the most memorable movie monster of all time. Full Review

Alan Jones
October 7, 2013
Alan Jones, Radio Times

Shocking in its day and still a genuinely creepy experience, director James Whale's primitive yet enthralling interpretation of Mary Shelley's classic tale of man playing God is the most influential g... Full Review

David Nusair
November 4, 2012
David Nusair, Reel Film Reviews

...a watchable yet consistently uneven horror flick that feels long even at 70 minutes... Full Review

Jeffrey M. Anderson
October 10, 2012
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid

The film has a touching, almost childlike humanity that allowed audiences to actually identify with the monster. Full Review

Teresa Talerico
January 1, 2011
Teresa Talerico, Common Sense Media

Classic monster movie still electrifies. Full Review

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    • Henry Frankenstein: I have discovered the great ray that first brought life upon the earth.
    • Doctor Waldman: oh you have?
    • Baron Frankenstein: Here's to a son of the house of Frankenstein.
    • Doctor Waldman: Dr. Frankenstein was not interested in animal lives, only human ones, and we were not to be too particular in how we obtained them.
    • Henry Frankenstein: He's only sleeping, waiting for new life.
    • Elizabeth: Henry! What have they done to you?
    • Henry Frankenstein: It's alive! Alive! Arrrhhhh, now I know it is really possible!

Frankenstein : Watch Free on TV

Frankenstein Trivia

  • What was the name that the kid gave himself in the Sandler film Big Daddy?   Answer »
  • She played as a: 1. Troubled girl in Fight Club 2. Ape with a good conscience 3. Professor Frankenstein´s lover in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Who is she?  Answer »
  • In the movie Big Daddy, what does Julian change his name to?  Answer »
  • What great black and white classic has the following line? Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Igor, would you give me a hand with the bags? Igor: [doing a Groucho Marx] Certainly, you take the blonde and I'll take the one in the turban.   Answer »

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