Frankenstein (1931) stars Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein, an obsessed scientist who digs up corpses with his assistant in order to assemble a living being from dead body parts. The resulting creature, often known as Frankenstein’s monster, is portrayed by Boris Karloff. The make-up for the monster was provided by Jack Pierce. Alongside Clive and Karloff, the film’s cast also includes Mae Clarke, John Boles, Dwight Frye, and Edward Van Sloan.
Like Dracula, Frankenstein has a rich and varied history. The story was committed to paper by Mary Shelley in 1818. Within a decade, play interpretations of the gothic drama had begun springing up. In 1910, it was first adapted for the screen in a silent short produced by Thomas Edison, and starring Charles Ogle as the monster. The most famous version is, of course, James Whale’s 1931 film, which fixed an image of the creature in the public’s consciousness that has withstood the passage of time.
Look! It’s moving. It’s alive. It’s alive… It’s alive, it’s moving, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, IT’S ALIVE!
– Henry Frankenstein
It is arguably the single defining image in the history of Hollywood horror. Frankenstein’s Monster has a sutured skin, neck-bolts in his head, and a childlike expression. He remains the poster child for ‘sympathetic’ monsters. While ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ is arguably the better film (at least funnier), James Whale’s take on Mary Shelley’s lumbering pseudo-scientific behemoth remains the gold standard for monsters and a masterful evocation of what it’s like to exist in a world that only wants to batter you down.
The film is not a totally faithful adaptation of the Mary Shelley book, but it is still extremely important for not just horror movies and for the movie industry as a whole. It is a classic that has it’s place in film history and the atmospheric macabre masterpiece maintains its vaulted place as the definitive Gothic horror film.