Frankenstein (1931) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Frankenstein (1931) Review

Horrorific content by adrian on April 28th, 2020 | Movie Review | Classic Horror, Mad Scientist, Classic Creature

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It's about a mad scientist who figures out how to bring the dead back to life, only he accidentally uses the brain of a criminal which creates a bit of a snag.

Frankenstein was directed by James Whale (who also directed Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man) and stars Colin Clive (from Mad Love), John Boles (from The Last Warning) and Boris Karloff (from Alien Terror and The Terror).

The man who made a monster.

Frankenstein is one of the original Universal monster movies, along with the original Dracula that released the same year. The Mummy, The Invisible Man and a few sequels followed shortly after. The movie was based off Mary Shelley's novel which came out on New Years Day, 1818. A couple of key roles in both Dracula and Frankenstein were played by the same actors, Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan. Frye played a quirky assistant in both films (Igor/Fritz, in Frankenstein) and Van Sloan played a tough guy (Van Helsing, in Dracula). It would have been a lot like every other movie now starring Brad Pitt or Adam Sandler.

Frankenstein is of course the story of a crazy doctor who successfully reanimates life by stitching together some random body parts and tossing in the brain of a criminal. He puts the body out in the rain until it gets directly struck by lightning (think Ben Franklin's kite) and boom... life. Problem is, he didn't know the brain came from a criminal, which had the consequence of making his monster hard to control. Also, for those who may not realize, the mad scientist's name was Dr. Frankenstein and the "Frankenstein" we all know is actually "Frankenstein's Monster".

The story of Frankenstein's Monster is actually a sad tale, since being ripped back from the dead apparently isn't an easy thing to endure. Poor guy was disoriented, confused and angry. Everything he did was wrong. Feeling frisky about the doctor's girl, wrong. Wandering the streets at night looking for help, wrong. Throwing a little girl into a lake, very wrong. Frankenstein was a killer, no doubt, but he had his reasons and those reasons require understanding and sympathy (something the angry townsfolk did not have after learning the guy killed a kid).

Frankenstein was a good movie, but it wasn't a great horror movie. It had a nice story, but it didn't elicit any feelings I typically associate with horror. Call it an unpopular opinion, but Frankenstein felt flat. I've seen all the other Universal monster movies and can tell you that Dracula, The Invisible Man, even The Creature from the Black Lagoon were all after blood. Frankenstein was just some sad misunderstood creature thing. Romance played a big part of these old horror movies, and even the romance game in this movie was weak. Dracula, that guy knew what he wanted. The Creature from the Black Lagoon, nobody was going to keep that fish from his catch. Frankenstein kinda got interested in the doctor's girl, and kinda went after her, but for no real reason and it ultimately didn't go anywhere.

I can appreciate the historical significance of this movie, and I did like watching it, it just ranks low among other classic horror movies.

Worth Watching? 

I know I just said it ranks low among classic horrors, but it IS a good movie and it IS undoubtedly an iconic classic. And for that reason alone I do absolutely think it's worth watching. If anything, consider it a prerequisite for watching the exceptionally entertaining Frankenstein's Army.

Frankenstein Review (1931) Worth Watching? - ALL HORROR Tweet it

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