Frankenstein: One Of The Greatest Horror Films Ever Made
Updated: Mar 15
Frankenstein is my second favorite horror film of all time. It’s a horror film from 1931 made by Universal studios. It’s one of the first of the Universal Monster Films and it’s the one of the most popular films in that series. It was released the same year as the iconic Dracula starring Bela Lugosi. I think Frankenstein is a masterpiece. It’s a film I cherish and I’ll explain why.
One of my earliest memories as a child was watching Frankenstein at my grandparent’s house when I was 5 years old. We lived on the same property and my brother, who was seven, was invited to go over to their house to watch Dracula (1931). I remember begging my parents to let me go with him and they surprisingly said yes. Probably just to shut me up. So I remember we walked down the driveway on a spooky Friday night in October. We got to their house and my brother turned to me and said “This is going to be scary. You’ve been warned.” I was up for the challenge. I don’t know why I wanted to watch it so badly. Maybe it was the fact that I wanted to watch a horror film or it was because my brother was doing something without me. Either way, we went inside and my grandparents were happy to see us. They had a VHS copy of Frankenstein (1931). My parents thought they said Dracula but they misheard them. My grandpa popped in the VHS and we watched the classic monster flick. I remember my experience, it was nothing I’ve ever seen before. It felt like a surreal nightmare but I was having a blast. The film blew my mind. I left terrified of course but enthralled. Frankenstein became one of my favorite horror films of all time. After that, my love for horror films was born.
Spoilers for Frankenstein (1931). I apologize for using the word “iconic” over and over but I can’t think of a better word to describe this film.
I haven’t read the book but after doing some research it’s clear that the film took creative liberties. In my opinion, I think the simplistic nature of the story fits the film well. It’s not just a monster movie, it’s a tragic tale of a mad scientist obsessed with creating life, only to find himself destroying not only his life, but the one he created.
This film has the perfect gothic atmosphere. That can’t be done these days because cameras now are more sophisticated, which make modern films look new and flashy. Back then, the cameras could only do so much, but because of that, the black and white look added so much depth to the old gothic atmosphere. The cemeteries and laboratories look so fucking real and old, it’s awesome. This is the perfect film to watch when I’m in that mood.
The cinematography is fucking gorgeous. The sets are impressive. Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory is one of the best I’ve seen. The tall, old brick, creepy lab on top of that hill is an amazing shot. I love the different machines in the lab. The noises they make is something to be studied. All of it adds to the experience of this sci-fi horror classic.
The 1st act of this film is one of my favorites of all time. The film starts off with an eerie cemetery where Dr. Henry Frankenstein and Fritz dig up a body. After we get some exposition of what Henry is doing and we finally see the famous experiment come to life. Hearing Colin Clive shout “It’s alive! It’s alive!” is pure cinema. I’ll never forget witnessing that scene for the first time.
Colin Clive as Dr. Henry Frankenstein is one of my all time favorite performances. In my opinion, he is the star of the film and he’s the best actor in it. He chews up every scene with his iconic maniac performance and his distinct voice. His voice is hypnotic. The way he speaks the iconic dialogue adds so much to this film. Clive brings so much humanity to the mad scientist. Colin Clive was a bad alcoholic and unfortunately passed away at a young age. It’s tragic, just like Dr. Henry Frankenstein. Colin Clive is one of my favorite actors and he is a legend now because of his performance in this film. I cannot praise his performance enough.
Boris Karloff as the Monster is iconic to say the least. What can I say that hasn’t been said? He’s perfect. The performance could’ve been so much cheaper but Karloff really gives it his all and I believe he is this sympathetic creature of unfortunate circumstance. Everything about his performance is awesome and I’m happy this film made him a star.
James Whale directed this masterpiece and he is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. He’s directed some of the best horror films ever made. I believe his eye for the sets and behind the camera really elevated this film above others in that time period. He’s the one that wanted both Colin Clive and Boris Karloff in their iconic roles. James Whale is one of my favorite filmmakers.
Dwight Frye as the hunchback assistant Fritz is another great performance. This film is the main reason why Mad Scientists have hunchback assistants helping them in pulp culture. I always felt bad about him dying but he did mess with the Monster.
This film made me become a fan of the Mad Scientist horror subgenre. When I was a kid, I used to make my own “laboratory” in my basement and play as a mad scientist. This film is the best Mad Scientist film in my opinion. I’m even writing my own Mad Scientist screenplay series.
Jack Pierce is responsible for the iconic makeup in this film and in all the other Universal Monster films. The look of the Monster is a part of pulp culture. The flat head, the electrodes on the neck, the stitches are all recognizable even to this day. It’s so fucking cool.
I’d say this film is quite horrifying. I can’t imagine how the crowd in 1931 reacted to this. Not only with the idea of a man creating life from dead bodies stitched together but the deaths as well. The Monster accidently killing Maria, the poor little girl, is the most tragic scene in the whole film. It’s very hard to watch and it’s amazing how effective the scene is to this day.
The ending of this film is iconic. The Monster being chased by an angry mob with torches and pitchforks as he carries his master to a windmill is so damn cool. I love the final confrontation between Dr. Frankenstein and his creation. The Monster being trapped in a burning windmill is tragic yet poetic. It’s one of the best endings I’ve seen.
Frankenstein is a film I love to death. It was my first ever horror film and it’s the reason I love the horror genre to this day. The iconic nature of the film only adds to the experience. I cannot recommend this film enough. I can’t wait to show this to my children some day!