VIDEO: Frankenstein (1931)

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For the final installment in her three-part classic horror special, Sofie takes a look at what might be the most influential classic of them all: James Whale’s Frankenstein, starring Colin Clive as the mad scientist that started it all, and horror legend Boris Karloff in his iconic role as the Monster!

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  • MichaelANovelli

    So, wait, you were a vampire, then a werewolf, and finally a mad scientist…  I’m having a little trouble following this plot…  ;-)

    • Sofie Liv

      My life is very interesting… Also, never out-right said I was a werewolf, that one is compleately up to your entepretation.

    • A Mad Scientist who becomes a vampire-werewolf? That almost sounds like a parody of a parody of a B movie rip-off of a classic horror flick. I’ll refrain from an Inception joke as I will most likely be charged with grievous comedy harm!

    • John Wilson

      Once, She was experimenting with chemicals in her lab. Then she tripped. Dumping wolf and vampire potions on her. Turning her into the mad vampwolf!

      • Sofie Liv

        Just go ahead and write the fanfiction while I kick back and relax.

        That’s what’s so great about my videos, so much stuff is left to enterpretation! and it has absolutely nothing to do with me in genneral keeping writing myself into corners and have to some-how push videos out!

  • Thomas Stockel

    Great review, Sophie.  I hadn’t realized there was a Fritz and an Igor in these films.  There must have been a lot of inbreeding going on in that village to get two hunchbacks. :)

    • Sofie Liv

       Well.. Fritz is the original hunch-backed assistant.

      The first igor is a character which appears in “Son of Frankenstein.” the third movie of the franchise and was played by Bella Lugosi but was not a hunch-back, he was a man with a broken neck whom had survived his own hanging.
      He had been hung for murder but then the villagers had to let him go because the sentence “Hanging.” had been carried out.. it just happened he had survived. That’s a pretty creepy character huh?

      The Igor you have imprinted in your mind is from Mel Brook’s “Young Frankenstein.” where Gene Wilder plays the original frankensteins grand-son and Marty Fieldman is playing a hunchbacked assistant by the name of Igor explaining. “My grand-father used to work for your grandfather!” so well.. that Igor should be the grandson of Fritz.. which means Fritz must all-ready have had a child before this movie as he sort of dies in it. huh.

      • Thomas Stockel

         Ah.  I had thought Igor had both a broken neck and a hunch back.  I dunno, the way Lugosi was shambling around…

        Anyway, thanks for clearing that up. :)

        • Sofie Liv

          nope, just the broken neck, but you would hunch around like that with a broken neck unable to move your head you know.. actually… the incredible part here isn’t just that he survived a broken neck, but didn’t end up parelyzed.

          I mean, dude, the central nervers system is placed in your spine and that would have to be broken in order to break the neck, you break the centre of nerves which the spine is, you cut off communication between brain and muscles which leads to paralyzation!

          .. and yeah people, you can call me Miss Smarty pants now… Oh well, mad scientist specialising in body parts ya know <_<

          I went to school in Denmark so I was teached basic biology in my classes while you had to deal with catholic church thingies! aren't you happy? :D

          Yeah.. we had a class disgussing intelligent design ones.. only ones, and mostly we talked about how bull-shit that idea was.

          • I think the theory of Intelligent Design was best described by Robin Ince. Basically taking the theory of evolution and inserting “MAGIC MAN DUNNIT” at the end of it.

          • Dwlow812003

            right, its much more reasonable to think the universe just kind happened one day, coming out of nothing, created by nothing, and happening for no reason. a perfectly rational idea, despite the way it totally flies i nthe face of the scientific method. seriously brewer, look i nthe mirror before you mock others.

          • Geez and people tell ME to lighten up! OK, just had a look in the mirror, un ugly bastard looks back. Now I’ll mock you for the fact that you clearly haven’t grasped basic grammar (are capital letters a mystery to you?) and that my comment was just agreeing with Sofie about how Intelligent Design is bullshit whilst referencing a COMEDY SKETCH! I don’t want to carry on this little bitchfest anymore than it has to so let’s just leave it at that and move on to the next video eh?

          • Sofie Liv

            Guys! Stop it! both of you.

            I brought up the word. “Intelligent design.” and should know, that ever play with those words and such big ideas can become ugly so fast on the enternet, and I shouldn’t be doing it unless I deliberately wish to raise questions or debate around it.

            Maybe I do one day, but that day is not today! okay?
            Today is about movies and having fun, just being silly, If people want to attack each other, I wont be able to stop you, but I would appreciate it if it happens away from my comment section, where it’s my sincere hope people can come and just have a good time.

            I don’t appreciate either of your tones above.

          • Misinformed

             I thought you meant “intelligent Dane-sign”


          • Sofie Liv

             well.. that to.

            Lets face it, in spite of my country being damn small, we brought the world lots of good things!

             Sidney Opera house, yep, came from here suckers B)

          • Muthsarah

            Sorry Sofie, I didn’t read this comment yet.  I won’t say any more.

          • Sofie Liv

            njah, you are fine, you didn’t attact other commenters and the vibe I got from you was amusing not angry. 

          • I don’t want this thread to turn into an existential battle ground either. I apologise for my tone and I’ll move on.

          • Sorry for the repeated comments too. My Disqus has been acting up.

          • I don’t want this thread to turn into an existential battle ground either. I apologise for my tone and I’ll move on.

          • I don’t want this thread to turn into an existential battle ground either. I apologise for my tone and I’ll move on.

          • Muthsarah

            Only one class on ID, and all it did was talk about how it doesn’t exist?  A clear example of liberal indoctrination of the youth.  I bet you were taught goose-stepping in Phys Ed, and that Russia ISN’T 90% covered with lava.

            Come to think of it, I refuse to believe that YOU exist, Sofie.  You’re never once mentioned in the Bible.  And I read that book, like, years ago.

          • Sofie Liv

             I actually… we didn’t even talk about how it didn’t exist but how it’s only fair to give those people consideration and how all options, no matter how vague, should be explored. We did go the scienes way about it and brought up how all life-forms are created by living cell tissue and it started with one cell-compenents, though even they are consistent of multiple minerals and even sciense is at a halt about how the first one cell organism got to be created and how it evolved to an two-cell organism, in which where some people like to say. “Intelligent design did it.” how-ever, we also explored how the right conditions can make this occour, also in our modern world. Just look at mold, how does that happen? Mold is fongus, and fongus is a multi cell life-form, how-ever, it wasn’t there to begin with when you placed your bread on the counter. How-ever, that was an occurance that happened when the yeast in the bread fermented, reacted with the oxygen that is all around us and evolved into a living life-form, mold.

            So well yeah, setting up the conditions right, we are absolutely capable of creating single cell life-forms from scratch, leave them alone for a couple of billion years, and hey, we’ll might have a planet infested by mold people!

            Also, that whole intelligent design also just begs the question of.. why would any-one ever set up such a project? and.. it is kind of ten billion years after, so that would make us.. a failed lab exsperiment? .. gee.. that is nice.

            Also, now lets get really psyko, if some-body came to earth, planted the first life-signs there and then went away again, that must have meant that there must have been another life-form out there before us, but.. if it takes one life-form to create another life-form regardless of things.. where did that life-form come from? how did he get created? it’s an infinite cirlce question that cannot be answered because there is no logical possible answer, and in the end, the only answer you have left that is any answer at all would be. “Well.. magic.” So erh.. yeah.

  • Nuclearademan

    Bride and Son are better films but yeah Frankenstein is a classic. Boris Karloff is great, my favourite performance of his is the Black Cat where he plays a really creepy devil worshipper.

    I actually liked Basil Rathbone more than Colin Clive saying that Peter Cushing is the best Frankenstein.

    • Sofie Liv

       Not going to lie, my favourite out of all universal monster movies would be “Bride of Frankenstein.” though this one rangs up there.. and well, personally I like it better than Son of Frankenstein.

      I love Basil Rathbone, I really do, I mean dude Sherlock Holmes and every single baddy I can think off in classic swushbuckler movies out for the fourtis and fifties! Robin Hood, Zorro, The court jester, the black swan. Oh happy days when Basil Rathbone showed off his fencing skills.

      And well, don’t forget… this movie bloody invented every single little horror cliche you can think of that today spells “Cliche old-school horror.” all over it.. which will appear in some form or another in some halloween special every single year to this date! how amazing is that?

      • Russell Brin (Facebook Sux)

        I was just reading Boris Karloff’s filmography and notice he had some posthumous Mexican movies appearances.  He didn’t seem to have a great life, he worked really hard without earning much which is kind of sad.  At least he has a good legacy that his only daughter can be proud of, as he is an iconic actor that is beloved by all.

        • Dennis Fischer

          Karloff had a great life and a long, productive career. He was a vital, founding member of the Screen Actors Guild, worked regularly throughout his career, and made quite a comfortable living doing it.  Even at the end of his life when he was mostly confined to a wheelchair, he was still very much in demand, and if you see two of his final films, TARGETS and THE SORCERERS, he gave great performances in each.  He explained that as an actor he was shameless–as long as people wanted him (and could pay his price), he would continue acting.

  • Dennis Fischer

    Sofie, another nice job, but a few caveats.  Blasphemious, for example, is pronounced with a long “e” sound, not a short one.  Fritz is singular, not plural.  Before the production code, the scenes with Frankenstein saying, “In the name of God, I know what it feels like to be God,” the death of Fritz, and  Little Maria by the pond getting thrown in were there, but were removed after the institution of the Production Code on subsequent releases (or in the case of Henry’s speech, a loud thundercrack covered over the offending portion of his line). (Unfortunately, removing the Monster throwing Maria in leaves the suggestion that he may have molested her when her father brings her dead body through the town).

    The suggestion of an abnormal brain was put in by Robert Florey when he was going to direct the film, and when it was given to Whale, it wasn’t removed.  The switch of Henry and Victor was based on the Peggy Webling play version, which the film is based on more than the Shelley novel. (Mary Shelley was indeed a young girl when she wrote the book, but it did receive its uncredited polish from poet Percy Shelley).

    In the novel, the Creature is something of a doppleganger for Victor, murdering people while Victor’s asleep, targeting those that Victor unconsciously resents.  Clearly there are hints of a psychic bond between the two. The Creator is definitely the villain, rejecting his Creation and never raising it properly to interact with humanity, judging it mostly on its ghastly appearance.

    • Sofie Liv

       Well.. I am not Cecil, our reviewers style is different, that I didn’t speak of some of these things does not mean that I don’t know them, merely that I elected spending my time on jokes an analyzes of the finished project instead of saying that stuff.

      And well.. the simple reason why I didn’t went to much into it is because it’s just been done so much better than how I could ever do it, in the documentaries that came with the Universal Box DVD’s I indeed got and saw for the first time as fourteen year old, but I have seen just the documentaries themselves a good number of times, they are that good, and if I succeeded making any-one interested I just sincerely hope they get the Universal monster box copies with those documentaries on them.

      That’s also why I didn’t get into how “Dracula 1931” was also based on a play not the book, and how ‘untrue.’ these two things are to their source-material. But really created their own thing and how, when you think Frankenstein, you are actually not thinking about the original book, but this movie that has very little to do with the book.

      The Frankenstein book, I do own it ;)
      And well, no… I would not call the creature a doppleganger at all, and again that’s some-thing this movie seems to carry with it from the book regardless, that the creature is an innocent baby born, simply just knowing, but Viktor Frankenstein, absolutely horriefied about what he has done just abandons his creature without guidens nor protection.
      The creature eventually turns into a murder, but not because he was a murder by nature, he was gentle to start with, he turned murder because that is what the world turned him into, he approached the world with child-like innocence and want of mere basic things such as company, but were met with hate and resent because he looked that different, which in turn made the monster more and more bitter. Bitter towards humans for being so resentful of him, thus coming to the conclusion he is not of the human race, thus he doesn’t need to treat humans as his own race, resentful and hate-full towards Frankenstein for giving him life and then abandonding him. And yet still by the end, as the monster chased Frankenstein to Poland, the monster has now evolved so much beyond it, that he is not a child any-more, and regret his own childish resentful actions, mourning that he himself wasted the gift of life, but knows he should die now because the things he did was unforgiveable.

      The book is damn beautiful, I love it so much!

      • Dennis Fischer

        If you didn’t see the doppleganger indication, then you are missing some of the subtext.  Recall that Mary Shelley wrote her book shortly after a miscarriage.  During this time, childbirth was extremely dangerous and led to many women’s demises. I’m sure Shelley pondered what it would be like if we could reproduce without childbirth, a safer form of reproduction for our species.

        In the novel, Victor is horrified by the sight of his creation, and when he reawakens to see the monster merely looming over him, he runs away.  In retaliation, the Monster murders William, Victor’s beloved younger brother, in what the Monster later relates was a deliberate attempt to injure Victor, his cruel creator (not the act of an innocent–Karloff’s monster is far more of an innocent in the movie).  When Victor hears of William’s death, he immediately knows the monster was responsible, despite a complete lack of evidence. How does the Monster even know William is Victor’s brother? At that point, the pair has never really talked, but they share a psyche.  My theory is that Victor secretly resented his favored brother, and the Monster acted out on that resentment.

        Adding to Victor’s sins is that gentle Justine Moritz is falsely accused of William’s murder and is executed for it without Victor intervening over this miscarriage of justice, leaving him with two deaths so far on his conscience.

        The Monster convinces Victor to manufacture a mate for him, but the sight of the Monster grinning through the window convinces Victor to destroy this second creation.  As a consequence, the Monster murders Henry, Victor’s friend, and implacates Victor for the murder, though Victor is ultimately acquitted of the crime.

        Victor having murdered the Monster’s mate, the Monster mirrors this by murdering Victor’s mate, killing Elizabeth right after her marriage to Victor (Elizabeth being a cousin in the original edition, but changed to an adopted sister in the revised version).

        Victor then remorselessly pursues the Monster beyond the boundaries of civilization, but is separated from him in the Artic north. Only once Victor dies can the Monster die too, it resolving to commit suicide once it learns of Victor’s death.

        • Sofie Liv

          What you are doing there is called “Making an interpretation.”

          Which is fine! the cool thing about interpretations is that that is how you turn a movie or book into a discussion of much larger things and thus turn the thing into some-thing more than a story.

          But the thing about interpretations is that you have to acknowledgde what you are seeing is merely the way you are seeing it as the person that is you. No interpretation is wrong no interpretation is compleately right.

          And Frankenstein is such a good book touching on so many small subtle things that there are room to thousands of different interpretations.. sort of like Stanley kubrics “The Shining.” really, where no one can really figure out what it’s about.. all because the story never out-rights says. “I’m about this and this.” it’s just showing us a series of events and let us figure out what this story was about.

          And clearly, we are viewing the same story two different ways here!

          Does that make either of us wrong? No! we are probably both right, we just view it differently.

          I see it as a tale of one failing the responsibility he in the first time took upon himself when he did some-thing he shouldn’t, said A without saying B because of immaturity and thereby ended up paying a horrifying price.

          you see it as a tale of a man and his demon double he himself created.. arguable these two view points are even related, but they are none the less, two different interpretations of the same story, which I guess is a story both like, so truce? 

          • Dennis Fischer

            Pax mundo, Sofie. I think the story encompasses both interpretations, plus more besides (such as the abortion imagery indicated both in the monster’s almost human-like appearance, and in Frankenstein literally aborting the creation of the Monster’s mate before bringing it to life). Responsibility is definitely a major theme of the work, including the responsibility a parent owes to his/her offspring. The Monster doesn’t look like Frankenstein, but clearly their actions mirror each other.

  • Torgeaux

    Sophie, your bravery is beyond compare.  I takes real nerve to review obsessive classics that people devote much of their free time examining every possible nuance. When I was a kid I bought an 8mm short film of this movie. The kind advertised in a lot of comics back then. I think I burned out the projector bulb running that thing over and over.  Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein’s Monster is still the iconic image that comes to most people’s minds whenever Frankenstein is mentioned 80+ years on.  I grew up when the only accessible way to watch movies was in the theater and on TV when it was on. No video recorders of any kind, period.  This movie never got any airtime in my part of the USA so it was a rare treat to see it very occasionally.  I still love this movie.  The Bride of Frankenstein is a very different movie. It’s funny and creepy at the same time with a very nice bit about the hermit befriending the monster.  Frankenstein is never funny. It’s a dead serious movie. When it was first opened in theaters they added a prologue to explain that the movie was only meant to ‘thrill you’ and not scare you half to death, which it obviously did.  Imagine never seeing a movie like this and seeing the monster for the first time.  I bet more than a couple of adults wet ’em at the reveal.  Anyway, nice job as usual. Look forward to more.

    • Sofie Liv

      Well, people have said they like it the best when I talk about stuff I like, so well, it was halloween, why not speak of Halloweenie stuff I find to be important and like.
      Also, I hope it does come across quite clearly that with all these three movies, what I did was poking lovingly fun of it, it was me just having a bit of fun with some-thing I love.

      This movie never fun? well, clearly I beg to differ, the way I see it James Whales has an absolutely wicked sense of sheer gallows humour that is present in all of his movies!
      Of cause, in this single movie, almost all humourus moments came from Fritz, and ones he died half-way through the movie, yeah.. we are out of humourus moments, all though there is a few.

      The way it was shot the monster approached the girl, shooting from a lower end really setting up the exspectations that the monster is just going to strangle the girl right away, she looks up, but instead of screaming in horror says. “Oh, Hallo!”

      Gallows humour, I love it, especially James Whales gallows humours!

      Thank you so much, so glad you enjoyed, keep the classics alive man B) 

  • Hey Sofie,
    Finally watched your last two videos.  Nice thing you have going on here.  I really liked that you brought up the whole acting vs not speaking thing, because as a fan of both Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, it’s a debate that I’ve been involved in many times.  It’s easy to lurch forward and grunt, but it’s not so easy to do so in a way that strikes a chord and becomes a memorable character.  Karloff here set the standard for that type of character.

    • Sofie Liv

      As Michael Meyer were played by several different actors in the first movie and is supposed to be souless.. no, that role in particular you could just use a stand-in.

      In the case of Halloween, it’s not about the actor, but about how it’s shot, how it was build up, and well, probably also the music, which is all fantastic and makes Michael look good!

      In the case of Frankenstein, we have seen the monster actually been played by several different actors, even Bella Lugosi! but as we see that, it becomes clear Karlof had a talent the others didn’t in this specific area, he could manage to convey sadness, frustration and anger through all of that make-up, moving as little as he does, every little movement does count, and he knew that, and he did make it count with a.. well subtle acting. I guess that’s a big danger being in all of that make-up, ending up trying to be all dramatic so you’ll be seen.. when in reality the subtlety Karloff went for was so much more effective.

      Thanks, so glad you enjoyed :)

      • Yet still, body language has always been an important part of the Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees characters and some actors have been much more effective at the role than others.  I’ve paid more attention to Jason than I have Michael over the years so I have to default back to that for my references, but there are times when you’re watching the character’s body language and you can’t help but feel sorry for this child trapped in a man-zombie’s body.  None of that is in the script- at least, not in any way other than body language- but it’s conveyed nonetheless.

        I wasn’t aware Lugosi had ever played the Frankenstein monster- or if I was, I forgot.  Considering that I believe Lugosi always wanted the role in the first place, it might make or an interesting comparison piece if I get to watch Frankenstein and Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man together.

        • Sofie Liv

          Yeah.. body languet is very important, but I still stand by that in Halloween it’s also a lot about the atmopshere the movie had all-ready build, how the whole thing was shot and so on.. this are certainly also factors in Frankenstein, but well.. yeah, a bit more so in Halloween.

          Lugosi played it in the fourth Frankenstein movie, House of Frankenstein.
          Which were… kind of fitting since he had played Igor in the last movie “Son of Frankenstein.” where he ended switching brains with the monster.

          No actually, the story goes following Bella Lugosi turned the role of Frankenstein down the first time around.
          In 1931 Dracula had become a huge surprise hit, and Lugosi was the new big name in horror, there-fore the studio wanted him to be the Frankenstein monster for name recognision, but Lugosi didn’t want to be covered in make-up and appear ugly, so as the movie got shot in 1932 it became the at the time, no-name actor, Boris Karlof.

          As you all-ready know, the movie became a hit and turned Karloff into the big horror legend he became. How-ever, it was also a smash to Lugosis’s carrier, and all-ready by 1933 Lugosis carrier was starting to dwindle down the sewer and really fast to, at first he could still get small name parts, but Karlof was still the big start whom got all the really good stuff, and Lugosis carrier just went more and more to shit the more time went past, until well.. he ended in Ed Wood territory, and it was his big lament that he didn’t take that Monster part the first time around as that might had secured his position as “The horror star.” instead of establishing Karloff and was behind Karloff’s rise and Lugosis down-fall.

          •  Oh okay; either the facts I had heard got a bit muddled or my memory did.

  • Tim Terrell

    Frankenstein is “The most influential horror of all time”? Um…

    • Sofie Liv

      Okay one of them, if it upsets you.

      All though still.. every single Halloween, every single one, you will see a lot of homages to this one particular movie, even if the people making them doesn’t know it!. In the form of mad scientist costumes, Frankenstein monster heads looking like Karlof, hunchbacked assistants, hunted house playing tapes of dark stormy nights (this is the only one of the classic horror movies actually setting up a dark stormy night.) that whole idea of villagers chasing a monster down with hay-forks.. what other movie can you think of that influenced your own halloween that much? 

      Yeah, maybe you’ll see a Freddy ones in a while some-where.. but even fictional media seems to never become tired of the white lab-coated crazy scientist.. and he came from here! this exact place! every-body else has to be “An inspiration of and inspiritation of an inspiration of him.” until the mad scientists in itself, has become its own standard issue character.. that though still started here with Colin Clives performance.

  • Delawheredad

    Sophie, While Frankenstein is a very influential film, virtually EVERY trope in this movie was around befor James Whale got his hands on them. The most obvious precursor is 1927’s Metropolis by Fritz Lang. It features a mad scientist named Rotwang who is obsessed with creating life. His secret laboratory is full of electronic do dads. His creation starts out beautiful but then turns ugly and goes on a destruction rampage. James Whale borrowed the look, the camera angles and tone for Frankenstein directly from Metropolis. There is NOTHING wrong with this as directors borrow from each other all the time. However you are completely WRONG when you state that all these tropes BEGAN with Whale’s film. Metropolis by contrast IS  one of th most influential movies ever. Its look influences today in the cityscape of Blade Runner, the look of the cities in Star Wars and its robots. There is very little that was new in Frankenstein. Silent movies, especially German Impressionist ones  had been using the same ideas  for some years before Whale borrowed them.

    Other then that it was a good review     

    • Sofie Liv

      Sorry, I was mistaken, he was not the first, all though the looks people to this day are still borrowing for all sorts of horror parodies seems to be closer to this movie than the german expresonism (and I even have a collection of those movies, so yeah.. I feel a little stupid now.) 

      Even though you can point the finger at Burton for looking like “The Cabinet of Doctor Caligary.” and so on.. which would be absolutely true, it is obviously Frankenstein that he saw as a little kid and got inspired from, I mean, he just released a whole feature lenght that is heavily based on this movie. So I guess what I am saying is that yeah, okay maybe german expressiosm invented these things, but James Whales brought it into American popular awareness, without one the other wouldn’t have been as influential, they are now both connected that way. The younger white lab-coated scientist with the manic yells definetely comes from here, Doctor Jekyll never wore a lab coat in his early movies, it’s from here… also villagers with torches and hayforks, the look of a croocked grave-yard, a hunch-backed assistant and a burning windmill.. there’s lot of visual quos you can sit and pin point that has become cliches today.

      • Russell Brin (Facebook Sux)

        Sorry to hijack a thread (I know it’s mostly in Sursum’s threads that it happens) but do you think a Scarlet Witch movie would be a good female super hero movie for Marvel to consider?  You could start it with Magneto sending her into an asylum like in X-Men Evolution, the High Evolutionary being made aware of her power as she grows, and arranges to have her captured so he can study her mutant DNA.

        Also, having it set entirely in Europe would be a nice departure from every Marvel movie involving New York (Avengers, Spider-Man, X-Men all are set there for the most part), so having a European based movie based on Marvel heroes could be a nice change.  Clearly Quicksilver would also be involved in such a movie, but I think Scarlet Witch has enough name value in Marvel to carry her own movie, without needing Magneto to have more than a cameo in the opening credits seeing her carried away (Like the classic scene in X-Men: Evolution…still one of my favorite looks to her, the crimson goth look seemed more appropriate than the gypsy costume she’s more well known for).