tek's rating: ¼

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Caution: spoilers

This came out in 1931 (44 years before I was born). I must have seen it on TV sometime in the late 80s or early 90s. But I'm writing this review in 2018, after I got it on DVD and watched it on Halloween.

It begins with Henry Frankenstein and his hunchbacked lab assistant, Fritz, watching a funeral and later digging up the freshly-buried body. (I have no idea why the character of Victor Frankenstein from the original novel was renamed "Henry." What's even odder is that the Henry of the movie has a friend named Victor Moritz, presumably based on the book's character Henry Clerval. So apparently the two characters' first names were just switched.) After stealing the body from the cemetery, Henry sends Fritz to steal a brain from the classroom of Henry's former teacher, Dr. Waldman. Apparently Henry and Fritz have spent some time collecting dead bodies, so that Henry could piece them together into an entirely new body. (There's a scene later where I get the impression from the dialogue, though it's not quite said explicitly, that the reason he needed to make a new body from multiple old ones instead of just using a single dead body was so that Henry could give life to a body that had never been alive. Which seems like a ludicrous technicality, and it kind of reminded me of the episode of Futurama where the head of Richard Nixon got a new robotic body, using semantics to circumvent the rule that said "nobody can be president more than twice.")

While Henry and Fritz are working on all this, Henry's fiancée, Elizabeth, is worried about Henry, because he's seemed strange recently, and she hasn't seen much of him. She convinces their friend Victor to help her, and they go to see Dr. Waldman, and the three of them go to see Henry. He doesn't want to see them at first, but then decides to let them into his lab and witness the culmination of his experiments, when he uses the lightning from a thunderstorm to help bring his creation (played by Boris Karloff) to life. Later, Elizabeth and Victor return to Henry's father, Baron Frankenstein, and try to convince him nothing's wrong with Henry. (Which seems odd, to me. Like, I don't really get why they weren't freaked the hell out by Henry's experiment, but whatevs.) Baron Frankenstein, however, doesn't believe it. He suspects there's "another woman" involved. (Really, throughout the film, the Baron is quite amusingly irascible.) Anyway, Elizabeth and Victor take the Baron to Henry's lab.

Meanwhile, Fritz, for no readily apparent reason, delights in tormenting the creature with a torch. Finally, the creature ends up killing Fritz. And that's when Henry finally realizes his creation must be destroyed. But Henry ends up hurt in a struggle with the creature, before it finally succumbs to a sedative from Dr. Waldman. Then Elizabeth, Victor, and the Baron take Henry home to recover (not knowing what has happened with Fritz or the creature). Later, the creature kills Dr. Waldman and escapes. There's a scene where the creature is befriended by a young girl named Maria, whom he ends up accidentally drowning. Later, on the day Henry and Elizabeth are supposed to be married, the creature shows up and frightens Elizabeth. (How he knew where to find his creator, I have no idea.) Soon after that, Maria's father shows up, carrying his dead daughter, wanting justice. (How he knew where to seek it, I'm not sure. Maybe he was just looking for the largest group of people he could find, and it seemed like the whole town had come to celebrate the wedding of the Baron's son.) Well, a search party is formed, with all the townsfolk carrying torches to look for the creature. (How it was known that he was responsible for Maria's death, I also don't know.)

Well, I don't want to divulge more of the plot than that. I feel like I've said too much already. But I will say there are a lot of things in the movie that don't really make sense to me. And it's kind of hard to get past just how much about the movie is different from the book, mostly in regard to the many plot points in the book that were completely left out of the movie. Still, there are a lot of iconic things about the movie, most notably society's whole concept of what the creature looks like. (Most other adaptations of the story emulate the creature's look from this film, to some degree.) I will say this is one of those things where, if I didn't know it was a classic that has had a huge impact on pop culture, I'm not sure how much I'd actually like it, purely on its own merits. It's okay, despite how many things don't make sense to me about it. But I don't think it's really great; certainly not as good as Mary Shelley's novel. (Or, based on the opening credits of the movie, maybe I should say "Mrs. Percy B. Shelley's novel." Though I'd really rather say "Mary.")

Frankenstein * Bride of Frankenstein * Son of Frankenstein * Ghost of Frankenstein *
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man * House of Frankenstein * House of Dracula * Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

classic horror index

Novel: Frankenstein
(The following is a list of things I've seen or want to see. There have been countless other things that have adapted or parodied the novel.)

Adaptations: Frankenstein (1931) * The Curse of Frankenstein * Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Loose adaptations: Young Frankenstein * I, Frankenstein * Victor Frankenstein
Parodies: The Rocky Horror Picture Show * Frankenweenie (1984) * Transylvania 6-5000 * Mary Shelley's Frankenhole * Frankenweenie (2012)
Ensembles: The Munsters * Drak Pack * The Monster Squad * Van Helsing * Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl * Hotel Transylvania * Once Upon a Time * Penny Dreadful