Film: Frankenstein (1931)
" You have created a monster and it will destroy you!"
: 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!
Victor Moritz: Henry, in the name of God!
: Oh, in the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!
is a 1931 horror film produced by Universal Studios
and directed by James Whale
, based very loosely on Mary Shelley's classic novel of the same name.
It immortalized Boris Karloff
as the Frankenstein's Monster
Along with Karloff, it stars Colin Clive as Dr. Henry Frankenstein, Mae Clarke as his fiancée Elizabeth, Dwight Frye
as Fritz and Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Waldman.
Here's a quick summary:
Obsessed with creating life
, Dr. Frankenstein robs bodies with the help of his hunchbacked assistant Fritz and sews the best pieces together. After the legendary creation scene, he finds out from his old college professor, Dr. Waldman that the brain he used on the creature is in fact a criminal brain and is convinced that it should be destroyed. However, it escapes and starts wreaking havoc in the countryside, prompting the local townsfolk to grab torches and pitchforks
and chase it down.Frankenstein
was followed by a series of sequels, most notably Bride of Frankenstein
in 1935 and Son of Frankenstein
Frankenstein's Monster is also one of the 8 Major Universal Monsters.
This film is alive with the following:
- Adaptation Name Change: Victor Frankenstein and Henry Clerval switch first names in the film.
- Anachronism Stew: Intended by James Whale, who fostered for this and Bride of Frankenstein a sort of Alternate Universe which mixed deliberately and freely the aesthetics of the early 1800s (the time that Mary Shelley wrote the original novel) and the '30s.
- And Call Him George: The childlike monster, while innocently playing with a little girl, gets too enthusiastic and throws her in the river, where she drowns. This was considered so disturbing in the 1930s that the scene was cut right as the Creature is reaching for the girl, skipping to her father carrying her dead body. This made the implications of the scene much worse.
- Artistic License – Physics: Frankenstein claims that his big scientific breakthrough came when he discovered a form of radiation higher in the spectrum than "the ultraviolet ray", thus proving that ultraviolet was not "the highest color in the spectrum". "Ultraviolet" is neither a color nor a specific type of ray—it's an umbrella term for all forms of radiation that are of too high a frequency to be visible (i.e. "higher than violet", since violet is the highest visible frequency of light). A form of radiation "higher than ultraviolet" is a contradiction in terms.
- Ascended Extra: Dr. Waldman. In the novel, he only appeared in one chapter, his primary purpose to spark Frankenstein's interest in science. The film, he becomes sort of a mentor to the doctor, and tries in vain) to help stop the monster.
- Asshole Victim:
- Fritz, who keeps tormenting the Monster for his own amusement by whipping him and sticking a torch at his face. The Monter eventually has enough of it and hangs him.
- Also, Dr. Waldman. Though he promised Henry he'd kill the Monster "painlessly", it's shown he's actually just keeping the Monster sedated so he can vivisect him. The Monster promptly wakes up and strangles Waldman.
- Blasphemous Boast: Henry's "Now I know what it feels like to be God!", which drew so much ire in its time from Christians that it had to be cut.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Edward Van Sloan's "friendly warning" before the opening credits.
- Character as Himself: Boris Karloff is credited as "?"
- Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: The reason for the existence of Victor in the film as, in the original cut, Henry had been killed.
- Dead Unicorn Trope: Frankenstein's hunchbacked assistant in the movie is named Fritz, not Igor. And he had no assistant, hunchbacked or otherwise, in the book.
- Dramatic Thunder: During the "experiment" sequence. A major contender for Trope Codifier, for "mad scientist" films.
- Expanded Universe: As with other major Universal Horror films, a few tie-in novels have been written, such as Frankenstein: The Shadow of Frankenstein from 2006 (which takes place between Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein).
- Face-Revealing Turn: As Henry celebrates his experiment's success while discussing its ethics with Dr. Waldman, they suddenly hear loud footsteps coming to the door. The Monster, still getting used to its new life, enters through the door backwards and slowly turns around, which is then followed with a Staggered Zoom to its face.
- Finger Twitching Revival: After receiving the rejuvenating lightning, the Monster is lowered back to the floor, and it starts to come to life by moving its fingers.
- First Time in the Sun: The Creature is absolutely enraptured by a sunbeam let inside by Frankenstein, trying to reach it.
- For Doom the Bell Tolls: Heard in the opening graveyard segment.
- A God Am I: The famous "It's ALIVE!" rant has Dr. Frankenstein proclaiming "Now I know what it feels like to BE God!!!"
- Grave Robbing: The film opens on Henry and Fritz hiding next to a burial, and stealing the corpse once the grave digger leaves. Henry later claims that it was just one of the many.
- In Name Only: Has almost nothing to do with Mary Shelley's novel aside from the main characters, some basic sequences, like the creature attacking Elizabeth on the night of their wedding (but he does not kill her), and the basic idea of a man made of corpses being brought to life.
- Instant Sedation: An early example, where the (very large and very angry) Creature is brought down with a single (likewise very large) injection in the back.
- It's Going Down: This trope probably started with the windmill that the mob sets on fire.
- Kill It with Fire: The movie ends with the Monster trapped in a burning windmill.
- Kubrick Stare: Dr. Frankenstein shoots one while responding to being accused of craziness to his face.
- Lightning Can Do Anything: Key component of bringing the monster to life is raising its operating table to the roof, where it receives lightning strikes. However, unlike some other versions, this happens offscreen.
- Mad Scientist: Invoked and discussed early on regarding Dr. Frankenstein. He doesn't take kindly to the trope being applied to him....
- Mix-and-Match Man: The Monster is made up of various spare parts from stolen corpses.
- Nature Versus Nurture: One of the most major ways the film departs from novel. In Shelley's book, nurture is why the monster became evil. He only wanted friends, and the world treated him horribly for his appearance.. In the film, nature is why he's evil. He has the brain of a notorious criminal.
- Oh, Crap: The look on Henry's face after Dr. Waldman tells him he used a criminal's brain in his experiment.
- Protagonist Title
- Shout-Out: Henry Frankenstein isn't quite an Expy, but his theatrics definitely bring to mind Nikola Tesla's Large Ham tendencies.
- Society Marches On: Now a days, if you told your fiancee "My work must come first, even before you", she would likely dump you immediately (which Elizabeth actually almost does in much more book faithful 1994 adaptation).
- Spared by the Adaptation: Elizabeth and Victor in the final cut. And the monster as it turns out. Also Henry Clerval (or Victor as he's called in this film.)
- They Called Me Mad!:
- Too Dumb to Live:
- Oh Fritz, stealing the brain of a notorious criminal because you ruined the good brain that was originally planned to use? What could possible go wrong? And then haplessly bullying the monster, who is much stronger and more powerful than you? Did someone take your brain too?
- A case could be made that this trope extends to every named character in the film.
- Torches and Pitchforks: Once Monster attacks Elizabeth and his previous victim is brought into the town, a search party carrying torches is organized to hunt him down.
- Überwald: The film is set around Germanic countryside.