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Frankenstein (1931)

tomatometer

100

Average Rating: 8.6/10
Reviews Counted: 42
Fresh: 42 | Rotten: 0

Still unnerving to this day, Frankenstein adroitly explores the fine line between genius and madness, and features Boris Karloff's legendary, frightening performance as the monster.

100

Average Rating: 7.7/10
Critic Reviews: 6
Fresh: 6 | Rotten: 0

Still unnerving to this day, Frankenstein adroitly explores the fine line between genius and madness, and features Boris Karloff's legendary, frightening performance as the monster.

audience

87

liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 40,153

My Rating

Movie Info

"Frankenstein" is a film about a mad, obsessed scientist, Dr. Henry Frankenstein", who creates a monster, by taking body parts from dead people. Upon placing a brain inside the head of the monster, Henry and his assistant Fritz are amazed that the experiment is alive. When the monster mistakenly kills Maria, a young girl he meets down by the river, the town is up in arms and aims to bring the monster to justice. They find the monster and his creator in an old windmill, where the monster is

Aug 28, 2001

Universal Pictures Company

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All Critics (42) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (42) | Rotten (0) | DVD (16)

[Whale] did it in the Grand Guignol manner, with as many queer sounds, dark corners, false faces and cellar stairs as could possibly be inserted.

October 7, 2008 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Maximum of stimulating shock is there, but the thing is handled with subtle change of pace and shift of tempo that keeps attention absorbed to a high voltage climax.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One of the most deservedly famous and chilling horror films of all time.

June 5, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comment (1)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is unique in Whale's work in that the horror is played absolutely straight, and it has a weird fairytale beauty not matched until Cocteau made La Belle et la BÍte.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A stirring grand-guignol type of picture, one that aroused so much excitement at the Mayfair yesterday that many in the audience laughed to cover their true feelings.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

As much as the later movies diluted the character of the Frankenstein creature, nothing could blunt the impact made by Karloff in the role of the most memorable movie monster of all time.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: ReelViews
ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Shocking in its day and still a genuinely creepy experience, director James Whale's primitive yet enthralling interpretation of Mary Shelley's classic tale of man playing God is the most influential genre movie ever made.

October 7, 2013 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

...a watchable yet consistently uneven horror flick that feels long even at 70 minutes...

November 4, 2012 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

The film has a touching, almost childlike humanity that allowed audiences to actually identify with the monster.

October 10, 2012 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Classic monster movie still electrifies.

January 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Frankenstein is a horror film that turns (miraculously) into an existential tale of man's fear of abandonment

August 10, 2010 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

If it isn't the best American horror film of the 1930s, that's only because the extremely gifted director James Whale wasn't done with the franchise quite yet.

October 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

The genius of all this beauty is that it truly is chillingly scary.

February 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Film School Rejects
Film School Rejects

From the standpoint of the story, cast, direction and photography the picture is sure to rate with the greatest in picturedom.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Boxoffice Magazine
Boxoffice Magazine

Beautiful photography, a heartbreaking story, and iconic moments from beginnning to end. Absolutely unmissable.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

A masterpiece of vintage horror. Entertaining, creepy and stylish.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Absolutely essential.

September 10, 2007 Full Review Source: ColeSmithey.com
ColeSmithey.com

Frankenstein's psychological inquiries remain both striking and potent, its morality-lined narrative brimming with existential hurdles on both ends of the scale.

July 3, 2007 Full Review Source: Projection Booth
Projection Booth

A classic.

May 27, 2007

Now a classic part of scream culture.

September 2, 2006 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

...crude but famously iconic version of Shelley's novel, which featured Karloff under 50 pounds of makeup, costume and platform boots the Spice Girls could only dream of.

October 21, 2005 Full Review Source: Boulder Weekly

The monster may seem campy today, but there are still occasional subtleties.

October 6, 2005 Full Review Source: Not Coming to a Theater Near You
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

Audience Reviews for Frankenstein

A timeless classic, perhaps the most notable and influential of the Universal monsters, and even if more amusing than terrifying for today's standards, it remains a striking experience, with stunning visuals that owe their inspiration to German Expressionism.
January 25, 2014
blacksheepboy

Super Reviewer

The very original monster movie, based upon the book by Mary Shelley, James Whale's cinematic masterpiece remains one of the best horror movies of all time. It remains a highly adapted piece of fiction, and this was the first film adaptation. It was also the birth of the Universal monster movie canon, which would later include the films "The Wolfman" and "The Mummy". This is the epitome of good creature feature while retaining intelligence and posterity for the world of the unknown. It's a film that still remains creepy even eighty years later, and though its subject matter has been twisted and changed for many different mediums, it still stands alone as an immense achievement. Veering from the original subject matter consistently, this version has Dr. Frankenstein locked away in an old tower with an assistant, trying to reanimate dead tissue on a laboratory table, and digging up dead bodies to get what he needs. He reanimates the creature using an abnormal brain stolen from a medical college, but the beast gets loose. He goes about terrorizing the countryside, but is felled and the doctor marries his darling Elizabeth. Even with the changes in script the film retains its poignancy for the gothic, and the transparency of human life rebuilt to accommodate the lunacy of a madman. Every player in this story is significant, every moment of horror at the grotesque appearance of the monster is appreciated, and the entire cast gives enlightening performances. Boris Karloff as the monster has to be the greatest of a Universal monsters besides Bela Lugosi as Dracula. Colin Clive is the seminal Dr. Frankenstein, unmatched in any adaptation as he is both ruthless for the power of God and mad with his own crazed psychosis. The sets look amazing, the mood and tone remain classic, and it gives a lot of insight into the world of monsters, which became apropos in the thirties. Simply a must see for anyone.
October 14, 2013
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

This is probably my favourite horror classic! As a non-horror fan, I can honestly say that this film blew me away, from the great tone, to the great acting, to the fantastic camerawork, it just adds to the perfection of the story. Dr. Frankenstein creates a monster that has lived on from generation to generation and even with an age of 90 years, the monster is quite terrifying. I was so invested in the story that the funny practical effects that don't really hold up, didn't even phase me. I was drawn into this story until the very last moment, which is extremely intense by the way. "Frankenstein" is a masterwork!
October 21, 2012
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

It's finally October and I've decided to do reviews of notable horror movies for the whole month. Any review I post (other than the ones of movies that are released into theaters) will be a review of a horror film, so let's begin wuth 1931's Frankenstein. It's based off of Mary Shelley's novel about a mad scientist who creates a monster in his attempt to play God. Boris Karloff plays the monster and he is just fantastic. Karloff's performance required him to be completely covered in makeup and the actual design of the monster looks great. It's a face that will be forever remembered when it comes to movie monsters. Karloff is one of the greatest horror icons of all time and this movie is what introduced him into the mainstream. Colin Clive is also great as Dr. Frankenstein and Dwight Frye is excellent as Fritz, the hunchbacked assistant of Frankenstein. The set design for the movie is terrific. Parts of the movie have scenes in a laboratory and the overall design of the lab in this movie is so good. I didn't feel like I was watching just some phony set, I really believed that this was the lab of a crazed scientist. The movie also includes shots a villages and castles and those are also great. While the film is visually stunning, the story also holds up, even to this day. There are parts where you actually sympathize with the monster. He's really nothing more of a freak of nature part of an experiment that went awry. He's a curious thing, but people still scream at him and want to burn him. One scene that always stands out in the movie is when the monster is sitting by a lake with a little girl and she's acting all innocent and sweet and out of nowhere, the monster grabs her, throws her in the lake and drowns her. The little girl didn't even do anything, yet the monster kills her anyway. (Sigh) What a lovable dumbshit. That's really one of a lot of memorable scenes in the movie. It all ranges from the part where Dr. Frankenstein yells "It's Alive!" to the climax of the movie. The movie even has its fair share of themes including the darkest side of Xenophobia and the consequences of playing God. One thing that I want to address is that nowadays people refer to the monster as Frankenstein even though Frankenstein is the name of the doctor who created the monster. I've never understood how people started that. Anyway, Frankenstein is one of the greatest monster films of all time and it's a staple of Halloween pop culture. Boris Karloff's outstanding performance is what brought the monster to the light of day. From what I've heard, the movie doesn't really follow the novel by Mary Shelley, but I really don't think that matters. Frankenstein is great either way and it really does stand the test of time.
October 1, 2012
Tyler Robertson

Super Reviewer

    1. Henry Frankenstein: I have discovered the great ray that first brought life upon the earth.
    2. Doctor Waldman: oh you have?
    – Submitted by Don G (15 months ago)
    1. Baron Frankenstein: Here's to a son of the house of Frankenstein.
    – Submitted by Don G (15 months ago)
    1. Doctor Waldman: Dr. Frankenstein was not interested in animal lives, only human ones, and we were not to be too particular in how we obtained them.
    – Submitted by Don G (15 months ago)
    1. Henry Frankenstein: He's only sleeping, waiting for new life.
    – Submitted by Don G (15 months ago)
    1. Elizabeth: Henry! What have they done to you?
    – Submitted by Don G (15 months ago)
    1. Henry Frankenstein: It's alive! Alive! Arrrhhhh, now I know it is really possible!
    – Submitted by Don G (15 months ago)
View all quotes (42)

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