Frankenstein (1931)

Film Review


Release Date: 21 November, 1931

Studio: Universal

Director: James Whale

Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Edward Van Sloan

Special Notes: TCM Classic Film Festival, 2012

Frankenstein was shown as part of the Universal's Legacy of Horror category at the 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival. Director John Carpenter (Halloween, 1978, The Thing, 1982) was a guest speaker at the screening.


Obsessed scientist Dr. Henry Frankenstein uses the energy of lighting to create a living man from stitched together body parts. The Monster, a confused creature, is abused by Frankenstein's assistant, Fritz. After killing Fritz and Dr. Waldman, the Monster roams the countryside. He meets a trusting child, but while attempting to play with her inadvertently kills her. Enraged villagers hunt him down. After the Monster invades his home and attacks his fiancé Elizabeth, Frankenstein joins the hunt and tracks down his creation. They grapple, and the Monster throws him off a ledge. The infuriated villagers trap the Monster in the ruins of a windmill and burn him to death. As Frankenstein recovers from his injuries, he makes plans to marry Elizabeth and discontinue his experiments.


The film's guest was prominent filmmaker John Carpenter who discussed the uniqueness of Frankenstein. Carpenter stated that Frankenstein could not be made again with the same approach, and differs greatly from current horror films. As an example, he pointed out the Michael Myers character in Halloween, who is a faceless force of evil, quite different from the sympathetic Monster. Carpenter also discussed moments from Frankenstein that he lifted for his own films, such as the famous axial cuts from long shot to extreme close up when the Monster is first revealed (a signature James Whale flourish he used again in The Old Dark House, 1932, and The Invisible Man, 1933.)