Revisiting Frankenstein (1931): Universal Horror Monsters Retrospective Part 3/7

Alice Oscura, Featured Writer

Plot: Dr Frankenstein delves dangerously into the creation of life from death and ends up creating a monster without reasoning.

“Oh, in the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!”

Dr Henry Frankenstein (Frankenstein, 1931)

Background: Frankenstein was directed by James Whale. He was an English film director, theatre director and actor. He is best remembered for horror films such as The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933) and the sequel Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

The film was based on the famous novel of the same name written by Mary Shelly. Shelly began writing the story when she was just 18 years old and it was first published in 1818, albeit anonymously. It wasn’t until 1820 that the second publication, which was done in Paris, that her name finally appeared as the author. Although Frankenstein is considered to be a Gothic Horror with romantic elements, it has been argued that it should be considered the first true science fiction story.

If it’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s cruelty to dumb monsters

Review: Even though the Frankenstein monster’s look has become one of the most iconic in cinema history, I just always thought that it looked haphazardly put together and cheesy. However, as I am a bit older and wiser now, I understand that it isn’t just a story about a monster being created and wreaking havoc on a tiny German village. It’s about a young scientist with a full-on God complex almost driven mad to the point of obsession. Honestly, I don’t understand why his fiancé tolerated him for so long but, there goes love for you. It knows no bounds, I suppose.

And there were no moral boundaries for this scientist as anything that he needed in order to fulfill the needs of his experiment — whether it be desecrating graves or stealing body parts from the local university — he would find a way to obtain it. It was extremely unnerving to see how the doctor quickly lost control of the creature and ends up chaining him in disappointment. His heartlessness turns a blind eye to the fact that his assistant was constantly torturing the creature with his biggest fear, fire, and when the assistant is finally murdered by the creature there is no remorse from the “good doctor”.

You smell funny

One of the most pivotal and disturbing scenes, which was technically banned in cinema at the time but released in the remastered version now available, is the one with the little girl and the flowers. After the creature manages to escape he encounters a little girl picking flowers and playing happily by a lake. Depicting the innocence of children, the little girl is not perturbed like the adults are at his physical appearance, but instead asks him to play with her and picked flowers for him. She throws them into the lake showing them how they float like little boats. When the creature finally runs out of flowers, he then picks up the little girl and throws her into the lake. When she tries to get back to the shore, he keeps pushing her back down thinking that this was all a part of the game. Equally disturbing is the close shot of her father walking into the village with his daughter’s body dripping wet and full of mud. That kind of thing really sticks in your mind and is always an extremely difficult part to watch.

Colin Clive gives a tremendous performance as Doctor Frankenstein. His over-the-top mad scientist theatrical-style shouts of “It’s Alive! It’s Alive!” is something that you just don’t forget. No matter the fact that he played a person that seemed to have no moral compass until the last minute when his own happiness was threatened by the “Monster” and only then takes any sort of action against it.

When you have a project due at midnight and it’s 11.45…

Karloff’s iconic monster with his grunts, growls and hand gestures seals itself in our minds for all time. His frighteningly tall, lumbering frame with sheer brute strength bereft of any sort of reasoning is enough to make you run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. There is still a measure of sympathy for the creature because you can see the utter confusion in his actions due to the fact that he was created from the dead.

The director uses a lot of visuals to unnerve the audience in the form of lightning flashes, ominous shadows and, if you look very closely, a grim reaper watching the proceedings in the cemetery. The first appearance of the monster is also done in such a way that there is a slight build-up of the moment by keeping him hidden from the camera until the dramatic unveiling.

This? This isn’t for you. Of course not. It’s just really dark out here

Being able to see novels of this genre brought to life on the screen for the first time is bound to be a totally different experience on audiences as opposed to reading the novels. This made films like this one seem so ahead of its time in the 30s, and even more freaky would be seeing someone mess with life and death with such tragic consequences.

The film’s ending is quite laughable and awkwardly tacked on to say the least, because for all intents and purposes it looked like the monster threw Dr Frankenstein from the windmill to his death. Probably the studio decided to opt for a happily-ever-after ending instead of the alternative where the scientist perishes. I thought that was a bit of a cop-out because I felt like the Doctor never really gets his comeuppance.

Alice’s Score: 6.5 out of 10

For part 2 of my Universal Horror Monsters Retrospective and The Mummy you can click here

39AFB96D-4DEF-4DED-8DFE-3400E758CE9B Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump.

I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. You can find me as Dark Alice Reviews on Facebook, my Instagram is alice_oscura and my Twitter handle is @lise_veliz2. For more on me you can click here.