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Directed by: James Whale
Starring: Colin Clive, Boris Karloff, Mae Clarke, John Boles, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan
Frankenstein ranked # 87 on the American Film Institute's Top 100 American Films list.
Frankenstein is a 1931 horror film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale and very loosely based on the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
The film stars Colin Clive, Dwight Frye, Edward van Sloan, and Boris Karloff. The film also features Mae Clarke and John Boles.
The film was adapted by John L. Balderston, Francis Edward Faragoh, Garrett Fort, Robert Florey (uncredited) and John Russell (uncredited) from the Shelley novel and the play by Peggy Webling. It was directed by James Whale.
Visually, the film was heavily influenced by the German expressionist films of the 1920s.
The film tells the story of a scientist named Dr. Henry Frankenstein, whose work takes him into the dark side of life after death. When Frankenstein creates a man out of stolen body parts, he does not achieve his desired effect and creates a monster.
In the original novel, the monster's creator is named Victor Frankenstein and his best friend's name is Henry Clerval. A woman named Justine Moritz works for the Frankenstein family, and is also a family friend. In the film, the monster's creator is named Henry Frankenstein, and his friend is Victor Moritz.
Whereas in Mary Shelley's novel, the creature's savage behavior is seen as the result of maltreatment and neglect, the 1931 film adaptation adds as further explanation the fact that Frankenstein's assistant Fritz, played by Dwight Frye, has provided a defective brain to be used in the experiment. This suggestion that the Monster's brutal behavior was inevitable arguably dilutes the novel's social criticism and depiction of developing consciousness
Frankenstein was followed by a string of sequels, beginning with Bride of Frankenstein (1935), which is considered by some to be the best film of the series - partly because the creature actually talks in this film. Elsa Lanchester plays Frankenstein's bride. A recreation of the filming of this movie is shown in the 1998 film Gods and Monsters.
The next sequel, 1939's Son of Frankenstein - made, like all those that followed, without Whale or Clive, and featuring Karloff's last performance as the Monster - is generally regarded as a lesser work. The Monster wears his trademark furry vest, and the sets and lighting have a decidedly expressionistic tone. Basil Rathbone plays Baron Wolf von Frankenstein, and Lionel Atwill as Inspector Krogh delivers his famous line: "One doesn't easily forget, Herr Baron, an arm torn out by the roots." The film also features Donnie Dunagan (who voiced Disney's Bambi) as the grandson of Frankenstein, Peter.
What followed was a long slide that ended in 1948 with the deliberately farcical Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Mel Brooks's comedy Young Frankenstein parodied elements of the first three Universal Frankenstein movies.
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