Frankenstein (1931)


Directed by James Whale and produced by Carl Laemmle Jr., the movie Frankenstein (1931) is an adaptation based on a play by Peggy Webling, which itself was derived from Mary Shelley’s classic novel.

In the serene yet eerie Bavarian Alps, a scientist named Henry Frankenstein and his hunchbacked assistant Fritz engage in a macabre project: they assemble a human body from parts of exhumed corpses and the remains of executed criminals. Within the confines of a secluded watchtower, Frankenstein’s laboratory is a hub of electrical innovation aimed at achieving the unthinkable—bestowing life upon the lifeless. The final piece of his creation, a brain, is yet to be procured. Dr. Waldman, Henry’s former professor, presents two distinct brains to his students—one of a typical human and another of a criminal. Unbeknownst to Waldman, Fritz infiltrates the class and attempts to steal the normal brain but fumbles, resulting in him taking the criminal’s brain to Frankenstein.

Elizabeth, Frankenstein’s betrothed, confides in their mutual acquaintance Victor about Henry’s odd behavior and self-imposed isolation. Together with Victor, she seeks insight from Dr. Waldman, who reveals his knowledge of Henry’s audacious goal—to create life. Their concern for Henry’s well-being leads them to his laboratory just as he is about to conduct his pivotal experiment. Amidst a tempestuous storm, they witness as Henry, with Fritz’s assistance, elevates the lifeless body on an operating table to the tower’s apex. The body, along with Frankenstein’s apparatus, is charged by the lightning, animating the creature.

The newly animated being, Frankenstein’s Monster, is a grotesque yet naively innocent entity. Henry invites it into his lab and commands it to sit, which it complies with. When the roof is opened, the Monster reaches out to the sunlight, only to be startled by Fritz, who wields a lit torch. Misinterpreting the Monster’s fear as aggression, Henry and Waldman chain it in the dungeon. Fritz torments the Monster with the torch until it retaliates, ending Fritz’s life. Henry and Waldman, hearing the commotion, find the Monster and secure it. Recognizing the threat it poses, they plot to subdue the Monster with a potent sedative. As they unlock the dungeon, the Monster lunges at Henry, but Waldman manages to inject it, rendering it unconscious.

Exhausted, Henry collapses and is taken home by Elizabeth and his father. While Henry recuperates and prepares for his impending nuptials, Waldman examines the Monster. Intent on dissecting it, Waldman is instead strangled by the Monster, which then escapes. It roams the countryside and encounters Maria, a young girl who innocently engages it in a game of tossing flowers into a lake. The Monster, devoid of malice yet unaware of its own strength, tragically drowns Maria in the game’s course.

As the wedding preparations conclude, Henry rejoices in his reunion with Elizabeth, anticipating their marriage once Waldman joins them. However, Victor arrives with dire news—Waldman has been murdered. Henry immediately suspects the Monster. It invades Elizabeth’s chamber, eliciting a scream from her. The search party finds her in a state of shock. Meanwhile, Maria’s father brings her lifeless body to the village, inciting the townsfolk to form a vengeful mob.

The mob scours the landscape, and during the pursuit, the Monster confronts Henry. It incapacitates him and ascends an old windmill, with Henry in tow. The villagers observe the Monster scaling the structure and witness it casting Henry down. Miraculously, Henry’s fall is cushioned by the windmill’s vanes, sparing his life. While some villagers escort Henry home, others set the windmill ablaze, trapping the Monster within the inferno, leaving it with no means of escape.


  • Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein
  • Mae Clarke as Elizabeth Lavenza
  • John Boles as Victor Moritz
  • Boris Karloff as The Monster
  • Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Waldman
  • Frederick Kerr as Baron Frankenstein
  • Dwight Frye as Fritz


The makeup for the monster, designed by Jack Pierce, is one of the most iconic in cinema history and required hours of application each day.

The film’s success spawned a series of sequels, starting with Bride of Frankenstein in 1935. The movie’s line “It’s alive! It’s alive!” is one of the most famous quotes in film history.


“The adaptation to the screen of such a story was obviously a task of extreme difficulty, and it speaks volumes for the ability of Garrett Fort and Francis Edwards Faragoh that they were able to turn out such a finished piece of work as is this screen play.” [4]


[1] Wikipedia

[2] IMDb


[4] Hollywood Reporter

Last updated byCody Meirick on December 11, 2023