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Reviewed by: JimmyO

Directed by: James Whale

Boris Karloff
Colin Clive
Mae Clarke

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What's it about
A scientist creates a man from cadavers in order to bring the dead to life. When his experiment is a success, his creation is demonized by society (and an unhealthy brain), thus making him a monster.
Is it good movie?
”Now I know what it feels like to be God!"

This line caused quite a controversy when Frankenstein was unleashed in 1931. Yet that did not stop it from becoming a critical and financial success. And to this day, it is one of the most celebrated horror films of all time. It made a star out of Boris Karloff as “the Monster” and for good reason, he brings life and vulnerability to the man made horror. Yes, this movie is dated and may be too dull for today’s audiences, but if it is, it’s a shame. Director James Whale was a visionary director who brought Mary Shelley’s story to life. Although he changed much of the theme that appeared in the novel, whereas the monster became malevolent because of society’s disgust and fear of him yet in the film, the basic idea is that Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant pick’s up a criminally minded brain, thus making the creature evil.

This is a classic for many reasons including the break-through performance by Boris Karloff. But there is also a pretty brilliant show from Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein. Mr. Clive plays the mad doctor with glee while also bringing a touch of vulnerability in his performance; his work here is as good as Mr. Karloff and much of the time it seems it is underrated. Clive was able to make you believe as he delves deeper into madness while still playing the romantic lead who truly loves his fiancé but still lets his experiment control his life. Karloff is easily one of the best genre actors to date so it seems that much of the attention Clive should have gotten was lost.

Mr. Whale's vision of man playing God has been imitated and created many of the classic horror clichés, including the crazy mad scientist, the hunchbacked assistant and the angry mob but it was all relevant here. There are many scenes filled with gothic horror that you will never forget, and also moments of tenderness including the monster and a little girl who tries to befriend him. This scene was so shocking upon its initial release that it wasn't restored until 1990. Yes, by today's standards, it is very tame yet it still delivers a shock. And whether you've seen the movie or not, you have probably witnessed the wonderful creation sequence where Dr. Frankenstein famously screams, "It's Alive!" And yes, 75 years later, Frankenstein still lives.
Video / Audio
Video: Frankenstein has never looked this good in Full Frame 1.33:1, it’s sharp and clear picture really adds to James Whale’s gothic horror.

Audio: In Dolby Digital 2.0, the mad scientist’s laboratory sounds creepier than ever with this beautiful sounding disc… It’s alive indeed!
The Extras
Universal sure put the "treat" in this 75th Anniversary Edition of Frankenstein. This two-disc set has something for all the classic horror monster lovers out there.

Disc one included the feature with two Commentaries, one from film historian Rudy Behlmer which is loaded with interesting facts but his presentation seems to be a little too college lecture style. I did however enjoy the stories regarding the creation of the novel and what changed for the film.

The next commentary is from historian Sir Christopher Frayling who gives a funny and useful look at the film. And it was nice to learn a new term for the hunchback character "…vertically challenged". Good show… Good show!

And the fun facts keep coming, POP-UP style with Monster Tracks. This is a fun little extra and would probably be a blast at a Halloween party.

Finishing off disc one, we have Boris Karloff: The Gentle Monster (37:55) an informative look at the man behind the mask. This gives great insight into the man's talent and the rivalry between Lugosi and Karloff; it seems Boris never spoke ill of Bela. This is a must watch.

Disc two offers up a fantastic documentary called, Universal Horror (1:35:15) and it makes the disc worth buying in itself. Narrated by Academy Award winner Kenneth Branagh, this is a fascinating look at the good, the bad and the downright nasty monsters Universal brought to cinema. It is great to see some of these classic films and see some images that have been paid homage, or even ripped off by modern horror.

Next up is The Frankenstein Files: How Hollywood Made a Monster (44:48), an entertaining yet sort of campy look at how Frankenstein came to be and the many sequels that came after that. And you thought Jason, Michael and Freddy were the only ones to keep cranking them out. I really enjoyed hearing from Rick Baker as he talks about the inspiration that came from his viewing of the film.

Well, this is better than the point and click photo gallery that they usually tack on. Here, we get the Frankenstein Archives (9:24) which uses music and dialogue from the film with numerous stills and poster art.

Then we have BOO! A Short Film (9:29) which thankfully is short. This is the least impressive extra here. It's not bad, just sort of a silly play on classic monsters and giving yourself nightmares by drinking milk and eating lobster. Just hearing milk and lobster together gives me nightmares. Yikes!

Last but not least we get a re-issue Theatrical Trailer (1:40) which is nice but I think it sells the movie short just a tad. And it also gives way too much away. I guess it's a re-issue so they figure you already know what's going to happen anyway, so it’s not a big deal.
Last Call
James Whale’s classic take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has inspired countless other horror movies, aside from numerous comedies… Young Frankenstein anyone. And for good reason; this gothic horror tale of man’s search for the power to create life is easily one of the greatest horror films ever made. This is the film that helped make Karloff a legend and gave us a brilliant performance from Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein. We should be thankful for this film because without it, there would be no Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger. Alongside Dracula and the brilliant sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, horror doesn’t get much better than this.
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