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Friday, October 15, 2010

Movie #17: Frankenstein (1931)

"Crazy, am I? We'll see whether I'm crazy or not."

The other day, we watched "Bride of Frankenstein". Now it's time for the original, and one of the most iconic horror monsters of all time. If your children are old enough, this is a great one to experience with them.


  • Rating: Unrated

  • Minimum Recommended Age: 10 (Common Sense Media: "On for ages 10 and up")

  • Quality Rating: 92.5% (Common Sense Media: 5 stars, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 8.5)

  • Number of Lists Recommend: 4

  • Running Time: 71 minutes

  • What does it have to do with Halloween? Nothing, but it's impossible to think of Halloween today without Frankentein's monster


"Frankenstein" is a film about a mad, obsessed scientist, Dr. Henry Frankenstein", who creates a monster, by taking body parts from dead people. Upon... "Frankenstein" is a film about a mad, obsessed scientist, Dr. Henry Frankenstein", who creates a monster, by taking body parts from dead people. Upon placing a brain inside the head of the monster, Henry and his assistant Fritz are amazed that the experiment is alive. When the monster mistakenly kills Maria, a young girl he meets down by the river, the town is up in arms and aims to bring the monster to justice. They find the monster and his creator in an old windmill, where the monster is attempting to kill his maker.

Watch Out For

Common Sense Media:
A scientist recklessly experiments with life and death by artificially bringing to life a man he has fashioned from various body parts. Two characters steal corpses and body parts from graves, the gallows, and a medical college. Dr. Frankenstein plays God with horrible consequences, the monster is tortured and violent and the townspeople lack empathy or kindness. The good side of human nature is mostly ignored. Relatively mild violence compared with today's horror flicks. However, killings include a child who drowns when a character throws her into a lake, although it's clear that he doesn't intend to hurt her. Her actual death is not shown, though her father carries her body through his village. A man threatens the monster with a torch and whips him while he's chained in a cellar. A doctor is strangled, a man is hanged. A mob of villagers hunts down a monster and chases him into a windmill. They set fire to the windmill, and the monster is shown trapped inside under debris. Various scenes of fighting, scuffling, attempted strangulation.

Talk About It

Common Sense Media:
* Families can talk about how horror movies have evolved since this movie was released in 1931. What makes a movie scary?
* Do contemporary horror films rely too much on gratuitous violence and gore?
* How does this movie still manage to be scary without resorting to over-the-top content?
* What does the Frankenstein's monster make you feel? Do you feel bad for him?

Of Note

  • John Carradine turned down the part of the Monster because he considered himself too highly trained to be reduced to playing monsters.
  • After bringing the monster to life, Dr. Frankenstein uttered the famous line, "Now I know what it's like to BE God!" The movie was originally released with this line of dialogue, but when it was re-released in the late '30s, censors demanded it be removed on the grounds that it was blasphemy. A loud clap of thunder was substituted on the soundtrack.
  • Boris Karloff offered to remove his partial bridgework as part of the monster make-up process to create the sunken cheek look.
  • Child actress Marilyn Harris had done several takes of the drowning scene, none of which turned out quite right. Although wet and tired, she agreed to do one last take of the scene, the one that appears in the finished film, after director James Whale promised her anything she wanted if she would do so. She asked for a dozen hard-boiled eggs, her favorite snack. Whale gave her two dozen.
  • The popular image of Frankenstein's monster as green-skinned was sourced in this film. Actually, Jack P. Pierce's monster make-up gave the monster yellow skin, one of the few consistencies from Mary Shelley's original description of the monster.
  • What are commonly called bolts on the neck of the monster are in reality electrodes.
  • Boris Karloff's shoes weighed 13 pounds each.


Special: The Frankenstein Files - The Making of Frankenstein


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