A study of Film in 1931: Frankenstein!


My second piece of retrospective analysis, looking into the year 1931, continuing from Cimmaron (1931) I take a look at iconic horror monster flick Frankenstein. 

Mankind will always strive to push limits and boundaries particularly when science is involved. As a race we constantly demand answers, progression, hungry for knowledge and advancement. Our fascination with death, and the mortal coil and ideas of immortality constantly plague fictional works. Frankenstein is a story of that gone too far. Frankenstein is one of the most iconic horror films ever made with the monster of Frankenstein being a significant figure in popular culture even now a full 82 years later. Directed by James Whale (Bride of Frankenstein, Man in the Iron Mask) a very influential figure in the field of classic horror. It’s based on the play by Peggy Webling, which in turn is heavily based on Mary Shelley’s 18th century novel of the same name. 


Henry and Fritz robbing a freshly laid grave for components.

One thing most modern audiences will say is how the film isn’t remotely scary in a contemporary context. This is true, but the thing is Frankenstein still has such a depth to it. A lot of controversy was stirred in the scene in which Frankenstein’s monster throws a small girl into a pond not quite realizing the logic of it. He likened it to the flower petals that float on the water, his undeveloped brain not really sure of the consequences as the girl slowly drowns. Is the monster the villain? or the wicked scientist who wanted to play god? Frankenstein can be likened to a child in many ways, a child in a man’s body. The whole principle likens to Lennie from of Mice and Men in some ways. What’s bizarre is how there’s basically no punishment for defiling the natural order for Dr.Frankenstein, it’s all happy marriage after the beast has been felled. They only blame the monster, and not the fool that made him, though a lot of the blame could be upon Fritz for taking the deformed brain I suppose. That kind of mood supports the alternative reading even more. 


It’s set design is truly classic, and really sets a gloomy atmosphere and morbid tone. For example the graveyard scene is very morose, and sets the whole motif of reanimation and death off perfectly. Something also highly impressive is it’s use of special effects, not only in the timeless makeup and creation of Frankenstein, but also the laboratory equipment. It’s said the set designer highly researched and recreated the effect made from genuine live Tesla coils for the lightning scene, which truly captures the mood of the storm both literally and figuratively as the beast becomes alive again.

It’s alive! It’s alive! In the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God! – Doctor Frankenstein.

In addition it’s performances and cast are also fairly good. Colin Clive is often epitomized as the mad scientist, coining the role that started the stock character who would often be replicated and parodied in subsequent years. Boris Karloff also received critical acclaim for his depiction of Frankenstein’s monster. 



In it’s cultural impact, Frankenstein has permeated the sphere of popular culture and still makes appearances in contemporary fiction on a consistent basis. There are countless remakes and modern retellings of the story of Frankenstein, a notable cameo is in horror homage film Van Helsing (2004). In addition Frankenstein is easily the highest grossing film of 1931, with an contextually impressive total of $12,000,000 from a measly budget of $200,000. Compared to ‘Best Picture’ of that year Cimmaron, it’s a shining success economically. Along with Dracula (Also 1931) Frankenstein helped popularize the horror genre and established a fairly niche’ genre for the years to come for the likes of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Peter Cushing and Vincent price to lavish in. That’s all for this time, join me next time as we resume our study of 1931, with a look into Dracula (1931). Thanks for reading, and follow me @Sams_Reel_Views.


2 thoughts on “A study of Film in 1931: Frankenstein!

    • Yeah, I’m making an effort to write pieces about older stuff. After all I don’t think i’m missing much, considering my last two pieces on contemporary films which were pure garbage.

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