October Horror Month
There’s a funeral of weepy relatives at a highly stylised cemetery and from just over mound a creepy strange little face appears. It’s Fritz (Dwight Frye) and he’s with Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) watching, hiding and waiting for the mourners to leave. Then it’s just the gravedigger they are waiting on who fills in grave and he lights his pipe and leaves. As soon as he’s gone Frankenstein and Fritz dig up body and put it on a cart and wheel the cart to a gallows and Frankenstein sends Fritz up to cut the rope. Frankenstein is disappointed to discover that the body’s neck is broken?? Truly he is a medical genius. He tells Fritz that he needs to find another brain
Dr Waldman (Edward Van Sloan) is giving lecture to class of medical students and he’s got two brain in jar a normal brain and abnormal brain of a criminal psychopath and gets them to note the difference in the size of lobes and the depth of the grooves. Fritz is watching this from a window and when the lecture is over Waldman say he will leave the brains out for the students to examine themselves. That night Fritz breaks into the lecture theatre and hobble up to the table with the two brains He startles himself when he knocks into a human skeleton. Fritz grabs the normal brain but drops it when there a sudden unexplained gong so he picks up abnormal brain.
Frankenstein’s close friend Victor Moritz (John Boles) and his fiancé Elizabeth (Mae Clarke) are worried about Frankenstein. He has sent Elizabeth such a strange letter she wants to go see him to check up on him. When Victor recently saw him he was acting paranoid and secretive. They speak with Dr Waldman who used to teach Frankenstein when he was at medical school who thinks he’s brilliant but erratic. Elizabeth asks why left and Waldman say his research took him beyond what they were prepared to tolerate in his insane ambition to create life. They couldn’t help him with the material he needed which was fresh human bodies and he wasn’t worried about how he got them. Elizabeth wants to go see him and she begs Dr Waldman to join them in trying to talk to Frankenstein but Waldman is not confident he would do any good
Frankenstein is in his lab getting ready with the body he created out of dead parts. He wants to make use of the electric storm and he has Fritz go up on the roof to makes sure the electrodes are connected. He does one final test, throws the switches and there’s crackling electricity through the circuit and he’s happy. There’s a knock on the door and he sends Fritz to the door to get rid of them and not let them. Outside the door are Waldman, Victor and Elizabeth and they all getting soaked in the storm. Fritz just opens up the hatch inn the door and tells them to go away and wanders off muttering to himself. Victor and Elizabeth call up to Frankenstein who want to know what they want. They ask to be let in out of the storm and he relents and lets them in.
Frankenstein tries to persuade them to go away since his work has reached a crucial point. Victor calls him crazy which seems to be Frankenstein’s crazy button. He invites them up to the lab and tells them to sit and watch. He’s gone beyond ultraviolet and discovered a ray that gives life into the world. He created a new body from bits stitched together from dead bodies
The storm has arrived so he and Fritz get the body ready then raise platform up into the storm which increases in violent intensity and after a few minutes he brings it down again. As the platform reaches the floor he see the hand twitch with life and Frankenstein starts screaming hysterically, “It’s alive it’s alive IT’S ALIVE. In the name of God? Now I know what it feels like to be God.” Now that is just asking for trouble.
Victor and Elizabeth talk to Baron Frankenstein (Frederick Kerr) father of Henry who is worried about the wedding of Frankenstein to Elizabeth and he thinks there’s another woman. Burgomaster Herr Vogel come to talk to the Baron about wedding but the Baron says there’ll be no wedding if Henry doesn’t appear. After Vogel leaves the Baron decides that he’s going to go see Frankenstein himself and bring him back
Back at the windmill Waldman and Frankenstein are talking and the Creature andWaldman thinks it’s dangerous and Henry starts a defence of the need to take risks for truth, for science. Waldman thinks he’s become arrogant because of his success and he’s not seeing things clearly. This thing he’s created will get out of control. Frankenstein insist that the Creature’s brain just needs time to develop and that’s it’s a perfectly normal brain. That’s when he tells Waldman he got it from Waldman’s office and Waldman tells him brain stolen was not normal, it was criminal brain. This shakes Frankenstein for a moment but he just dismisses it as not important, it’s just raw material.
The Creature (Boris Karloff) comes into room backwards then turns revealing that dead face and dead eyes. It slowly walks, its feet dragging, and it sits down when Frankenstein orders it to. Frankenstein opens a skylight and the creature stands up and reaches up to the light. When Frankenstein closes the skylight the creature is sad and wants know where it went. The Fritz appears with a torch and the fire freaks out creature and Frankenstein tells him to take it away. The three of them manage to get the panicking Creature tied up and then chain it in the cellar
In the cellar later Fritz is amusing himself by whipping the Creature. Frankenstein tries to get him to leave it alone but Fritz doesn’t stop and starts taunting it with a torch. Upstairs Frankenstein hears Fritz screaming. He rushes down with Waldman to find the Creature has killed Fritz and is still angry. Frankenstein and Waldman get it locked back in the cellar but it’s only a matter time before it breaks out. Waldman says that they have to destroy it and Frankenstein prepares a hypodermic needle of sedative to inject the creature and gives it Waldman who gets knocked out after injecting the Creature. It tries to choke Frankenstein until the drug takes effect and it falls unconscious.
There’s a very insistent banging on the front door. It’s Victor who has come to warn Henry his father is on the way with Elizabeth. Waldman and Victor get the Creature hidden away while Frankenstein gets cleaned up. The Baron and Elizabeth arrive and they go upstairs t the Lab and Frankenstein greets them then collapses and they take him home and Waldman promises to get rid of creature. Later after they are gone Waldman has the creature on the table in the lab and he gets surgical instruments ready but he doesn’t see that the creature is conscious and its choke life out of Waldman and escapes
Next day Henry is at home relaxing with Elizabeth and he’s much more relaxed and rational. They talk about when their wedding should be and Frankenstein says it should be as soon as possible. The scene cuts to the wedding day itself and the Baron drinks a toast to a son to the house of Frankenstein. Village all singing and dancing it’s a big happy celebration
The Creature wandering through countryside and it meets a little girl called Maria at the lake who is picking flowers. When she sees Creature she introduces herself and invites him play tossing the flowers into the water. The Creature is delighted and she gets the Creature to try tossing in flowers. When they run out of flowers he throws the little girl into water but she drowns instead of floating and creature runs off in a panic
Back in the village there’s all sorts of happy slappy dancing and the street party is in full swing. Elizabeth needs to talk to Henry before wedding. She is worried that they haven’t heard from Waldman. She senses something dreadful is coming and Frankenstein tries to calm her. There’s a knocking on door. It’s Victor who tells Henry that Waldman been murdered. They hear the creature in the house and search for him in cellars. But the creature is outside the window of Elizabeth’s room. It breaks through the window and when she sees it she screams and it mocks her and leaves her passed out and hysterical
The village are all still singing and dancing and Maria’s father arrives with is child’s limp body in his arms as a he passes the celebration stops. When he reaches the steps of the town hall to see the burgomaster Vogel the partying village has became an angry mob and Vogel promises them justice
Frankenstein wants to destroy the creature or there will be no wedding. Vogel organises three groups to search for the creature, alive if possible. With flaming torches held aloft they hunt the creature in mountains. Frankenstein gets separated from the rest of the and of course he finds the creature and tries to use the torch to frighten it but its not scared of fire anymore and attacks Frankenstein and knocks him out
The rest of the search party spot the Creature and release the hound to chase him. It carries Frankenstein all the way back to the windmill with the mob on his tail. They try to break in. Frankenstein wakes up and crawls away but the creature sees him and they struggle and it throws Frankenstein down to the mob below Frankenstein is still alive and broken and they carry back him back to the village. They set fire to the windmill and the creature screams as the flames grow. It has nowhere to run and it gets trapped by a falling beam as whole windmills burns
There’s is an epilogue. A large group of servants come to Frankenstein’s room with a glass of his Grandmother’s special wine. The Baron comes to the door and he looks back to see Frankenstein and Elizabeth kissing so he discretely closes door and drinks the wine himself.
This film is one of the most famous horror films and its influence in popular culture is so pervasive that many familiar tropes of horror began here. It made the career of William Pratt or Boris Karloff with an effective performance as monster that is more to be pitied than hated. It was still the early days of talking films so a lot of the performances are very stagey, especially Colin Clive as Frankenstein and Dwight Frye as the hunchback assistant Fritz. No matter how many modern adaptations have appeared the image of Karloff’s Creature is the one that comes to mind when Frankenstein is mentioned.