Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

IMDb Rating 7.9 10 58738


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Boris Karloff as The Monster
Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein
Mae Clarke as Elizabeth
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576.75 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 10 min
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23.976 fps
1hr 10 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Don-102 9 / 10

Dated-yes, scary-sure, must see-absolutely !

James Whale's original FRANKENSTEIN is a short but memorable horror classic that has influenced so many other fright flicks, it should be considered the Godfather of Horror Movies. This was the first of Universal Studios' moody screen adaptations of literary Gothic horror (the other being Dracula). Put all thoughts regarding Mary Shelly's novel aside and see this original work of art, with Boris Karloff bringing the ultimate monster to life.

The sets are a pure spin off of German Expressionism. The good Doctor Frankenstein's castle is twisted and distorted and seems to be not of this world. He is played by Colin Clive in a delightfully freakish performance. And, of course, the well-proportioned Fritz is there to help. Notice the signposts of evil in the opening grave robbing scenes. It is a prop-master's dream and the black and white photography displays a theatrical sense of spookiness. "It's Alive!" will live forever as one of the cinema's most familiar lines and the picture begins to sparkle as Karloff is brought to life. The influence of Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS is evident during the dazzling scene of the Monster's birth.

Boris Karloff is and always will be the prototypical Monster. The closeups of his face are truly frightening after all these years. He is walking death, however, Karloff gives him a hint of sadness, of a creature who was not meant to be. The flower-toss scene with the little girl was so controversial at the time of the film's release, it was cut from many versions. The new, restored print available on video has it.

I know FRANKENSTEIN has been spoofed many times and is wide-open to criticism regarding its dated look. Mel Brooks went so far as to use the actual props from Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory in his hilarious send-up, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. Be sure to keep an open mind and watch it in the dark. Boris Karloff and James Whale have created a monstrously fun film.

Reviewed by BrandtSponseller 10 / 10

Whale's First Masterpiece

After having been kicked out of school for his controversial work, Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) has been experimenting with the scientific forces behind the creation and perpetuation of life in his private laboratory. With the aid of his assistant, Fritz (Dwight Frye), Frankenstein finally tries his coup de grace--piecing together human parts to create a "new" life. When his experiments do not go exactly as planned, Frankenstein and his fellow villagers are endangered.

Like a few other classics, director James Whale's 1931 masterpiece, Frankenstein, is one of those films that deserves to have every frame analyzed. Unlike most, Frankenstein is one of those classics that actually has had almost every frame analyzed. Countless theses and dissertations have been written about the film and its subtexts, so I can't imagine that I'd add anything novel along those lines in the space provided here. Instead, I'll take a brief look at some of the more straightforward aspects of Frankenstein that, in my view, contribute to its masterpiece status.

The opening of the film has a very hefty dose of atmosphere, which continues more or less throughout its length. Although it was obviously filmed in a studio--the sky is a painted backdrop complete with wrinkles, this fact actually adds to the atmosphere of the film, even lending a slight surrealism. There is no score to speak of aside from the music playing during the titles, but the sounds that occur are just as effective, such as the ringing bell during the opening. There are also a lot of subtle visuals, and some merely subtly effective, such as the grim reaper at end of a long panning shot in the beginning of the film.

The seriousness and realism of the grave-digging scene, complete with Henry Frankenstein throwing dirt at the grim reaper, is beautiful foreshadowing. As in the rest of the film, there is nothing jokey about this situation. Watch how effectively the actors convey a sense of toiling and franticness, how they convey the "weight" of the coffin. This is a curious fact about the film overall. Although the material is relatively melodramatic, and occasionally extremely so (especially in the case of Henry Frankenstein), the performances always come across as serious and realistic rather than campy (with the possible exception of a single snarling "growl" from the monster when he encounters Elizabeth, Frankenstein's bride-to-be). Contrast this to how Tod Browning's Dracula plays in the present day. In that film, Lugosi--although I love his performance--does come across as occasionally campy, especially in the close-ups of his "hypnotically staring" eyes. Even the one character that is meant to give some light comic relief, that of Frankenstein's father, Baron Frankenstein (Frederick Kerr), is comic only in that the character is a bit sarcastic, with a dry sense of humor. As such, Kerr portrays the Baron seriously, also.

The production and set design, as in the sequel, Bride of Frankenstein (1935), adds volumes to the atmosphere and beauty of the film. The interior of the "watchtower", where Frankenstein's private laboratory is located, is reminiscent of German expressionist films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), and they both contrast and cohere wonderfully with the more symmetrical, right-angled lab equipment constructed by Kenneth Strickfaden.

Because there is no score, the actors have no help in amping up the emotions in their performances. Despite this, rarely has either Boris Karloff's monster or Colin Clive's mad doctor been matched. Whale helps with some ingenious shots and sequences, such as the "progressive close-ups" when we first see the monster. He also gives us a number of "stage-like" devices that work remarkably well, such as the pans through cutaways in the set that in the film's world do not really exist. Interestingly, Whale has still had the cutaways decorated as if they are extant in the film's world. Although they may seem dated now, Whale's technique of fading to black between scenes also amplifies the sense of "literary chapters" in the story, and gives an effective, ambiguous sense of time passage between the scenes.

Whale also achieves some wonderful, more understated scenes of horror in the film, often set up by contrasts. For example the severe contrast of the villager walking into the wedding party with his daughter, and the surreal bucolic adventure of the villagers working their way through the countryside to find the monster.

Many younger viewers might have a difficult time watching Frankenstein if they are not used to black & white, slower paced, understated films with a different approach to acting. These classics are an acquired taste for younger generations, but of course it's a taste worth acquiring.

Reviewed by bensonmum2 9 / 10

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

Revisiting Frankenstein is always a wonderful experience. I watch it today with the same enthusiasm and awe I did nearly 35 years ago. Everything about the film is so perfect. Acting, direction, cinematography, set design, plot, dialogue, special effects, etc. are top notch. And although each of these areas deserves to be discussed in detail (and have in the volumes that have been written on Frankenstein), I'll focus on two areas that really standout to me - Boris Karloff as the monster and James Whales direction.

Is there a more iconic image in horror than Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster? I sincerely doubt it. Even those who wouldn't be caught dead watching a horror film are familiar with that image. Beyond Jack Pierce's make-up, Karloff is amazing in the role. Even with the make-up, Karloff gives the monster life. We are able to see and feel the emotions the monster goes through. There is no better example than the scene with the monster and the little girl. As the monster stumbles out of the woods, there is a cautious look about him as his experiences with humans have thus far been less than satisfactory. But when the little girl accepts him and wants to play with him, the look of caution is transformed into a look of utter happiness. He smiles, he laughs, and he plays. But that emotion is replaced by one of confusion mixed with anger when he accidentally kills the girl. It's all there on Karloff wonderful face. It's this life that Karloff imbibes in the monster that makes Frankenstein a real classic.

I've always thought that James Whale's direction was ahead of its time. In an era when directors were using what I call the "plant and shoot" method of filming, Whale made his camera a fluid part of the action. Whale takes the viewer beyond just watching moving images. He uses the camera to take the viewer into the scene. A small example is the way Whale filmed characters moving from one room to the next. The camera moves with the characters. Another example is the tracking shot Whale uses as the father carries his dead child into the town. As I said earlier, it has a fluidity in the way Whale filmed these scenes that makes it seem more natural. Finally, the way Whale introduces the monster is a highlight of the film. The monster backs into the room. As he turns, Whale shows the monster with three quick, ever tighter shots, ending with a close-up of the monster's face. Every Hollywood star of that era could have only wished for an introduction like that.

While I have done nothing but praise Frankenstein, I'm not such a fan that I can't spot flaws in the film. The major issue with me has always been the way the scenes of action, horror, and violence are inter-cut with scenes of tranquility and bliss. I realize that was the way things were done in the 30s so people wouldn't, in essence, overload on horror, but it can make the film seem a little disjointed. But it's difficult to hold Whale overly responsible for this custom of the period.

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