November 21, 1931 - Frankenstein

Frankenstein begins with Edward Van Sloan stepping from behind a curtain to break the fourth wall and deliver a brief caution to the audience:

How do you do? Mr. Carl Laemmle feels it would be a little unkind to present this picture without just a word of friendly warning: We are about to unfold the story of Frankenstein, a man of science who sought to create a man after his own image without reckoning upon God. It is one of the strangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of creation; life and death. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you. So, if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now’s your chance to uh, well,––we warned you.

In a village of the Bavarian Alps, Henry Frankenstein and his assistant Fritz, a hunchback, piece together a human body. Some of the parts are from freshly buried bodies, and some from the bodies of recently hanged criminals. In a laboratory he’s built inside a watchtower, Henry desires to create a human, giving this body life through electrical devices. He still needs a brain for his creation. At a nearby school, Henry’s former teacher Dr. Waldman shows his class the brain of an average human being and the corrupted brain of a criminal for comparison. Henry sends Fritz to steal the healthy brain from Waldman’s class. Fritz accidentally damages it, and so brings Henry the corrupt brain.

Henry’s fiancée Elizabeth speaks with their friend Victor about the scientist’s peculiar actions and his seclusion. Elizabeth and Victor ask Waldman for help understanding Henry’s behavior, and Waldman reveals he is aware Henry wishes to create life. Concerned for Henry, they arrive at the lab just as he makes his final preparations, the lifeless body on an operating table. As a storm rages, Henry invites Elizabeth and the others to watch. Henry and Fritz raise the operating table toward an opening at the top of the tower. The creature and Henry’s equipment are exposed to the lightning storm and empowered, bringing the creature to life.

Frankenstein’s Monster, despite its grotesque form, seems to be an innocent, childlike creation. Henry welcomes it into his laboratory and asks it to sit, which it does. He opens up the roof, causing the Monster to reach out towards the sunlight. Fritz enters with a flaming torch, which frightens the Monster. Its fright is mistaken by Henry and Waldman for an attempt to attack them, and it is chained in the dungeon, where Fritz antagonizes it with a torch. Hearing Fritz shriek in the dungeon, Henry and Waldman run down, finding that the Monster has strangled and hanged Fritz. The Monster lunges at the two but they lock the Monster inside. Realizing the Monster must be destroyed, Henry prepares an injection of a powerful drug and the two conspire to release the Monster and inject it as it attacks. When the door is unlocked the Monster lunges at Henry as Waldman injects the drug into the Monster’s back. The Monster falls to the floor unconscious.

Henry collapses from exhaustion, and Elizabeth and Henry’s father take him home. Henry is worried about the Monster, but Waldman reassures him that he will destroy it. While Henry is at home, recovered and preparing for his wedding, Waldman examines the Monster. As he prepares to vivisect it, the Monster strangles him. It escapes from the tower and wanders through the landscape, encountering a farmer’s young daughter, Maria. She asks him to play a game with her in which they toss flowers onto a lake. The Monster enjoys the game, but when they run out of flowers he throws Maria into the lake, where she disappears beneath the surface. The Monster runs away.

With preparations for the wedding completed, Henry is happy with Elizabeth. They are to marry as soon as Waldman arrives. Victor rushes in, saying that Waldman has been found strangled. Henry suspects the Monster. The Monster enters Elizabeth’s room, causing her to scream. When the searchers arrive, they find Elizabeth unconscious. The Monster has escaped.

Maria’s father arrives, carrying his drowned daughter’s body. He says she was murdered, and the villagers form a search party to capture the Monster. During the search, Henry is attacked by the Monster. The Monster knocks Henry unconscious and carries him to an old mill. The peasants hear his cries and find the Monster has climbed to the top, dragging Henry with him. The Monster hurls the scientist to the ground. His fall is broken by the vanes of the windmill, saving his life. Some of the villagers bring him home while the rest of the mob set the windmill ablaze, with the Monster trapped inside.

At Castle Frankenstein, Henry’s father celebrates the wedding of his recovered son with a toast to a future grandchild.

Cast
Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein
Mae Clarke as Elizabeth Lavenza
John Boles as Victor Moritz
Boris Karloff as The Monster
Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Waldman
Frederick Kerr as Baron Frankenstein
Dwight Frye as Fritz
Lionel Belmore as Herr Vogel, the Burgomaster
Marilyn Harris as Little Maria
Michael Mark as Ludwig, Maria’s father