Frankenstein

 
Classic monster movie still electrifies.
  • Review Date: November 28, 2007
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 1931
  • Running Time: 71 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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.

Positive role models

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

A man and a woman kiss.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A gravedigger smokes a pipe. A man smokes a cigarette. Characters drink champagne and wine. A sick man is given brandy to drink as a remedy.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that although this horror movie is tame by today's standards, it does deal with issues of life and death and scientific ethics. Also, there are some killings, including a child who is drowned when a monster throws her into a lake. Younger children might be frightened by the monster, themes of grave-robbing, and the laboratory scenes. Still, older kids accustomed to modern-day horror's fast pace and stylized violence may find the film too "old-school" for their tastes.

What's the story?

Based Mary Shelley's novel and released in 1931, FRANKENSTEIN follows the experimental exploits of Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) and his hunchbacked assistant, Fritz, who steal corpses from graves for Henry's experiments on creating human life. Despite pleas from his friends, families, and colleagues, Henry persists and finally succeeds in bringing his creation to life. Alas, he realizes too late the consequences of playing God (and the danger of trusting your assistant to steal the right brain). The monster (Boris Karloff) escapes into the countryside. Shunned by his creator, tormented by Henry's assistant, and hunted by an angry mob of villagers, the creature responds with confused aggression, even terrorizing Henry's bride on the eve of their wedding. Armed with torches, hounds baying at their heels, the villagers pursue him in revenge and Dr. Frankenstein faces off with his creation.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Decades after its release, this classic monster movie remains just as eerie today thanks to the chilling presence of Boris Karloff as the monster. When he first appears on-screen -- a hulking, lumbering, vacant-eyed creature -- the moment is pure black-and-white horror. But Karloff also invites sympathy with his portrayal of a tragic and misunderstood being with the body and strength of an ogre but the mind and innocence of a child. Sure, the movie occasionally feels dated, and viewers might find some incidents more slapstick than scary. But overall, it holds up admirably.

Those familiar with the more famous scenes will be surprised to discover some comic relief in the character of Henry's father, a crusty old baron. Although the baron's final lines, which end the movie, may seem abrupt by today's standards, they still convey the sad, strange irony of an old man's wish for a grandson and his son's "fathering" of a kind of monster-child. This classic remains the most iconic film adaptation of the novel, even though it does stray from Shelley's original plot.

Families can talk about...

  • 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 21, 1931
DVD release date:August 17, 1999
Cast:Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Mae Clarke
Director:James Whale
Studio:Universal Pictures
Genre:Horror
Run time:71 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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Quality

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 11 years old May 3, 2013
age 9+
 

FRANKENSTEIN 1931

VIOLENCE- 5/10. Some unsettling moments/infrequent violent content. A house is set on fire, Frankenstein throws a girl into a lake. She drowns, and later is shown dead. Frankenstein may be scary for kids 8 and under, and a litle creepy for age 9. 10+ is fine. LANGUAGE: 3.5/10. Mild, like one h*ll, and one d*mn. Good movie for mature 9-year-olds, ten and up is fine!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Kid, 11 years old February 25, 2010
age 7+
 

CSM has a bad review

"A man and woman kiss"? Really? My mom and dad kiss. My brother kissed his girlfriend.
Kid, 11 years old September 27, 2009
age 5+
 

Perfect for younger kids

Hate it and I'm 11 years old.

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