Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is the ultimate mad research scientist who creates a living monster from corpses. He has help from his hunch-back assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye). Elizabeth (Mae Clarke), his fiance cannot understand why Dr. Frankenstein secludes himself in an abandoned tower he has turned into a lab and refuses to see visitors.
Elizabeth and his friend Victor Moritz (John Boles) visit Dr. Waldman (Edward Van Sloan) his old medical professor for help. They all witness Dr. Frankenstein and Fritz raise a dead body on a table to the top of the lab. A crash of thunder and the noise of electrical machines brings the Frankenstein monster to life.
Frankenstein: "Look! It's moving. It's alive. It's alive... It's alive, it's moving, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, IT'S ALIVE!"
Victor Moritz: "Henry - In the name of God!
Frankenstein: "Oh, in the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!"
The hideous monster (Boris Karloff) is held in a dungeon in the tower. It has the strength of ten men and unfortunately has the brain from a demented criminal. Its malignant hatred causes it to strangle Fritz to death. Dr. Waldman incapacitates the monster with a powerful intravenous injection. He tells Dr. Frankenstein, "You have created a monster, and it will destroy you!"
Henry Frankenstein: "Dangerous? Poor old Waldman. Have you never wanted to do anything that was dangerous? Where should we be if no one tried to find out what lies beyond? Have your never wanted to look beyond the clouds and the stars, or to know what causes the trees to bud? And what changes the darkness into light? But if you talk like that, people call you crazy. Well, if I could discover just one of these things, what eternity is, for example, I wouldn't care if they did think I was crazy."
Dr. Frankenstein prepares to marry Elizabeth, but the monster kills Dr. Waldman, attacks Elizabeth in her room, then escapes. With a large group of peasants, Dr. Frankenstein searches the surrounding area for the monster. Unfortunately, It finds him, carries him to the top of an old mill and throws him to the ground. His fall is broken, saving his life. The village peasants take the doctor home and burn the mill to destroy the monster.
FRANKENSTEIN is loosely based on Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's 1818 novel. It is essentially the very first science fiction novel and one of the first horror novels. The movie is the definitive Gothic horror classic that created a mold for the dozens of "Frankenstein" movies that have since been produced. Its a primitive cinematic work, impressive, haunting, somber in mood, and by far the most famous horror movie in history.
Boris Karloff's great screen performance made him a star. As the mistreated monster who terrorizes a local community he is strong, sensitive, and quite believable. The footage of him drowning a young girl and other long-censored scenes were restored in 1987.
Others in the cast include: Frederick Kerr (Baron Frankenstein), Lionel Belmore (Herr Vogel), Marilyn Harris (Little Maria), Francis Ford (Hans), Michael Mark (Ludwig), and many others. The play was written by Peggy Webling and adapted for the film by John L. Balderston, Franic Edward Faragoh, Garrett Fort, Robert Florey, and John Russel. There is virtually no music in the film but the original music was composed by Bernard Kaun and the non-original music is by Giuseppe Becce. James Whale directed.