AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Frankenstein
Director: James Whale (Dir)
Release Date:   21 Nov 1931
Duration (in mins):  70
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Cast: Colin Clive  (Henry Frankenstein)
  Mae Clarke  (Elizabeth)
  John Boles  (Victor Moritz)
 

Summary: In a prologue, an announcer steps from behind a curtain to warn the audience of the horrifying nature of the film they are about to see. In the main story, at a funeral, Fritz, a dwarf, and young scientist Henry Frankenstein dig up a freshly buried body, claiming that the corpse is waiting for a new life. They also remove a man hanging from a gibbet, but his broken neck requires that a new brain be found. After Doctor Waldman's lecture at Goldstadt Medical College, Fritz sneaks in and, after dropping a bottle containing a normal brain, leaves with one containing the brain of a criminal. Meanwhile, in Henry's hometown, Victor Moritz visits Elizabeth, whom he loves. She has received a strange note from Henry her fiancĂ©, who writes that his experiments preclude her from joining him. Concerned, Victor and Elizabeth visit Waldman, Henry's former professor, who explains that Henry had left the college to pursue a mad dream of recreating human life. Together the three go to Henry's laboratory, a watchtower in the mountains. There, Henry and Fritz are preparing to use the power of lightning to charge their electrical mechanisms and give life to a body they have pieced together. Henry agrees to let his friends observe and explains his scientific theories as his creation comes to life. Later Victor and Elizabeth attempt to pacify Henry's doubting father, Baron Frankenstein, who is only interested in promoting the date of his son's wedding. At the laboratory, while Waldman tells Henry of the monster's criminal brain, Fritz torments the monster and the monster kills him. After a fight, Henry and Waldman sedate the monster just as the baron approaches the lab. The exhausted Henry is taken home after Waldman promises to destroy the monster, but instead Waldman is killed by the escaping monster. As the wedding of Elizabeth and Henry is celebrated, the monster drowns Little Maria, a village child who plays with him, then menaces Elizabeth. Ludwig, Maria's father, carries his daughter's body into town, and an angry search party is formed. They go through the mountains by torchlight until Henry finds the monster, and the two engage in a struggle that continues in an abandoned mill, where the monster has fled. The mob sets the mill ablaze, and the monster hurls Henry to the ground before being engulfed by flames. Later, the baron celebrates the wedding of his recovered son with a toast to a future grandchild. 

Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Corp.
Production Company: Universal Pictures Corp.
Director: James Whale (Dir)
  Joseph A. McDonough (Asst dir)
Producer: Carl Laemmle (Pres)
  Carl Laemmle Jr. (Prod)
  E. M. Asher (Assoc prod)
Writer: Garrett Fort (Scr)
  Francis Edwards Faragoh (Scr)
  Richard Schayer (Scen ed)
  Robert Florey (Contr to trmt)
  John Russell (Contr to scr const)

Subject Major: Corpses
  Grave robbers
  Laboratories
  Mad scientists
  Medicine
  Monsters
  Weddings
 
Subject Minor: Brains (Human)
  Children
  Drowning
  Dwarfs
  Engagements
  Fathers and sons
  Fires
  Lectures
  Lightning
  Medical colleges
  Mobs
  Mountains
  Nobility
  Towers
  Windmills

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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