-This review pertains to the Frankenstein: 75th Anniversary Edition DVD- Mary Shelley
's classic horror story, Frankenstein
, has been dramatized countless times since the novel's publication in 1816. The first dramatization, a melodramatic stage play from the early 1820s, was called Presumption: The Fate of Frankenstein
. The play resonated with audiences as it greatly emphasized the themes of scientific advances conflicting with Christian ideologies, of man's ego violating the laws of nature, and of ambition overwhelming conscience. A century later, in the year 1927, a playwright named Peggy Webling
used similar themes in her adaptation, which was the primary source of inspiration for the classic Universal film. Garrett Fort
, who also wrote the screenplay for Dracula
, and Francis Edward Faragoh
, wrote the film's screenplay. The screenplay was based on Peggy Webling
's play, as well as on a produced play that was never produced by John L. Balderston
To say that the film had a troubled production is an understatement. Originally to be directed by Robert Florey
and starring Béla Lugosi
was ultimately directed by James Whale
and starred Boris Karloff
. James Whale
had made a name for himself with the films Journeys End
and Waterloo Bridge
. Both Karloff and Whale can be accredited for the film's status as enduring classic. Whale, who was something of an outcast himself, understood how to create flawed characters that the audience would still sympathize and empathize with.
Karloff, who was at the time an underpaid, unknown, and hardworking actor, brought a sense of innocence and vulnerability to the role of Frankenstein's Monster.
Joining Boris Karloff
was a wonderful group of actors including Mae Clark
as Elizabeth, John Boles
as Victor Moritz, Edward Van Sloan
as Doctor Waldman, Dwight Frye
as Fritz, and Colin Clive
as Henry Frankenstein. Clive was a tragic figure, both in the film and in reality. He died before his fortieth birthday, not a full year after the release of the sequel The Bride of Frankenstein
The greatest stars of Frankenstein were Boris Karloff
, Jack Pierce
, and Kenneth Strickfaden
. Jack Pierce
created the brilliant makeup for the Frankenstein Monster as well as most of the other classic Universal
monsters and Kenneth Strickfaden
created the electrical apparatuses seen in the iconic scene where Frankenstein creates the monster in his laboratory. The electrical equipment, which served no real function other to dazzle audiences, was featured in many films all the way up into the 1970s when it appeared in the affectionate spoof Young Frankenstein
The story follows an obsessed young doctor named Henry Frankenstein, who along with his hunchbacked assistant Fritz stole corpses from their graves and used their body parts to construct a Monster. Originally Frankenstein wanted nothing more than to advance science to the point where the effects of death could be reversed, but his noble ambitions turned to blasphemous conceit and his creation would take on a life of its own. Frankenstein sends Fritz to a university to steal the brain of a genius, which will be given to Frankenstein's creation. However Fritz drops the brain and replaces it with another. The new brain is a dysfunctional one, that of a criminal.
Meanwhile Henry's fiancée, Elizabeth and his best friend, Victor learn that Henry's become reclusive and secretive. Along with Henry's mentor, the dogmatic Doctor Waldman, they travel to Henry's laboratory on one fateful night. When they arrive Henry seems fanatical and possessed with a mania. He insists that they stay and witness his grand achievement. That night Frankenstein gives birth (figuratively, not literally) to a pathetic creature, born of the components he gathered from the graves that he burglarized. Waldman, Victor, and Elizabeth are horrified. Yet they've no idea of the horrors in store for them. After coming to his senses, Henry acknowledges what he's done but the Monster has escaped and is rampaging through the nearby villages. Can it be stopped or will Frankenstein's Monster live forever?
This monstrously good DVD includes an audio commentary with film historian Sir David Frayling
, an audio commentary with film historian Rudy Behlmer
, "Karloff: The Gentle Monster" documentary, "The Frankenstein Files: How Hollywood Made a Monster" documentary, Monster Tracks trivia, "Boo!: A Short Film", "Universal Horror" feature-length documentary, Frankenstein Archives poster montage with music, and theatrical trailer.