Just a few months after the release of Dracula, Universal Studios released Frankenstein.
The film, based on the 1818 Mary Shelley novel, tells of how Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) constructs a human body from various body parts found in graveyards and the like. His attempt to create a living being is tragically thwarted, however, when he unknowingly puts a defective brain in his creation.
The newly born monster (Boris Karloff) proceeds to wreck havoc on his creator and those around him.
Most people understandably remember Karloff’s great acting as the Monster, wearing the equally memorable Jack Pierce makeup. But director James Whale also deserves credit for making this film a study of the doctor as well as the monster.
Bela Lugosi was offered the role of the Monster, but turned it down due to the fact that the character had no dialogue in the movie. This, naturally, opened the door for Karloff, and his success in the role led to him becoming arguably the most famous actor in the horror genre from the 1930s-60s. His characterization is the reason many refer to the monster as ‘Frankenstein,’ and the character’s legacy continues with other characters such as Herman Munster, as well as Frankenberry cereal.
Interestingly, the film’s original director was not Whale, but Robert Florey, a respected French filmmaker. Unlike Lugosi, however, it has never been ascertained whether or not Florey left the production on his own accord.
In any case, Universal would make it up to Florey by having him direct Lugosi in the atmospheric chiller Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), which proves that movie executives can have a heart.